TfL issued £5m worth of box junction fines last year despite huge decline in traffic

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There was a fall in the number of yellow box junction fines issued by Transport for London last year, new figures show.

But despite a significant decline in traffic in the capital during lockdowns, there was still a sizeable number of fines dished out to drivers.

TfL issued 77,000 box junction penalty charge notices worth at least £5million for contraventions on Red Routes in 2020, a Freedom of Information request revealed.

It means automatic number plate recognition cameras dotted around Central London snared around 1,500 drivers per week in 2020, even with car use ravaged by travel restrictions.

New figures released by TfL show suggest it made at least £5m from box junction fines alone during a pandemic-hit 2020 when traffic levels plummeted, especially in the capital

TfL's box junction where drivers are most likely to be caught out is outside Wandsworth Fire Station with a total of 10,731 fines in 2019 - though examples of successful disputes raised against PCNs by motorists suggest it is poorly signposted.

A grand total of 76,977 PCNs were issued last year as part of yellow box enforcement by TfL, it confirmed. 

Previous data suggests almost 136,000 fines for this offence type were handed out by TfL in the financial year 2018/19.

The transport department only enforces box junctions on Central London's Red Routes, which make up just five per cent of the capital's roads, though are among the busiest and carry around 40 per cent of traffic in and out of the city.

London boroughs outside Red Routes are responsible for enforcement of yellow box junctions on their roads. 

With traffic volumes plummeting by as much as 80 per cent during the initial Covid-19 lockdown, a decline in yellow box junctions had been anticipated.

TfL yellow box junction PCNs issued by month in 2020

January: 8,515

February: 9,697

March: 5,684

April: 53

May: 664

June: 4,396

July: 7,827

August: 8,791

September: 10,732

October: 9,284

November: 5,499

December: 5,835 

Total: 76,977

Source: TfL 

However, the boom in home deliveries during lockdown is likely to have driven a rise in fines for vans users. 

Fines for such infringements are £130, though reduced to £65 if the offender pays the PCN within 14 days.

It means TFL's total haul from box junction fines is between £5million (at the £65 half rate) and £10million (at the £130 full rate). 

The response to the FOI request issued to TfL was published on the same day it had proposed ramping up fines on Red Routes, including for yellow box junctions along them, from a maximum of £130 to £160

Early payment will continue to be rewarded with halved fines amounts, which would work out at £80. 

The records show that September was the prolific month with more than 10,732 PCNs sent out by TfL. 

That compares to just 53 in April as the nation was in the throngs of the first lockdown.

In terms of which Red Route yellow box junctions were most prevalent at punishing motorists, TfL named the five with a combined 30,005 contraventions in 2019.

The most lucrative for City Hall is the  West Hill SW18 box junction, which the AA says has a 'confusing road layout with minimal warning of what is a critical yellow box outside a fire station'.  

'If a yellow box is catching out that many drivers with car travel so dramatically reduced through much of last year, the yellow box is clearly not doing its job and needs more warning signage to make it effective,' the motoring group told This is Money.

This yellow box junction outside Wandsworth Fire Station is said to be the most prolific for offences on London's Red Route roads

Having reviewed examples of successful appeals made against PCNs for entering the box junction outside Wandsworth Fire Station, the motoring group questioned if the junction is fit for purpose in its current state. 

Luke Bosdet, AA spokesman, said of the fines being increased to £160: 'Rather than increasing fines "as a deterrent", more of the huge amounts of money already taken in PCNs should be spent on giving better warning of the box junction, giving drivers a better chance of not stopping in it and allowing fire engines to get on the road without obstruction.' 

The second junction in the list is also outside a fire station in Homerton.

The notorious junction at Highgate station on Archway Road, which has five different entry and exit routes, also made the list at number five. 

