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Hold off on free park and rides and produce a transport strategy says City Deal head

By Ben Comber

Park&ride double-decker bus waiting for passenger at the Trumpington bus stop in Cambridge
Park&ride double-decker bus waiting for passenger at the Trumpington bus stop in Cambridge

Cllr Ian Bates says there will be an opportunity to look comprehensively at bus services later this year.

Liberal Democrat councillors are proposing that the controversial £1 parking charge at Cambridge’s park and rides be scrapped from April, but county councillor and City Deal executive Ian Bates says there’s an opportunity to hold off and produce a more strategic plan alongside other authorities.

The Labour-led city council is proposing to reduce parking charges in the city centre on Mondays and Tuesdays and freeze them from Wednesdays to Fridays.

But Lib Dems say the money to fund this measure should instead be used to cover the cost of axing the park and ride charge at the start of the week. The county council would take on budget allowances to subsidise the free service for the remainder of the week.

Since the introduction of the £1 charge at the park and rides, usage has dropped by around 14 per cent.

Ticket machines, which some people have said are difficult to use, are also thought to be a contributing factor to the fall.

Cllr Tim Bick, Lib Dem leader on the city council, said: “Our joint plan would abolish the £1 parking charge, which has reduced park and ride usage and increased congestion, air pollution and parking problems in the city.”

Free park and rides have been pushed by the City Deal as a way to encourage more public transport use, and the revelation at the last meeting of the executive board, that member Cllr Ian Bates was looking at ways to drop the charge, has pushed the plans into focus.

City Deal’s plan is to subsidise the park and ride using income from a workplace parking levy.

Cllr Bates, who is leading the park and ride initiative for the county council, said: “My desire, my wish is to remove the park and ride charge in 2018. This is the road that I’m going down. Let’s start this out for the benefit of businesses, people who drive in, people in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire. We need to be smart and get together and see a way forward for the benefit of all.

“We have a Combined Authority coming in with a mayor. There’s a bus Bill in Parliament at the moment. There will be opportunities for us to look at bus services much more comprehensively then we have in the past.

“Let’s do it in a constructive way. I’m saying there’s opportunity here for us to all sit down and see the right way forward in a cross-party way.”

Cllr Bates will propose designing a collaborative, overarching parking strategy to the council next week.


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