County Council admits traffic ban signs are faulty

SIGNS OF THE TIMES: The incorrect signage (left) and the correct signs from 2021

CONTROVERSIAL traffic signs on the Mount Pleasant Road bus lane have been found to be non-compliant with regulations as Kent County Council (KCC) have confirmed the “fault with our signage”. Meanwhile, questions remain about the scheme’s safety for pedestrians and issues with warning letters.

According to the ‘Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016’ legislation, the road sign featuring the blue circle with the image of the bus, bicycle and word ‘taxi’ has been used with the incorrect wording underneath.

Last week, April 19, in the Times report on the confusion around the signs on Mount Pleasant Road, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) commented: “The signage at and approaching the restriction complies with the Department for Transport guidance.”

However, Transport and Traffic Engineer, Chris Veasey told the Times: “The legend ‘Except for Access’ is not authorised to be used with that particular traffic sign – only with the likes of vehicle weight or width prohibitions.”

Where the sign currently reads ‘Except for Access’ it should read, ‘And Authorised Vehicles’ according to strict government regulations for the blue bus, bicycle, and taxi symbol.

On how this could have happened, Mr Veasey, from the Kent-based traffic planning company John Elliot Consultancy, said: “My guess is that somebody just didn’t check the regulations properly and got it wrong, which is not unusual.”

KCC, the authority responsible for all road signage in the town, told the Times: “We are aware of the fault with our signage and have raised this with our contractor to correct.

“Despite these concerns, we believe signage in the area is sufficient enough to warn people in advance of arriving in the area.”

According to the TWBC website: ‘Except for access’ means that apart from public buses and taxis/private hire vehicles, only the following have an exemption to enter the bus gate restriction: “Goods delivery vehicles picking up or delivering to premises within the restriction [and] vehicles belonging to residents in the restriction, and their guests and visitors.”

Nathan Acheson, a Civil Engineering student, whose family live in Tunbridge Wells, also noticed the current faulty signage and explained how the pre-2021 ‘No Motor Cars or Motorcycles’ signs with ‘Except for Access’ legends were in line with the regulations but the current signs are not.

On whether those with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) can contest their fines on the current signage being incorrect, the Traffic Penalty Tribunal told the Times: “As part of their appeal, motorists can raise concerns with the validity of signs or restrictions that are relevant to their penalty.

“The local authority should also consider these concerns at the earlier stages of the appeals process.”

In 2021, a man won his appeal against his PCN, for driving through the restricted bus lane, after an adjudicator ruled that the signs were not “sufficiently visible and legible” enough and were hard to see for motorists.

Following the ruling, the signs were changed to the current incorrect road signs, which is estimated to have cost “tens of thousands of pounds” on top of the £1.3million construction project to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.

“After the signs were found to be not clear enough by the notice appeal, the Council spent tens of thousands of pounds on changing the signs, but I think people are less aware of the restrictions than before,” Cllr Nicholas Pope (Alliance) Park Ward, told the Times.

The Councillor explained how the restriction signage on York Road could be confusing, with the left turn using the red ‘no motor vehicles or motorcycles’ sign and the right turn using the incorrect blue bus, bicycle and taxi sign.

On their website, TWBC said the initiative “supports sustainable transport and reduces air and noise pollution in the town. It also makes the town safer for pedestrians and more attractive to shoppers and other visitors.”

When approached for additional comment, a spokesperson for TWBC told the Times: “Since its reimplementation earlier this year, the number [of motor vehicles] has reduced by a further two-thirds.

“The bus gate is intended to promote the use of more sustainable transport, including bus travel, walking, and cycling, and to improve pedestrian safety.

“Informal surveys by the Town Forum show no significant change in vehicle numbers using Dudley, Newton and York Roads since the restrictions were implemented.”

However, Cllr Pope said: “The project was a nice idea, but after its compromises, it doesn’t seem to have worked and it is considerably more dangerous for pedestrians.

“Whilst it is safer that there are less vehicles on the road, the removal of the traffic island on Monson Road means its more dangerous for pedestrians, especially now that the restrictions mean you can’t turn right on Monson Road, and you have to do a U-turn.

“I think it is a combination of people being used to driving through the restrictions and the fact the area doesn’t look restricted. I think more thought should have gone into the road design.”

Further to the story on April 19, TWBC (the source of all figures published by the Times) added that when it came to the income generated, some penalties could be cancelled through the appeals process, or if an offender passed through the restriction twice or more in one day, and that others may pay a discounted rate.



According to TWBC, between February 20 and April 1, the Council issued out 18,000 warning notices to make drivers aware that further contravention of the restrictions could result in a £70 penalty notice.

However, residents have reported varying experiences, with one motorist telling the Times that they received a warning letter last week for an offence that happened over seven weeks ago.

Meanwhile, James Legon from Dream Doors, Tunbridge Wells, told the Times how he has been receiving warning letters from the Council after driving through the restricted bus lane once in late March.

“I think I’ve had about 10 notices now all for the same offence. I think it is an utter waste of money by the Council,” he said.

In response to these issues, a spokesperson for TWBC told the Times: “We endeavour to send out notices within a week. Sometimes it can take a little longer as we first have to get the vehicle keeper details from the DVLA.

“We experienced an isolated software problem which resulted in a small number of letters being generated twice.”

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