MORE than 5,500 fines and warnings have been issued to drivers caught using bus gates or lanes since camera enforcement was introduced at the end of June.

The council bought five mobile cameras which are moved randomly between Swindon’s 19 bus lanes and 24 bus gates.

On June 30 the cameras were switched on and in the first three weeks 4,533 warnings were handed out to drivers.

From July 21, Penalty Charge Notices were introduced and since that date more than 1,000 have been handed out.

However, because there are only five cameras it is likely that the actual number of offences is considerably higher.

The owners of 680 vehicles received more than one warning notice, and 103 have received more than one fine.

The record number of warning notices issued to one car was 20, for repeatedly driving through the same bus gate.

This driver ceased driving through after the date when fines were introduced.

However, among the drivers who received a warning letter, 130 went on to contravene again and received a fine.

The cameras were first put in place because the number of drivers misusing the traffic measures was delaying buses and slowing the public transport system.

Coun Dale Heenan (Covingham and Dorcan), the Cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said: "We did not want to have to install cameras, but the number of people caught using bus lanes and bus gates shows the scale of the problem.

“These features are important parts of the transport network in Swindon, because they reduce congestion and encourage the use of public transport.

“We took a responsible approach by sending warning letters for the first three weeks, instead of issuing fines immediately.

“However, there are clear warning signs, and from now on if drivers ignore them, fines will be issued.”

The cameras were first brought into action following complaints about drivers regularly using the bus lanes and gates.

A total of £180,000 was spent on the cameras, which take vehicles registrations and also putting up signs at each of the camera points.

A 2010 traffic survey showed there were 16,000 offences in Swindon each week, prompting the move.

The scheme has been welcomed by the bus companies.

Thamesdown Transport’s chief executive Paul Jenkins said: "Bus gates are an important way of giving bus services priority over other traffic and we welcome their enforcement. “Along with bus lanes they benefit our passengers by helping us deliver punctual bus services, even when there is congestion.”