A caller on the radio this morning reported that the car parking charge at Etchingham station has recently risen to £4.10 per day. The problem seems to be that the machines do not take 10p pieces or credit cards, so you cannot actually pay the correct amount for the parking ticket.
Apparently, he contacted Southeastern, who manages the station, to ask them to replace or upgrade the machines but they declined to do so on the basis of cost.
So, this means that people are faced with the following choices:
- Queue up at the ticket office to buy a parking ticket. The downside is that they may miss their train while they queue, for those in the larger car park this also means crossing the footbridge (may be difficult for elderly or disabled) and the ticket office closes at 12:55, so hard luck if you’re travelling in the afternoon.
- Put too much money into the machine, which does not give change, e.g. £4.20, £4.50 or even £5.00, depending which coins you have in your pocket.
- Fail to pay for the ticket and risk a fine.
Passengers seem to lose out whichever way you look at it.
So my questions to Southeastern are:
- How many cars use the car park on an average day?
- What monthly profit do you make from the car parking charges?
- What additional profit do you make in excess of the £4.10 charge from people inserting coins to a higher value?
- How much do you make in fines for unticketed vehicles?
- How much would it cost to replace the ticket machine with one that accepts coins appropriate to the parking charge?
- Do you not think you should treat passengers fairly by only charging an amount that can be paid for at the machine?
- We are 15 years into the 21st century: do you not think that credit card facility should be available on all your machines (car park machine, permit to travel machines, etc.)?
Southeastern replied as follows:
We’re working with our supplier to resolve the issue with station parking machines. In the meantime, other options for making payment exist including online and mobile. Parking fee increase is lowest for five years at just 10 pence.
Consumer Lookout comment:
- It is good to know that mobile/online options exist but that does not help those without smartphone/internet access, particularly when the ticket office is closed.
- How about treating customers fairly and restoring the £4 rate until a suitable machine is installed?
- I note Southeastern declined to answer the questions in my blog post relating profits to the cost of the machine: a disappointing lack of transparency.
- Is this just happening at Etchingham station or is does this happen at other Southeastern stations?