Rail travellers’ concern over parking charges

PARKING plans for Morpeth Railway Station may be changed, but commuters are more worried about charges.

Northumberland County Council has taken over a scheme from Network Rail to build a new 96-space car park for the station in Coopies Lane.

But now an application has been submitted to reduce the number of spaces to 76 after investigations found the area in question was not big enough for the original plans.

The South East Northumberland Rail User Group (SENRUG) says the reduction should not pose too much of a problem as the area will still benefit from extra spaces.

However, Chairman Dennis Fancett said he is deeply concerned about potential parking charges at the site after the council confirmed they will be applied.

“We agree with the need to extend the car park and if they are talking about 76 spaces in addition to what is there at the moment I would think that would be enough,” said Mr Fancett.

“They are going to paint yellow lines along Coopies Lane, which is not unreasonable providing they extend the car park first.

“We are far more interested in whether they are proposing to attach a charge to the car park.

“Network Rail withdrew the original plan because both ourselves and the former Castle Morpeth Borough Council objected strongly when it was going to have a £4 a day charge.

“We said that was totally outrageous.

“That was three or four years ago and since then the county council has been trying to resurrect the scheme, which in itself is something we support.

“However, our group did have input to the parking strategy and said that it was not appropriate for car parks at railway stations to be charged at the same level as car parks in town centres.

“At the time the council said it didn’t have any car parks at stations. That to me is a big area of concern.

“If the charge is 50p for a day that may be reasonable. However, if you think in terms of the increase people have had in season tickets for getting a train and then think they could be potentially doubling the price to pay for car parking charges, it is not going to be acceptable.”

He added: “I would be very concerned about that, but we need the council to come out and say what the charges will be.”

Mr Fancett also said there could be some practical problems with charging for parking.

“Sometimes people go to London and come back the next day so it needs to be a system where you can buy a ticket which covers the next day,” he said.

“I would be very worried about that, and the fact that the standard strategy for parking would not be appropriate.”

A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “The original planning application for the car park was from Network Rail, which later withdrew its application and pulled out of running the car park.

“The council took over the application, but when we looked at it in detail it was apparent that the area with planning permission didn’t allow for 92 car parking spaces.

“We have reduced it to 76, which allows for a better lay-out for the car park.

“There will be charging for parking. It will be in line with other car parks run by the county.”