P&R parking fee will ‘penalise greener travel’

Cambridgeshire County Council has come under fire from Stagecoach recently following its decision to introduce a parking fee on the county’s park and ride sites. The operator claimed the £1 a day charge will penalise greener travel and called it a ‘stealth tax’ on bus passengers. Council officers admit that the plan is likely to lead to a 5% drop in use of the sites. This would amount to an annual loss of more than 180,000 trips by bus and a switch to higher carbon car journeys into the already congested city centre. Stagecoach said the council’s suggestions that the lost bus journeys would recover quickly was ‘complacent’. The huge rise in car journeys would also increase road maintenance costs and result in higher traffic pollution.

MD of Stagecoach East, Andy Campbell, said, ‘The council has for years been one of the most pro-bus authorities in the country. That approach has helped build one of the best bus networks in the country and benefits the environment. We also appreciate these are tough times for councils hit by lower central government funding. But the decision to impose parking charges on park and ride users is nothing short of a stealth tax and will push up the overall cost of getting to work by around £200 a year for daily commuters. It will hit health service workers, people who work in higher education and those with training places. People on lower incomes who use the park and ride sites will be disproportionately hit. The council’s plans are extremely short-sighted.’

‘While the park and ride sites cost around £1m per year to operate, the success of these facilities saves money which would otherwise have to be spent on more roads maintenance and the health impact of higher pollution. It effectively penalises people who currently take a greener travel option and the extra congestion will also affect existing car users. We first put forward this proposal two years ago. It offered the council a solution which would have meant the cost of the sites to the local authority were wiped out by April 2014, avoiding the need for parking charges completely.’

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