Rail franchise bidders must not forget parking investment – MPs

Manningtree Train Station car park continues to be busy.

Manningtree Train Station car park continues to be busy. - Credit: Su Anderson

Whoever wins the long-term franchise to run rail services in East Anglia must offer improved parking facilities at busy stations, local MPs have demanded.

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said his constituents were becoming increasingly frustrated by parking problems at Manningtree and Colchester stations – neither are in his constituency but both are widely used by people from south Suffolk.

He said: “As we push for improving our rail links, I hope that key players don’t overlook the fact that commuters need to get to stations in the first place and for many of my constituents that means driving and then parking for the day.

“Many of my constituents use Manningtree or Colchester. At Manningtree, constituents are informing me that it is full by 7.30am on a weekday.

“At Colchester, I have myself experienced the problem of access which can mean it takes up to half an hour to drive out of the car park in peak time.

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“If the car part of the journey is going to take longer and longer that undermines efforts to speed up the rail travel, desirable though that obviously is.

“The new franchisee will have direct responsibility for parking and I hope that this issue is assessed in detail and that appropriate steps are taken to meet demand”.

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Mr Cartlidge had also heard from Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill that she had encountered similar problems at Stowmarket. He has written to Network Rail to ask for an assurance that there was an awareness of the problem.

An official replied: “The Department for Transport have reviewed all parking based on current levels of occupation which shows them pretty full and this will be provided to bidders. Bidders will be asked to propose schemes to align with forecast passenger demand.”

Colchester MP Will Quince said he was pressing for the town’s new park and ride system to have its hours extended to provide a better service for commuters.

He said: “That is cheaper than the station car park, and if it means drivers can have a five-minute bus ride and then be off from the park next to the football stadium that has to be better than waiting a long time to get out of the car park.”

The Manningtree car park was opened in 2009, but between Mondays and Thursdays it is now regularly full from early in the morning.

When the upper floor was built there were major planning issues to be overcome because it is sited in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and had to fit in with the landscape.

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