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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Toll bollard claims 300 victims
Durham congestion charging
Drivers pay to enter Durham's medieval city centre
Britain's first modern-day congestion charging system has been criticised for damaging hundreds of cars.

The scheme, in Durham city centre, has been hailed as a success for reducing traffic by 85% and increasing the number of pedestrians.

However, the retractable bollard has also caused 300 instances of damage since it was installed in October 2002.

Durham County Council says the vast majority of incidents have been minor, with most cases involving driver error.

Malcolm Stabler, of Great Lumley, near Chester-le-Street, has fallen foul of the bollard.

He crossed on a light which was still green for the car in front and the bollard rose, causing extensive damage to the underside of his vehicle.

Safety measures

He is now calling for the bollard to be removed and replaced by a barrier system.

"I go through the market place regularly and you'd be surprised by the amount of sand in the area to soak up the oil and water and petrol. It obviously happens frequently."

Dave Wafer, the council's business manager for traffic, said: "There have been 300 times when someone has come into contact with the bollard but the vast majority are very, very minor, resulting in damage such as a bent number plate.

"Each incident is reviewed, and in the vast majority of cases drivers are making a small error."

He added that a replacement barrier would not be possible as a kiosk could not fit into the narrow street, but new safety measures had been introduced.

"We have changed the signing and introduced interactive signing with flashing lights, as in a level crossing.

"We are trying to reduce the number of driver errors to the bare minimum."

9m to cut traffic in Durham
09 Apr 03 |  Wear
Firms hit by toll road charge
24 Jan 03 |  England

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