Council says it is in its best interests to run the site itself, but MD Andy Campbell claims the site is very poorly managed
Motorists will have to pay to park and to ride if they catch the bus into Cambridge from January, after councillors rejected a deal with Stagecoach.
The £1 parking fee will be introduced at the five park and ride sites on the edge of the city, in addition to the bus fare, to cover annual running costs of more than £1m.
Cambridgeshire County Council’s cabinet approved the charge after they rejected bus operator Stagecoach’s offer to take on the running of the sites.
Andy Campbell, Managing Director of Stagecoach East, claimed passengers trapped inside the toilet for three-and-a-half hours is one example of the council’s poor management of Cambridge’s park and ride sites.
He said a couple were marooned at the Milton Park and Ride between 1830 and 2200hrs one night last, adding he had received many complaints about the way the sites were run. Nobody at the council could be found to open the facility and the pair only avoided an uncomfortable night trying to keep warm in the toilets because he was alerted on his personal phone, Andy added.
Andy said the parking charge would have a severe impact on passenger numbers, but he was baffled why the council would turn down the chance to save £1m a year. Stagecoach made the offer on the condition the council would waive the £250,000 Stagecoach pays a year to run its services there.
He said: “I don’t want customers to have to pay to park on top of paying for the bus and what I think will happen is I will lose a significant number of customers.
“That’s the reason why I made the offer. I wasn’t doing it for philanthropic reasons, it’s a business decision.
“I would be better off paying to manage the site because it would not cost me any more than what I would lose in customers if this parking charge went ahead.”
Andy said he believes the percentage of passengers that would shirk the park and ride would be more than the council’s 5% estimate.
He added: “I don’t think they run them very well. I think that is clear from the number of complaints we’ve had about it being closed and from the couple being locked in for three-and-a-half hours.”
The council claimed the offer did not represent a ‘good deal overall’ for the council partly because of fears it would limit its ability to make extra money on the sites and would restrict the services offered to a single operator.
Cllr Tony Orgee, who represents Sawston, said: “Although it’s an interesting offer, it does fall short of what is required and it’s in our own best interests to continue running the sites ourselves.”