Park-and-ride site fails to deliver

By Richard SmithA CONTROVERSIAL multi-million-pound park-and-ride site has attracted less than half the predicted amount of passengers in the first year.

By Richard Smith

A CONTROVERSIAL multi-million-pound park-and-ride site has attracted less than half the predicted amount of passengers in the first year.

The third Suffolk County Council park-and-ride site in the Ipswich area opened last November on land opposite Suffolk police headquarters in Martlesham.

It cost £3.3million, which included a £500,000 overspend required for extra construction and archaeological work, and aimed to pull in 103,700 cars in the first 12 months.


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But figures released yesterday by Suffolk County Council showed only 50,000 cars had used the site in the past year, with 160,000 passengers using the service.

The car park has spaces for 530 vehicles - but on average only one in four spaces are filled each day.

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Martlesham county councillor John Kelso said: ''I did not want it there, I felt it would not be used, but I must admit I am surprised it is not being used more than it is.

“They were hoping that people would come off the A12 and use it, but that is not the case. Something has to be done to increase patronage now it is there. It is costing the taxpayer dear and that is not a good thing.”

Suffolk County council said it was pleased with the growth in use of the service, which was similar to the pattern of customer usage at the existing sites in Bury Road, Ipswich, and Copdock.

Julian Swainson, the council's portfolio holder for sustainable environment, planning and transport, said: “We have paid the money for the park-and-ride site to avoid the need for very expensive road building in Ipswich and to make Ipswich healthier and less traffic-congested.

“There is a cost, but a very clear benefit and without park-and-ride Ipswich would probably be gridlocked by now.”

But Woodbridge county councillor Ben Redsell retorted: “Martlesham park-and-ride is significantly underachieving from what the county council originally sold it on.

“The quality of service at the park-and-ride is fantastic, but the Martlesham site is not as popular with the public as the council had expected.

“One of the things that particularly annoys people is that practically empty park-and-ride buses roar down Woodbridge Road in Ipswich every 15 minutes while there is no decent service for the people living there.”

Mr Redsell, a member of an overview and scrutiny panel that will consider the impact of park-and-ride in Suffolk, said there was a huge subsidy for every passenger of between £6 and £7 and he added alternative methods of running the park-and-ride system were required to make it more viable.

Suffolk Coastal District Council said in 2002 that the county council had failed to justify the need or proved the success of the other two park-and-ride sites and recommended planning permission for the Martlesham venture should be refused.

But the project went ahead after it was approved by a majority of one vote by the county council.

richard.smith@eadt.co.uk

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