A major expansion of camera and barrier-controlled ticketless parking in the Canterbury district will begin in July.
The city council is increasing the number of its car parks covered by the automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system to 16, following a successful trial in four car parks over the last two years.
It will begin with the three park and ride sites next month, before moving on to upgrading the system in the trial car parks – Pound Lane, Castle Street multi-storey, William Street and Middle Wall. A further nine car parks will then follow, with the roll out likely to be complete by spring 2019. It will mean Canterbury has more council-run public car parks with ANPR than any other local authority in the country.
The council is working with a leading parking technology company, Sagoss, who won the competitive tender process for the £1.3 million project.
Motorists familiar with the ANPR trial will notice a number of improvements. There will be brand new, touch-screen payment machines, which give change, as well as a contactless card payment point at the exit barrier.
People can still pay for their parking when they return to the car park at the end of their stay, meaning they only pay for the amount of parking time they use. But there will be a new feature allowing payment on arrival in the car park, should that be something the customer wants to do, as well as a mobile phone payment option.
More than current 11,000 ticketless parking online account holders will continue to enjoy driving in and out of the ANPR car parks without ever needing to go near a payment machine. The council will transfer their car and contact details to the new system, and will be contacting them directly about this in due course.
One of the biggest enhancements is at park and ride, where customers have been using coin-only machines that are nearing the end of their life. They will be the first to get the new machines with the full range of payment methods and will also be able to sign up for an account. This option will follow a short period after the launch.
As promised during the trial, the council will provide the option of three hours of free parking for blue badge holders in all off-street ANPR car parks. This will be provided via the online account, which will be available when the new system goes live in due course. And motorcycle owners will be able to park free of charge in allocated bays. There will be space to the side of the barriers to get in and out.
The trial car parks will all have new barriers and cameras fitted to match those being installed in the expansion. Not all of the car parks are suitable for barriers, such as at Queningate, where, due to the proximity of its entrance to the ring road, low-noise ‘flow plates’ in the ground will be installed instead.
Chairman of the council’s Regeneration and Property Committee, Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, said: “Ticketless parking has proved very popular so we’re delighted to be embarking on this project to expand it to many more of our car parks using the very latest technology. This ambitious approach will make us the leading council for this system of parking in the whole country.
“We’ve taken on board the extensive feedback from the trial and designed the scheme with this in mind. The machines will be far more user-friendly and we expect the contactless payment option at the barriers to go down well too.
“And for park and ride customers in particular, this will be a huge leap forward. The poor quality of the current machines is the one issue that keeps coming up and we’re looking forward to addressing these concerns once and for all.
“There is lots of work to do over the next year or so as we roll the new system out, and we’re looking forward to getting started.”
Managing Director of Sagoss, Stuart Lawrenson, said: “We are excited to have been awarded the contract and we look forward to working with the council on this project, to introduce a range of new technologies aimed at making it easier and simpler to park around the city.”
The nine car parks to join the park and ride sites and the four from the trial are St Radigund’s, Longport, Watling Street, Queningate, Miller’s Field, Castle Row (all Canterbury), Gorrell Tank in Whitstable and Neptune in Herne Bay. The new Station Road West multi-storey will also feature the system once constructed.
The ANPR expansion is part of the council’s city centre transformation project and is funded from increases in parking charges.