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Phone Parking Paying Pandemonium

Simon Binns learns to love traffic wardens for a little while

Published on November 24th 2011.

Phone Parking Paying Pandemonium

I NEVER thought I'd have sympathy with a traffic warden.

Three hours later, I got a text from 'the system' saying I hadn't paid. Oh well - £2.70 saved at least.

But thanks to the council's moronic new parking charge policy, that's exactly what happened on King Street this week.

Let me say this: I'm not a man who fears change. I also understand that sometimes, you have to pay more for things that you feel you should get for free.

The extended parking hours have created a number of problems though - as has the council's failure to adapt the system to soften the blow.

Let me explain, and take you through my painful Tuesday night journey.

I needed to come into the city centre to meet someone at 5.30 for work purposes. Normally I'd have hung on for 6pm and free parking but now it's been extended I had no choice but to bite the bullet.

I drove into town, to be greeted by gridlock. People were desperate to get out before the charging period kicked in.

The council claimed congestion was a problem and the new charging policy would solve it. In reality, it's made it ten times worse. It took me 20 minutes to get from The Abercrombie pub to All Bar One on King Street.

Another problem. I'd come out without any money. My fault I know, but I thought the council may have sought to ease a common problem by installing parking meters that read cards, or at least take notes. But no.

So, my only option was leaving the car to queue at a cashpoint or to go into a nearby pub to get some change to run back to the meter to get a ticket. All before a warden swooped.

Meter 001

But wait. What's this? A handy telephone number on the meter for an automated parking payment service.

This could work. I dialled. I pressed the star key several times, then pressed one, then something else. The line crackled. The computerised voice asked for my card details. I punched them in.

It hung up on me.

I dialled back, and got a bit further this time. After putting my card details in again. Then I got through to a human, who asked for my phone number and car registration. Excellent, I said. Can I pay you now?

No, came the reply, I have to hand you back to the computer.

It hung up on me.

I called back again, went through the same rigmarole, and was finally asked how long I'd like to pay for. I was only picking something up. So 40 minutes should do it.

"It's the same to park for 60 minutes,' came the crackly computerised response. Aside from the 30p charge for using my card. MY card. Containing MY money. That I was giving THEM. So that's an extra increase to the increase. Brilliant.

Fine, whatever. By this point I'd been battling the phone number for 20 minutes and just wanted out.

It asked for my three digit security code. I bashed it in.

It hung up on me.

I had no choice but to seek the help of a traffic warden, busy dishing out a ticket to a Range Rover on the other side of the street.

I told her what had happened.

"So have you paid?"

"I don't know."

She put my registration into her Blackberry. I was there, but with no indication whether I'd paid or not.

A sigh. "This happens all the time. Hang on."

She called someone on her walkie talkie thingy. The conversation was as follows.
"I've got a man who doesn't know if he's paid. He's gone through the payment system. It kept hanging up on him."

"Is he in the system?"


"Is he highlighted in green or red?"

"He's not highlighted in anything."

"I dunno then. Just write him a note."

So that's what I had. A handwritten note saying 'don't give him a ticket.'

The traffic warden apologised and said she was just as frustrated with the system as everyone else.

The whole sorry affair had taken more than half an hour and I was now late. As an additional kick in the balls, I then had to go over to the Northern Quarter for an event that started at 6.45pm.

To park up on Thomas Street cost me £4.

Four damn pounds.

If I'd been meeting friends for a drink - probably a coke or a shandy - I'd have been looking at the best part of another £7 on top.

Three hours later, I got a text from 'the system' saying I hadn't paid. Oh well - £2.70 saved at least.

But the whole shambolic affair could put me off coming into town at night.

As I drove home past row after row of empty spaces, it looks like I'm not the only one feeling this.

Pictures And Parking 018

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28 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Simon BuckleyNovember 24th 2011.

8pm? 8pm? Grrrr. I think the new parking charges are mental. I too came in on Tuesday night, unaware that the new charges had come into force ( I thought they'd promised a reprieve?) and had no change.

I try to use public transport whenever I can, but on Tuesday it was match night, the trams were a nightmare and so I drove. I just can't be arsed coming into town anymore in the evening. Very ill thought through policy.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Kevin RayNovember 30th 2011.

Park at http://www.towncentrecarparks.com £4 all day weekends £3 after 1 pm 10 minutes from everywhere walking from Piccadilly & Northern Quarter

Clifford T WardenNovember 24th 2011.

Here is a mad idea. Put it in a NCP.

Simon BuckleyNovember 25th 2011.

Clifford, thank you so much. Saved.

AnonymousNovember 25th 2011.

I have a customer who has been staying at my small hotel in the city for two years now,it now takes him fifty minutes to get here from a Ashton instead of the usual twenty when he gets here he has to pay the extra two hour parking fees, as a result he has now informed me he may as well travel the eighty miles home ever night its easier and cheaper ,nice one MCC

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Kevin RayNovember 30th 2011.

Just a moment ago.

Park at http://www.towncentrecarparks.com £4 all day weekends £3 after 1 pm 10 minutes from everywhere walking from Piccadilly & Northern Quarter enquiries@towncentrecarparks.com
We do loads with small hotels as we are small too!

