£Œ_m annual cost of park and ride scheme

Wednesday, 11 February, 2009

A park and ride scheme for Bury St Edmunds could cost £500,000 a year, according to a report discussed on Friday.

But the study, carried out by consultants, found there was not enough demand for a scheme for Bury- a conclusion described as 'faulty' by an MP.

Councillors and organisations claim the report did not take into account future changes to parking demand, such as the Cattle Market development and the building of up to 3,000 houses in the borough.

The study, which was discussed at meeting on Friday, showed there would be an annual deficit of just under £500,000, as the total operating costs were estimated at £600,000 but fares would generate £105,000.

Bury MP David Ruffley said: "The report said there aren't going to be enough users to justify a park and ride, but it does not talk about the increased housing growth in our town in the next 10 years.

"We don't want a clogged up town that looks like a car park. I feel the report is faulty and misses the point."

The report included a number of options to reduce the deficit, including increasing bus charges, reducing the quality of the terminus, obtaining bus revenue support, forcing cars out of the town centre by increasing parking charges and limiting the duration of stays, and enforcing greater parking controls around the railway station.

Steve Peters, town centre manager, said: "If there's a way of keeping traffic away from the town centre, then it's something we have to look at."

Chrissy Harrod, manager of Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre, said: "We don't want visitors and customers being put off because they can't get a car parking space."

Rick Wildridge, chairman of Bury Chamber of Commerce, described the meeting as a 'set up' as, although no decision was made on park and ride, he said 'you could tell that it was as if the county council had decided'.

"The majority of people at the meeting were for a park and ride, but the county council will wait until we have got total gridlock and then decide to do something about it," said Mr Wildridge.

Cllr Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for roads and transport at Suffolk County Council, denied accusations a decision had already been made and said it was up to the borough council to have further discussions on the subject.

Cllr McGregor said: "We could go ahead with a park and ride but it would cost up to £500,000. If the need arises we will address it but the costs of running a park and ride are very difficult to justify."

Cllr John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said the council would continue to look at the feasibility of the scheme.