New car parking signs fail first test

A NEW electronic system using signs to show spaces available in Colchester's car parks and help drivers find the best place to park experienced teething problems during its first major test at the weekend.

A NEW electronic system using signs to show spaces available in Colchester's car parks and help drivers find the best place to park experienced teething problems during its first major test at the weekend.

The £280,000 scheme, jointly funded by Colchester borough and Essex county councils, received a mixed reception from the public after many were pointed in the wrong direction by signs indicating sites were full when it turned out there were actually spaces available.

The electronic displays, located at major routes into the town, are connected to sensors at the six car parks and are designed to help ease congestion and offer motorists help in finding the quickest and most convenient spot to park.

However, on Saturday the signs were clearly experiencing a few teething problems, according to high street shoppers.


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They were left unimpressed, although yesterday a Colchester councillor welcomed feedback from the public in order to improve the system.

Shopper Katie Bailey, 24, from Colchester, said a sign she approached indicated two car parks were full but, as she passed the entrances to go to an alternative site, she noticed there were still spaces.

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She said: “That's not good, really, is it - it's not that useful. It would be useful if it did work properly but we ignored it and went in anyway.”

Wendy Bethel, 38, who lives in Mile End, also encountered the signs on her way into town - but found the “full” car park still had spaces.

She said: “If they're giving people the right information it will stop people queuing out on the road - but we drove past it anyway so it didn't matter.”

However Martin Maher, 24, from the Hythe, criticised the cost of the project and said that the money could have been far better spent.

He said: “To be honest - it's a waste of money. They could have put it into opening up bus lanes because that would make traffic flow more.

“I don't think it's going to make a difference - you've still got to get into town, anyway.”

The car parks linked to the system are St John's, St Mary's, Middleborough, Nunn's Road, and the Sheepen Road north and south car parks.

Responding to the concerns, Elizabeth Blundell, the borough council's portfolio holder for planning and strategic transportation, said: “When anything new happens you may need to look at it to see if any changes need to be made.

“We will have to take a look to see if there are any patterns. Anything we can do to improve the situation for motorists we're glad to hear about it.”

She said the signs were the “next step” in helping to keep traffic on the move in Colchester.

She added: “We believe it will bring about a number of benefits including less queues, and positive benefits for the environment.”

County council cabinet member for highways and transportation, Rodney Bass, said: “We have had great success with the system in Chelmsford and Basildon, so I expect it will prove just as successful in Colchester.”

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