Personal Finance

Car parking headache looms as pay and display machines switched off for apps

Pay and display parking machines are being phased out leaving motorists grappling with up to 30 different online apps.

Councils are removing the cash and credit card payment systems as phone providers switch off the 3G used to run them.

It means people are increasingly being forced to download and pay via one of dozens of smartphone apps.

With so many different operators, it can often lead to motorists missing appointments or trains, or being late to see friends and family as they frustratingly wait for an app to download and to then input their details.

Meanwhile those who don't have a smartphone, know how to use them, or run out of battery or data, are fined as they are unable to pay.

Plymouth and Basingstoke had their Vodafone connections switched off and the provider will cut the entire network by the end of the year. EE will shut down its 3G network by early 2024 and Three at the end of next year.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said the move would be "disastrous" for anyone without a smartphone and "completely unfair to exclude swathes of older people".

She told NimbleFins: "We are still light years away from a world in which digital tech can help everyone, and public bodies and businesses running car park services need to recognise this before it is too late."

She added: "If you are an older person who is reliant on your car for getting around but you have no means of legally parking it near to where you want to go then you may be left feeling there is little point going there at all, and that would be very sad for anyone affected, and very bad news for businesses too."

Brighton and Hove city council will shut down its network on May 31 and London's Bromley will switch off card and cash machines in early April.

Bromley said took the decision after discovering it would cost nearly £1 million to upgrade its machines.

Westminster city council removed its pay and display machines in 2019 and told The Times that 25 percent of its takings were stolen when they accepted cash. That could have meant a loss of £9 million a year with today's charges.

Parking app RingGo said theft, maintenance and the loss of 3G were the main reasons councils were turning to apps.

Peter O'Driscoll, managing director of RingGo, pointed to a Department for Transport-funded trial of a National Parking Platform that could soon make it easier for motorists as it would enable them to pay for parking using just one app.

Dave Smith of the British Parking Association told NimbleFins the majority of people "welcome the convenience" of apps, according to BPA research. But parking operators must still offer cash and card payment options and not fine people for being unable to pay via app.

He told this website: "Motorists should feel confident that they can pay for parking with either cash, card or phone wherever they choose to park. Any issues need to be identified quickly and enforcement should not take place if the system is not working."

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Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


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