Station parking debate

Brighouse station “park & ride”. Most of the cars are there all day — no chance if you set off late. Does every car belong to a rail user?

Hebden Bridge station will soon get 50 per cent more car parking, going up to 127 standard + 4 blue badge bays. Mytholmroyd, currently with no official park & ride, shouldn’t be far behind with an ambitious build, still subject to Network Rail approval, to create 195 + 8 spaces. Mytholmroyd will take £3M from £32.5M of WY+ Transport Fund money allocated to West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s initial programme of a dozen stations across the county due to be complete by 2019.

Sowerby Bridge had its car park doubled in size about five years ago, but now on weekdays its 105 or so spaces are nearly all taken by 07.30. Brighouse has a bigger problem with just 64 spaces. Calderdale Council’s transport working group (on which HADRAG’s Chair is a coopted member) discusses station parking and there’s local pressure on West Yorkshire Combined Authority to include more of our stations in future plans. Land could be available at Sowerby Bridge. Brighouse is more difficult. The former dairy site next to the station was sold off commercially by its private owners and is now an office development: in effect WYCA (Metro) was outbid. Future station car parks could be two or more storeys. That would reduce land-take but could be disruptive to build over the existing facility. At Brighouse another issue has been non-passengers parking in the station car park to walk into town, not noticing “rail users only” signs. Station car parks are run by the train companies or their contractors. We have heard of genuine rail users being fined for parking outside the marked bays (perhaps in frustration), but it would seem non-passengers abusing the facility are a more difficult nut to crack.

So what do you do if you want to park at the station and use the train, say mid-morning, but find the car-park full? Many would-be rail users will simply not bother and complete the journey by car. A lot of us have done just that. And it does seem unfair that station parking is effectively unavailable for work, business and leisure travellers setting off later in the day. Most Northern Rail car parks in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester are free, whilst in other parts of the country – though not all! – charging is the norm. Should West Yorkshire drop its policy of having free train station parking? That would surely cause resentment. Would it not lead some commuters, already jaded by overcrowded trains, to drive to work?

HADRAG’s friend Steven Leigh of Mid-Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce is also a coopted member of Calderdale’s transport working group. Steven has suggested stations might have more than one category of parking, maybe with some restricted-time (but free) spaces and maybe some at premium rate for people who want to travel later in the day. Steven emphasises it’s just an idea. But what if a train ticket plus premium parking ticket is more than you are prepared to spend? And if travelling on business you might be just as prepared to pay for a taxi to the station. It’s a real conundrum and no doubt the debate will continue. What do our readers think?

At Halifax, 30-odd spaces, regularly filled before 07.00, are to be moved off the station bridge to ground level as part of town centre Eastern Gateway plans. The plans also include a public car park on two levels. So whilst there may not, at least initially, be a lot more free parking for rail users, there will at least be pay-to-park spaces, well connected to a transformed station and providing those “premium” spaces for train users setting off later.

Final point. Taking Sowerby Bridge as an example, the station has an annual footfall (passenger entries & exits) of 392000 (ORR, 2015-16). So that’s roundly 1100 per day or the equivalent of 550 return trips, more than five times the station car park capacity. Applying a similar calculation elsewhere you see that most local station users don’t actually park at the station. They may walk, take the bus, cycle or be dropped off by friends/relatives/partners. Shouldn’t we encourage more of this? How many who park at the station before 0700 live walkably close? Maybe a few — and maybe they have good reasons, like getting up at 0530 to get the train when every minute seems to count in busy lives. Park & ride is a significant part of the mix and we need to keep pressing for more.

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