One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
Cambridge: Park & Ride Charges Update
Bus operator Stagecoach have made a second approach to Cambridgeshire County Council to run Cambridge's Park & Ride sites.
The offer came ahead of today's Cabinet Meeting of the County Council after the decision to go ahead with next January's blanket charge for all users of the park & ride sites was "called in".
The term is used to describe the process where a previous decision by the council is reviewed again.
The Deputy Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council has told Heart they will have almost immediate discussions with the company, and any other interested parties to explore the possibility of allowing a private company to take over the running of the sites.
However Mac McGuire says they "won't simply be off-loading the park and rides - with any private company having to undertake a responsibility to maintain and run the sites to a standard set by the authority."
Mr McGuire added: "But as it stands at the moment, we will still be introducing a £1 parking charge at all of the city's park & ride sites at the end of January.
I can't anticipate what the outcome of further discussions will be with Stagecoach or any other operator but anyone familiar with the workings of a commercial bus company won't fail to understand that if they're taking over an operation which costs us £800,000 a year to run, they will have to absorb those costs - and they will be passed onto the customer."
Ask to clarify who would face those charges if a private firm took over Mr McGuire said "I can't see any commercial operator allowing people who park there to park for free if they are not using the bus.
It would be up to the company to charge other users."
But speaking to Heart shortly after the meeting today MD of Stagecoach Cambridge Andy Campbell said: "We welcome the County Council agreeing to discuss our proposals.
We believe we can run the sites far more efficiently than they can - not only would we scrap the blanket charge for everyone using the sites, we would replace the ticket machines with parking attendants.
We would be looking to attract more people to use the bus services and there would be a daily charge for people parking at the sites and not using the bus.
We are ready now to run the park and ride sites in Cambridge."
A decision by Cambridgeshire County Council is expected by the end of October, and if they can't reach a decision or reject the idea by Stagecoach, the blanket charge will be brought in early in 2014.
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