New parking fees planned for Morpeth

New parking charges are set to be introduced at Morpeth Railway Station.

Northern Rail plans to charge a £2 per day flat rate at its car park in Coopies Lane.

For some it will mean it is no longer profitable to go to work.

Dennis Fancett, Chairman, South East Northumberland Rail User Group

The new fee will be introduced from May 18, despite pleas from a passenger group for a re-think.

However, the nearby council-run car park will remain free.

The South East Northumberland Rail User Group (SENRUG), which has been opposing station parking charges for the last five years, has called on Northern to consider a discount for regular commuters, but so far it has had no response.

Chairman Dennis Fancett said: “A day return ticket from Morpeth to Newcastle is £4.60 so if you add £2 for parking it goes up to £6.60. That is a 30 per cent increase on the cost of getting to work. A lot of jobs here are not that well paid so I’m very concerned about the impact this will have on people.

“For some it will mean it is no longer profitable to go to work and others will look at some alternative method of getting there so the railway company will lose fares.

“We suggested a discount for regular travellers, such as season ticket holders, even if that means other travellers and business people making the odd journey have to pay more. I don’t think that is unreasonable, but Northern Rail has not responded at all.

“A 30 per cent increase on the cost of getting to work in one of the most deprived areas of the country, with very high unemployment, doesn’t seem like a good social policy.”

Mr Fancett questioned the business case for the move, saying a benchmarking study is flawed.

“Northern Rail is saying that it has benchmarked the charge against other nearby car parks, which is ridiculous because in Morpeth the car parks are free,” he said.

“We are trying to query the robustness of the benchmarking process and we are in touch with Transport Focus about this.

“I don’t think it will be cost effective for the company because it will have to pay more staff to enforce the charges. I just wonder if it has really thought through the business case.”

He added: “It is clear that Northern Rail has not done its homework and I’m quite disappointed with it on this issue.

“I believe that train companies should make money by running trains, not by charging for parking.”

SENRUG is also campaigning for an additional 80 parking spaces to be created on nearby redundant railway and council land beside the station to increase parking capacity by 40 per cent.

A Northern Rail spokeswoman said: “From Monday, May 18 we will be introducing a small charge of £2 per day at Morpeth station car park. This will help to preserve the car park for rail users and help maintain and improve facilities at the stations.

“It is a flat charge of £2 per day and initially can be purchased for up to seven days, but we are hoping to introduce season tickets as well.”

Northumberland County Council Head of Technical Services David Laux said: “Having introduced free parking in April 2014, we have no plans to introduce parking charges at Morpeth Station.”