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Fears over car parking charges at district rail stations
6:00am Wednesday 26th February 2014 in News
Plans to bring in charges at rail stations where people now park for free got a mixed reaction in Bradford.
Rail commuters could see journey costs spiral as the Government considers new charges at 18 stations in the region.
The chairman of Metro, Councillor James Lewis, has written to the Transport Secretary urging a re-think.
Rail users do not necessarily see the proposals as unreasonable but the Aire Valley Rail Users Group made it clear that any new charges should be accompanied by investment in the Airedale line.
However, Bradford Council’s executive member for transport, Councillor Val Slater, called for alternatives and expressed fears about commuters parking outside nearby homes and businesses if charges are introduced.
The proposals come as the Government negotiates an extension to the franchise held by Northern Rail, which runs local services. The company receives millions in subsidies and ministers want to offset the cost.
Tim Calow, chairman of AVRUG, said: “We are concerned about any measures to put up the cost to commuters.
“We are trying to encourage people to use different methods of getting to stations rather than by car.
“In principle, we are not opposed to station parking charges. The parks are full very early in the day. There is high demand for these spaces. But people who use emptier trains later in the day – such as families or senior citizens – can’t get in and tend to park along nearby streets This is certainly an issue along the Airedale line.
"These proposals are not unfair, but if such changes are implemented we will be looking to see considerable investment for our line and services. That would be sensible and good for the local economy, jobs and the Aire Valley in general."
But Coun Slater said: "This is totally unreasonable. We have had Eric Pickles accusing councils of making money out of motorists through parking charges and now the Government is proposing the same sort of thing.
"It is very unfair on the travelling public. Fares have just gone up and now this.
"There is also the potential of problems for nearby streets if parking shifts from the car parks. Residents could have trouble parking outside their own homes and would come to us asking for permits or no-parking zones. All this would be paid for by the local council taxpayer.
"The Government should look for alternatives.
"Along with other councils, we have been interested in having more control over rail services and how they operate and formed a consortium – Rail North – to talk to the Government. We thought we were making progress and then something like this crops up."
Metro chairman, Coun Lewis, says in his letter to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin: "While I understand the need to drive efficiencies in the franchise, we have major concerns about the impact and deliverability of some options being considered.
"We believe the adverse passenger impacts and impact on local highways and neighbourhoods – especially the proposed car park charges – have not been properly addressed."
A Northern Rail spokesman said: "We continue to have constructive discussions with the Department for Transport and Rail North on what they want to happen in the new franchise agreement for Northern between April 2014 and February 2016.
"As part of those discussions, we have been asked to provide proposals that would reduce the cost to the taxpayer of running the railway as well as providing better facilities and information for customers.
"The details of the new franchise agreement are still being finalised and we cannot comment further until it is signed."