BUS lane bandits are increasingly likely to escape prosecution because too few police are patrolling the roads, new figures suggest.
The number of drivers caught by police using bus lanes in Edinburgh has dropped by 14% in the past year, despite £8m being spent on the scheme.
Just over 600 motorists were stopped in the whole of 2010 compared to more than 700 the previous year.
The news is likely to infuriate law-abiding motorists who sit in lengthy queues during the rush hour while law-breakers speed along the bus lane.
The head of the city’s police board admitted they do not have enough officers to enforce the lanes and warned that cameras may have to be brought in to crack down on the bandits.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that in 2009, 705 drivers were caught by police inEdinburghbus lanes.
In 2010 that figure dropped to 609 and the latest available figure for this year is 507.
Drivers who do get caught face a fine of up to £60.
Councillor Ian Whyte, convener of the Lothian and Borders Police Board said: “My own experience says a lot more than 600 people are doing this.
“Some bus lanes people do ignore completely.
“I would certainly like to see more of a focus on it.”
He added: “It can be quite frustrating for drivers, to see people abusing these rules.
“Part of the problem with policing our roads is we don’t have the officers.
Cllr Whyte said there was scope for an awareness campaign aimed at drivers but bus lane cameras, which automatically catch out the bandits, were also an option.
He said: “Local authorities are looking into bus lane cameras, and they apparently have worked elsewhere.
“Maybe that is the way around this issue.”
Road safety campaigner George Vine, of the Edinburgh and District Group of Advanced Motorists, said: “It’s frustrating because bus lanes should only be used at certain times.
“It is important that people adhere to this and police are the people you would expect to impose these regulations.”
Edinburgh Council is looking at plans to take over control of bus lane enforcement from the police, introducing cameras at five “hotspots” around the city.
The camera system would cost around £600,000 a year to run, funded by the fines imposed.
No-one was available for comment from Lothian and Borders Police.
Edinburgh’s attempts to deal with chronic traffic congestion continue to generate controversy.
The £1bn trams project, widely seen as having made the city a laughing stock, has resulted in Princes Street closed to all traffic this winter.
This has led to many bus routes being diverted along neighbouring George Street.
In 2006, the city spent £600,000 asking motorists if they wanted a congestion charge to be introduced. Few residents were surprised when the idea was rejected by 74.4% of those who voted.