A CONTROVERSIAL bus lane which has snared tens of thousands of drivers is putting off tourists from visiting Colchester, according a campaigner.

The bus lane running from Colchester High Street into Queen Street has netted Essex County Council as much as £2 million in fines, with 60,000 drivers falling foul of the restriction since 2013.

Objectors point out many drivers still access Queen Street after performing a U turn at Lewis Gardens.

Colchester Civic Society is urging the council to scrap the bus lane, claiming it does little to ease congestion and confuses visitors.

John Salmon, a member of the society’s executive committee, said: “No-one in their right mind intentionally uses a bus lane, willingly incurring a large fine.

“Thousands of people, many who will be visiting the town, are falling foul of it.

“Perhaps this would be okay if the bus lane served a purpose but as we keep saying people will simply drive down the High Street and perform the dangerous manoeuvre at Lewis Gardens.

“Among the tens of thousands caught, how many will be visitors who are unwilling to return again after falling into the trap?

“Janet Street Porter took to Twitter to call Priory Street inaccessible - I would assume because of her frustration trying to get down Queen Street.

“Thousands visited Colchester for the Grayson Perry exhibition, I imagine many had trouble getting to Firstsite after driving down the High Street.

“It simply doesn’t serve a purpose and needs to go.”

Paul Smith, leader of Colchester Council, said more needed to be done to stop drivers performing the U-turn.

He said: “Essex County Council needs to be putting up ‘No U-turn’ signs at Lewis Gardens and taking preventative measures to stop it.

“This manoeuvre is dangerous and it causes congestion, people coming up the hill unsurprisingly are often not willing to give up their place in the queue to people performing the U-turn.

“The bus lane should not be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week - the council should relax it to allow some use.

“I do understand what they are trying to do, congestion in the town centre means traffic needs to be re-directed.

“I do support a bus lane here but only at certain times.”

An Essex County Council spokesman said: “It is essential drivers respect the safety of pedestrians and other motorists at all times and take care when manoeuvring, especially when driving in a busy town centre environment.

“This bus lane is part of wider project to cut congestion in Colchester, which is estimated to cost the area £20 million a year.

“A full bus has the potential to remove up to 40 cars off our roads and that is why we have introduced dedicated bus lanes to ensure bus services offer a quick and reliable alternative to driving.”