Plans to charge for parking at three Oxford Park and Ride sites look “inevitable” – according to city’s two local authorities.
Parking for drivers using the service has been free since 2008 but Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council want to charge for parking at the Pear Tree, Redbridge and Seacourt sites to cover budget shortfalls.
The sites were previously run by the county council but will now be run directly by the city council, who plan to charge for parking to cover the £700,000 annual running costs for the three sites after losing £250,000 county council subsidy which covered lost revenue.
The councils are also looking into the possibility of charging Oxford to London commuters and long-stay airport users of the Thornhill and Water Eaton parking sites, whilst remaining free for those travelling into Oxford.
As previously featured in CBW, the park and ride bus services to the five car parks are operated entirely commercially without any council funding, something which is unique in the United Kingdom.
Philip Kirk, the managing director of Oxford Bus Company, which runs the city centre park and ride services, told CBW: “We’ve just seen the joint County and City Council announcement about the Park and Ride car parks. We need time to study the issues raised before we can comment.”
Chris Child, marketing manager for Stagecoach Oxford told CBW: “The decision is unfortunate but is understandable given the financial pressures the council is facing. Ultimately it is not something we have control over.”
Hugh Jaeger, Oxford group chairman of Bus Users UK, said: “If £700,000 was cut from local bus subsidies, instead of from parkand- ride, it would increase car use, harm our environment and cause hardship to many villagers who do not or cannot use cars.
“Cuts hardly ever help public transport. However, reintroducing Park and Ride parking charges may be the least bad option.”
Operators will now await a council review of the plans which will decide the specific amount to be charged and will explore the use of new technology.
Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for transport Rodney Rose said: “Our decision to take on responsibility for all the sites was originally taken in better financial times when we were able to absorb all of the costs. Sadly, both ourselves and our partners at the city council can no longer afford to continue with this arrangement.”