AnonymousDecember 1st 2011.


AnonymousNovember 25th 2011.

Well that's it for me, I'm off to the Trafford Centre, Stockport, Macclesfield, Buxton... anywhere but the lunatic city that does its best to put off its visitors and bankcrupt its businesses.

Isabella JacksonNovember 25th 2011.

I note the unusual absence of Cllr. Kevin Peel and Mr. Smyth Harper - lost your tongues have you? Normally you can't wait to comment - however banal

AnonymousNovember 25th 2011.

I am coming in on Saturday to the Classical Concert at the MEN, and have always in the past, for any concert come in early and parked and then eaten out before the event. This time I will be eating at home as I refuse to pay the parking fee on top of a meal. Thanks MCC - you are helping restaurants to lose bisiness between 6pm and 8pm!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Kevin RayNovember 30th 2011.

Park at http://www.towncentrecarparks.com £4 all day weekends £3 after 1 pm 10 minutes from everywhere walking from Piccadilly & Northern Quarter enquiries@towncentrecarparks.com
Great Restaurants near us and a 10-15 min walk to the MEN. Much quicker to get out after the event as well.

Margaret LittlewoodNovember 25th 2011.

My friends and family,in fact everyone i know are doing their Christmas shopping at the Trafford Centre this year for the first time.

AnonymousNovember 25th 2011.

Most of the suburban villages and local provincial towns have introduced free parking during the run-up to Christmas. They offer the same goods in the same shops and if it's a department store you're after, there's the Trafford Centre, Cheadle Royal, Gemini et al. What do MCC do? Not only do they refuse to offer free parking, they up the prices. Death to the city centre.

Clifford T WardenNovember 25th 2011.

Can i just direct you to the first paragraph of this review and then explain to me where the basis of the idea that these parking charges will be the death of Manchester comes from?


1 Response: Reply To This...
Clifford T WardenNovember 26th 2011.

"The rants on this site are pretty indicative of public opinion"
No they arent.

AnonymousNovember 25th 2011.

The Council have instructed the christmas market stall holders "not " to increase their prices this year ,but what do they do ,enough said

AnonymousNovember 25th 2011.

The Council can instruct all they want - these are independent businesses and they can charge want they want. I take it from your comment that they have indeed whacked up the prices, as they do every year?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 26th 2011.

sorry ,I meant the Council tell others to hold their prices but then increase their own ie parking .If a stall holder did defy them they wouldn't get a stall next year,not only that they have allowed more stalls insome cases identical ones to whats allready there ,so they are shaffting the stall holders as well

AnonymousNovember 25th 2011.

Ooh reporting based on a singular anecdote. Better reporting would focus on why the council was having to increase its charges in the first place. And seriously, you need to get a grip on life if this caused you 'pain'. Ha.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Stephen DouglasNovember 28th 2011.

And why were they increasing charges? It's illegal for them to increase charges to offset cuts from central government (yes, actually illegal)

They're only allowed to use the proceeds to pay for transport improvements - preferably parking, but if no parking improvements are adjudged to be required, then they can be used for other transport improvements.

In this case, they're paying for the pedestrianisation of Canal St from the charges.

David BannatyneNovember 26th 2011.

I'm moving into the centre of town and selling my car. I'll be cycling to work in Tameside on dry days and taking the train if it's wet. A city with fewer cars is a more pleasant place to be but we need proper alternatives to driving in. Our public transport is better than many cities but there's still a long way to go...

John NuttallNovember 26th 2011.

The problem is that the council believes that the electorate vote them in to do what they want not what you want. An interesting way to demonstrate the foolishness of this to them would be to field a few candidates in council elections on a platform of "repeal the parking increases". Judging by the number of signatories to the Confidential petition they would win by a landslide.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Clifford T WardenNovember 26th 2011.

No they wouldnt.

paulNovember 27th 2011.

Public sector workers take take take and not put anything in

Simon TurnerNovember 27th 2011.

This is true Paul, all those police, teachers, nurses, hospital porters, binmen, fire fighters, prison officers, etc leeching off society, not putting anything in, just taking...You for real?? The biggest robbers are the bankers and speculators; how do they contribute?

AnonymousNovember 28th 2011.

Didn't hear them complaining when Gordon Brown robbed the private pensions to subsidise theirs

Eddy RheadNovember 28th 2011.

I seem to have stumbled on the Daily Mail website by accident.

LegolasNovember 30th 2011.

Is your phone a Pay-as-you-go? If so, I imagine the calls to try and pay may well exceed the cost of the parking itself. Let's not forget, not everyone owns a mobile phone or has a credit or debit card. With no cash alternative, those people are now banned from parking. Is this really how we want to run a free society - with the state making access to basic public services and facilities conditional on ownership of unrelated and expensive consumer technologies?
I have been fighting Westminster Council on just this issue for three years and just this week launched a case through the European Court of Human Rights opposing the principle of Pay by Phone as a sole means of paying for a facility or service.
This issue is currently just an acorn, but, unless checked, it is set to get much, much worse.

Just my fourpenneth,

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