Free car parks for Black Country could be scrapped as park and ride traffic plummets

A massive drop in people using park and ride in the West Midlands has put planned free car parks in doubt in the Black Country.

The park and ride car park at Coseley Railway Station, where a planned extension is now on hold. Photo: Google.
The park and ride car park at Coseley Railway Station, where a planned extension is now on hold. Photo: Google.

Before the pandemic the popular park and ride schemes at local railway stations were running at capacity but as of this week they were only 28 per cent full.

The huge hole in the transport budgets due to the drop of passengers means new park and ride car parks planned in Aldridge, Darlaston, Willenhall and Tipton could see passengers paying instead of parking for free.

The £88 million Sprint bus service between Walsall and Birmingham will go operational before the Commonwealth Games without any park and ride car parks on route.

West Midlands transport delivery committee member and Fallings Park councillor Chris Burden believes the demise of park and ride will cause "chaos".

Fallings Park councillor Chris Burden

He said: "To put these planned park and ride on hold is a massive blow to everyone who uses public transport.

"The Sprint model works because of park and ride, it is the whole reason for it. Now, without free car parks it just becomes a fast bus lane. A shiny £88 million bus lane. It will be chaos during the Commonwealth Games."

Councillor Burden added: "Park and ride works, it gets people out of cars and into cities quickly. Now we will just have people driving everywhere because they will not want to pay car park fees. It really is a tragic situation."

A brand new 627-space park and ride car park at Longbridge, where drivers have to pay, only has on average 40 spaces taken up, which was another reason for the review of future park and rides.

A proposed Dudley Port interchange park and ride scheme has also been put on hold

West Midlands park and ride development manager Guy Craddock presented a report to this week's West Midlands transport delivery committee outlining the dire situation concerning park and rides.

He said: "We have had a major impact on our park and ride scheme due to Covid. Since March 2020 we have not exceeded anything like 50 per cent in the whole of that time. Pre covid we were 100 per cent, looking at figures today we are 28 per cent. So that is a significant drop."

Before the pandemic, Coseley Railway Station was in line for an extension to its park and ride, however, this is now also on hold.

Mr Craddock said: "There were 13 cars in the car park on Monday morning. When we get back into a post-pandemic situation, we will know what the future of public transport looks like and we can look at it again."

The report presented to the committee said: "With park and ride expansion development works being scaled back, the park and ride team in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, is focussing on the development and delivery of measures that maximise opportunities from the car park estate and bring added value to customers, communities and partner organisations."

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