Park and ride numbers plummet in wake of £1 charge as Cambridgeshire County Council admit original estimates ‘overly optimistic’

park and ride map

park and ride map - Credit: Archant

Passengers using the park and ride into Cambridge city dropped by nearly three times the numbers predicted following the introduction of a £1 parking charge last year.

Cambridgeshire County Council says their forecast of a five per cent reduction was way short of the mark; the numbers have fallen by 14 per cent.

And the loss to the council is massive – a predicted shortfall in the region of £560,000 is expected this year at the park and ride sites. The projection is based on income levels achieved in the first two months.

Graham Hughes, the county’s executive director for economy, transport and environment, says the drop in numbers “is either the result of a greater than forecast effect of the charge.

“Or it is because of the ongoing adverse publicity surrounding the charges which is discouraging use”.

One bright light he believes is the extra money the council is getting from bus lane enforcement but even that is uncertain.

“As this is a newly introduced charge it remains unclear at this point in the year.” He says he has “assumed” the council will get £300,000.

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The fines are coming after cameras along the Newmarket Road and elsewhere in the city catch ‘bus lane blockers’ who are hit with £30 fines, rising to £60 if not paid within a fortnight.

Mr Hughes will report to the economy and environment committee on July 14 on the difficulties facing park and ride.

He says the council’s business plan relies on income from parking charges at the park and ride sites. The system costs £1million a year to operate.

Following their introduction numbers were expected to drop but not anyway near the level that has happened. Income from parking charges “was substantially below forecast”.

Variations on usage occur weekly but “overall the reduction in patronage levels has taken place and is expected to continue into the future”.

Mr Hughes says improvements to the ticketing machines and marketing and promotions have yet to result in any meaningful improvement.

The current level of passenger numbers was last experienced in 2006, he says, and even a two for one deal over Easter failed to help. In fact numbers during that period remained lower than in 2014.

Fresh promotions include a loyalty card in conjunction with local businesses and visitor attractions but discounted bus fares “will not form part of the reward”.

He says: “It must be concluded that the original estimates on the likely drop in passenger numbers were overly optimistic.”

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