Park-and-ride site branded a failure

EXCLUSIVEBy Richard Smith and Rebecca SheppardA CONTROVERSIAL park-and-ride scheme that cost £500,000 more than budgeted is failing to pull in passengers, new figures have revealed.


By Richard Smith and Rebecca Sheppard

A CONTROVERSIAL park-and-ride scheme that cost £500,000 more than budgeted is failing to pull in passengers, new figures have revealed.

When the £3million-plus site opened in Martlesham in November last year, Suffolk County Council said it would attract 103,700 cars in the first year.

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But the results released yesterday showed that target could be too optimistic - for during April there was an average of 154 cars a day using the site, less than half of the projected target of 340 cars a day.

By the third or fourth year of the park-and-ride's operation, the county council is hoping the site will have 400 cars a day using it.

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Ben Redsell, county councillor for Woodbridge, criticised the scheme last night and said it had made no difference to the traffic problems of Ipswich.

“It has taken a large chunk out of the forest, wasted a vast amount of county council money and made that roundabout a nightmare to traverse,” he added.

Peter Izzard, who was secretary of the Martlesham Park and Ride Action Group, said: “At the moment I believe it is a failure.”

A county council spokeswoman admitted: “It is not going as well as we had hoped. The growth has been slower than we anticipated, but it has been showing signs of growth and we are confident that we will build on that.”

She added people who used the service were pleased with the scheme and became loyal and regular users.

But the spokeswoman said the county council needed to promote the scheme more to encourage extra users and promised there would be a major campaign during the summer.

The park-and-ride site at Martlesham has a capacity of 530 vehicles and is located off the roundabout on the junction of the A12 and A1214.

It is busier during the rush-hours, but observers said that proved it was in effect a multi-million-pound car park for commuters to leave their cars all day while they worked in Ipswich and it did not take many cars off the road.

Mr Redsell said a park-and- ride site serving Ipswich was needed more in places like Felixstowe and added the Martlesham scheme had adversely affected Woodbridge with bus services being cut.

“I am not surprised that it has not worked as well as expected. It does mean the subsidy is higher per person, which comes directly out of the council tax. It is a horrific amount,” he added.

“I think it's in the wrong part of Ipswich and I do not think people use park-and-rides because Ipswich is not designed with dedicated bus lanes all the way in.

“For the most part traffic is not that bad, not like Cambridge where the park-and-rides have been successful, and people who are worried about it take the bus already.”

Mr Izzard, who lives in Portal Avenue, near the park-and-ride site, said: “We argued for five years against it, not believing that it would successfully help pollution and congestion in Ipswich.

“We produced the figures for them because what they did not take into account was that every bus is the equivalent of four cars in congestion and two cars in terms of pollution.

“You have got to get rather a lot of cars using the park-and-ride to make it successful to do anything in congestion and pollution terms if that was their aim, which they said it was.”

Mr Izzard said he doubted the scheme would justify its cost and suggested the money should have been used to subsidise the public transport that was already running in the area.

Julian Roughton, director of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said it was, in principle, supportive of park-and-ride schemes as they reduced pollution and private car use, which impacted on potential global warming.

But he added: “The location was one that we felt unhappy about, but I do not think we want to be in a position of 'I told you so'. What has happened has happened now and we would get no satisfaction from that.

“I would hope that it now proves to be successful and people do take it up. It is there now and what was there before will not come back.”

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