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Image: Getty. All rights reserved
Image: Getty. All rights reserved

Press release -

Fifth of drivers accuse councils of scrapping, or planning to scrap, parking payment machines in favour of mobile apps

Nearly one-in-five drivers (19%) say their local authority has either scrapped parking payment machines or is consulting on doing so, forcing them to use mobile phones to pay instead, new RAC research reveals.*

The survey of 1,900 UK drivers found that one-in-10 (11%) reported some or all parking payment machines had already been removed by their local councils with an extra 8% saying their local authority was consulting on doing so. Drivers in London were most likely to say payment machines had already gone or were due to be going (44% of respondents in the capital), followed by those in the East of England (23%) and East Midlands (22%).

The RAC’s findings are being driven by the fact many councils are getting rid of machines for taking payment for parking as a result many older machines relying on 3G mobile phone signals to function, which telecoms operators are switching off. This means councils either have to spend large sums on replacing machines with more modern ones or get rid of machines altogether, in turn making drivers use a mobile phone to pay to park – either via an an app like RingGo or PayByPhone or by calling a phone number.

Among the councils the RAC is aware are scrapping all their payment machines are Brighton and Hove, along with Bromley, Enfield and Harrow in London.

The plan to scrap machines and force people to pay by app triggered a strong reaction among drivers surveyed by the RAC’s with 59% – and 73% of those aged 65 and over – saying they feel angry at the idea of physical parking machines being removed as they believe they should be able to pay for parking however they want. A fifth of all drivers (20%) said they felt discriminated against as they simply can’t use mobile apps to pay for parking in the first place, a figure that rises to 30% of those aged 65 and over. Just three-in-10 (31%) of drivers of all age groups are completely comfortable with payment machines being removed (and only 14% of those aged 65-plus).

When asked what impact a council removing payment parking machines would have on them, half (48%) said they would drive to a different car park where they can still pay using cash or a bank card. But a quarter (27%) said they would struggle to find somewhere else to park that was convenient, a figure that rises to 38% for drivers aged 65 and over – which suggests councils that choose to ditch machines risk putting off some drivers from visiting town and city centres. A motivated fifth (19%) of all respondents meanwhile said they would complain to their local council and/or Member of Parliament if payment machines in their areas were to be removed.

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said:

“While for many people a switch to purely mobile phone-based parking payment poses no problems, our research clearly shows that for others it spells bad news. In fact, a majority of drivers across all age groups think getting rid of parking payment machines is a bad idea.

“Of course, cash-strapped councils will find it difficult to justify spending large sums of public money on upgrading parking machines which explains why some are bringing in third-party parking app providers instead – sometimes making parking charges even more expensive as they take their own cut.

“But it’s vital councils, and indeed private parking operators, carefully assess the impact of going down this route before taking machines away. Our research shows that by removing some methods of paying for parking they are undoubtedly making life harder for some drivers and possibly contributing to social isolation. The move could also lead to lower parking revenue as a result of drivers being put off from parking in the first place, something that’s surely not in any local authority’s interests.

“When it comes to relying on mobile apps, it’s also important to understand what happens when technology fails – for instance, in the event the car park is located somewhere with intermittent phone signal or if there are problems with the app a driver is trying to use. What assurances can drivers have they won’t be charged unfairly or handed a penalty for not paying, even if they have made every attempt to do so? This could open up a can of worms and could be very difficult for drivers to prove they’ve tried to pay.

“In the event a council still goes down the route of removing a ticket machine, signage should be clearly explain what drivers need to do to pay to park and a phone number should be provided that allows someone to pay by card, without demanding drivers download and register with another app.”

The Levelling-up secretary, Michael Gove, wrote to councils in April expressing concern about drivers being ‘digitally excluded’ without alternative payment methods being in place. Separately, the Department for Transport is currently developing the National Parking Platform (NPP), a publicly owned software platform that would make finding and paying for parking easier for drivers confident using apps. In theory, drivers would be able to use a single mobile app of their choice to pay. Manchester City Council is already part of the project with more councils expected to join it this year.



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