A BUS lane camera has been branded a 'cash cow' by a motoring group after issuing more than one quarter of the capital's fines to motorists this year.

It recorded more than 5,506 drivers straying into penalty zone outside the entrance to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in Little France between January and the end of October.

With the culprits paying out up to £60 a time for the infringement, the fines made Edinburgh City Council more than £327,000 – or 26 per cent of the total number of the overall Bus Lane Charge Notices issued during the period.

The AA claimed the high levels of fines and the fact motorists keep making the same mistake proves the camera is nothing more than a money-making exercise.

A spokesman said: "If that many people are failing to realise that it's a bus lane then there really is an issue because the council doesn't seem to have done anything about it.

"Drivers don't just throw themselves into bus lanes like lemmings trying to get fines.

"The whole idea is to keep the bus lanes clear. If they are still catching that many people it just goes to show the enforcement is there for making money. It's a disgrace."

The organisation said many of the drivers will be from outwith the city, including visitors to the hospital.

He added: "Edinburgh is such a large tourist area so outsiders who are unfamiliar with the roads might just make a mistake.

"The tourism board might need to have a look and see what image they want to portray as the city of Edinburgh."

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: "For us the best bus lane cameras catch no one but keep the lanes free for buses. If infringements are going up again the signposting and markings must be reviewed to ensure drivers have the information they need."

The latest figures, released via Freedom of Information, show the capital's bus lane fines issued between January and the end of October totalled £1.2 million. The figure have almost doubled (44 per cent) from last year.

It means the council generates an average daily income of £4,153 and issue approximately 70 fines every 24 hours.

More than 21,000 fines have already been issued to motorists in Edinburgh since January, leaving them liable to pay £60 which is halved if paid within 14 days.

Eben Wilson, director of Taxpayer Scotland said: "Can this huge increase in fines be put down to a sudden change to bad behaviour by drivers in Edinburgh? We doubt it.

"That means that these cameras are not being used to ration road space, but have become a way to punish motorists for revenue raising.

"The temptation to abuse what has become a tax source for other council purposes is huge.

"It is doubly unjust if a council becomes a police force monopolising road use for the buses that they also own."

Other areas which have seen high levels of bus lane fines in Edinburgh include Calder Road, Kirkland Park Street, London Road and the Jewel.

Earlier this year, it emerged that a bus lane camera near the Beatson cancer care centre at Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow had been issuing fines to motorists despite the fact the centre had been transferred elsewhere.

In one month alone, it caught more than 1,300 drivers leading to calls for the fines to be refunded. Glasgow City Council later said it had stopped processing the contraventions from the spot.