Most prolific yellow box junctions on London Red Routes in 2019 

1. West Hill, SW18/Wandsworth Fire Station, Wandsworth: 10,731 PCNS

2. Homerton High Street/Homerton Fire Station Emergency Exit, Homerton: 7,752 PCNs

3. Upper Woburn Place/Endsleigh Gardens, St Pancras: 4,005 PCNS

4. Camberwell New Road/Warner Road, Camberwell: 3,816 PCNS

5. Archway Road/Jackson Lane/Shepherd's Hill, Highgate: 3,701 PCNS

Total: 30,005 

 Source: TfL

Drivers who stopped in these yellow box junctions on Homerton High Street - again outside a fire station - received a total of 7,752 PCNs in 2019

This yellow box junction close to St Pancras Station, is responsible for the third highest number of PCNs from TfL. As you can see, it is in very close proximity to a set of traffic lights, which makes it more difficult for drivers to judge when they can clear the yellow hatched lines

This Google Maps image shows there is poor signposting of the yellow box junction ahead in Camberwell. Almost 4,000 motorists were stung with fines for incorrectly entering it in 2019

This box junction close to Highgate tube station in North London is particularly notorious as it is not only part of the busy A1 but has five different entry and exit points as well as parking allowances that means drivers need to filter down from two lanes to one, while also navigating traffic lights. It is easy to understand why 3,700 PCNs were issued for this junction in 2019

The FOI request also asked which businesses received the most PCNs for box junction contraventions, with TfL providing data from 2019 records.

Tesco drivers received the most with 94 in total, ahead of Royal Mail (82) and British Telecom.

Other mobile and delivery services receiving PCNs of this type were Sainsbury's (63), Ocado (33), Thames Water (18), Asda (16) and Iceland.

TfL vehicles received none.

Fines for businesses are likely to be far higher in 2020, given that more vans and delivery vehicles were in use during the tightest Covid-19 restrictions. 

Capitals make £30m from box junction fines a year and more authorities could start fining drivers from 2022

London and Cardiff pocketed a combined £58.2million from drivers who committed moving traffic offences in a year, according to a report published by the RAC last year.

More than half of the fines - at £31.4million - were from yellow-box junction infringements in the financial year 2018/19, which continue to prove lucrative for authorities across both capitals.

TfL issued a total of 135,923 yellow box contravention PCNs in 2019/19 - more than twice the number by any other authority - with a total value of £12,086,605.  

The most lucrative box junction in London was in Westminster, generating a staggering £333,295, the investigation found.

The enforcement of these in the two cities increased by 25 per cent compared to two years earlier, a comparison to previous studies highlighted.

A similar investigation by the RAC found that authorities raked in £46.7million from these types of fines in 2016/17 - meaning an additional profit of £11.5million in the 2018/19 financial year earnings. 

The prospect of receiving a PCN in the post for wrongful use of a box junction could be realised across the country from next year. 

This is Money alerted drivers in June to news that box junction fines could soon be enforced by authorities across England and Wales from 2022.

Currently, they are the responsibility of police, meaning offences are only punished if caught by a patrolling officer. 

Rule changes set to be introduced by the end of 2021 will see all local authorities outside London and Cardiff be able to take responsibility for enforcing fines for minor traffic violations, such as box junction infringements, for the first time ever. 

Councils will be able to make application for these rights from December and - if successful - likely install ANPR cameras at junctions to begin issuing PCNs from early 2022.

Councils outside London and Cardiff will for the first time be able to take responsibility of enforcement of minor traffic offences, such as yellow box junction infringements from 2020

Motoring groups have raised concerns that this could be used as a cash cow by authorities. 

Simon Williams, RAC spokesman, said it was right for councils in England and Wales to have the ability to enforce known rule-breaking hotspots, but added that the motoring organisation is 'fearful' that some authorities may be 'over enthusiastic' in using their new powers for revenue raising reasons, to the detriment of drivers.

'While the Government has pledged to give councils advice on how best to let drivers know enforcement is taking place, what's really needed is clear guidance on making sure enforcement is always carried out fairly,' he told This is Money.

'Drivers who blatantly ignore signage or highway rules should expect penalties, but there are instances which are not always clear-cut.' 

Williams said councils should firstly review their road layouts at junctions to ensure drivers can negotiate them at all times - especially during busy periods - without confusion.

He also said that councils show act responsibly by monitoring the number of PCNs issued in certain areas from December to identify if there is incorrect signage or design of roads that is causing so many motorists to breach rules.

'More broadly, there's a good argument for authorities to issue warning letters in the first instance rather than fines,' he said.

'We also believe drivers should be able to appeal easily if, for example, they receive a penalty for slightly moving into a yellow box to allow an emergency vehicle through.' 


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