Pay, then pay again

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There are often lessons to be learned from other people’s mistakes, and I hope West Norfolk Borough Council are taking note of the parking debacle that has been unfolding in nearby Cambridge.

Parking is a very sensitive issue everywhere these days, and over the years I have had cause to write several critical articles when, in my humble opinion, new parking rules implemented locally have not always been to the benefit of West Norfolk motorists.

The hoo-ha in Cambridge surrounds the implementation of new charges on users of the city’s park and ride sites, a system that had run quite successfully for a number of years and had proved quite a cash cow to Cambridgeshire County Council.

So what happens? You’ve guessed it – the council decided to milk the scheme even more, with disastrous results.

Under the old system, motorists parked their cars at the various park and ride sites dotted around the city and took a bus into the city centre, paying their fare when they boarded the bus. The system worked well, and everyone was happy.

But this was not enough for the county council. They decided to impose an additional charge of £1 for each car using the park and ride system, with motorists being required to pay for the £1 ticket, and key in their car number as proof of purchase, at a series of new ticket machines.

The anger felt by motorists at the additional new charge was, however, nothing compared with the rage that arose among people actually trying to use the new system.

The laborious process of keying in one’s car registration number while purchasing the £1 parking ticket meant that long queues built up at the ticket machines. The knock-on effect was that people were then being delayed and missing their bus into the city centre.

The council did try to ease the situation by introducing more ticket machines, but the net result of their folly is that in the past year, revenues from park and ride have plummeted by a whopping 14 per cent. Presumably you can add to this figure the considerable sum needed to install the new ticket machines.

While the storm of criticism over the fiasco continues to grow, the council have yet to take action to rectify their error. Hardly surprising, as the last thing the politicians are likely to do is admit a mistake.

Now most of the stories I have written about Cambridge in recent times are usually about the unbridled success of the booming city. This is a sobering warning about the way in which it is all too easy to get things wrong, so I just hope our local council are taking notes. There but for fortune...