Lancaster bus campaigners are calling on the council to provide free bus travel in the run up to Christmas to match its offer of free parking in the city’s car parks.
Between November 26 and December 24 all of the city council’s main car parks in Lancaster and Morecambe will be free to use on Sundays as well as after 6pm on Thursdays for late-night shopping.
But Lancaster Bus Users’ Group say this is unfair to public transport users and is asking the council to match its offer to motorists with a similar one to bus passengers and to make bus travel free throughout the city at those times.
Jim Davies, the group’s chairman, said: “Bus passengers contribute towards the cost of the free parking through their council tax but receive no benefit. The free parking attracts large numbers of shoppers to Lancaster, which is a good thing but the extra traffic generated causes congestion and delay to all road users and can act as a disincentive for shoppers to visit the city. Bus passengers suffer from delays to their services whilst still having to pay the full fare for their journeys.”
He argued free bus travel would allow more people to reach the city centre without adding to congestion, whereas giving away free car parking and continuing to charge for bus travel is likely to reduce bus use as people who may have travelled by bus use their cars instead. The group said it recognised the council does n’t run the bus service, but feels it should be possible to come to an arrangement with Stagecoach to make good the revenue lost by offering free travel.
Lancaster City Council said there were no plans to offer free bus travel.
Coun James Leyshon, who has responsibility for parking, said: “All of the car parks, including St Nics, are under the city council’s control and while there is some loss of income, which has always been absorbed, there are no additional costs to the council of the free parking offer.
“The costs of the council’s car parking operation are paid for directly by users, through the charges they pay at the parking ticket machines, and there is therefore no net additional cost to council taxpayers. There would, however, be a cost to taxpayers, which is unknown, of providing free bus travel as the council has no control over the local bus network and would need to reimburse Stagecoach.”
For more information on city council car parks visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/parking.