Councils discuss combined parking and bus ticket offer at park and rides

Park and ride services in and around Oxford are to trial a new combined parking and bus ticket, as part of a set of proposals to make services more attractive for customers and encourage a switch from car travel to help reduce traffic congestion.

Working together, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach, have developed a set of proposals to make the park and ride services more attractive.

This month, both the city and county councils’ cabinets will be asked to approve the creation of a new combined parking and bus ticket for all park and ride sites in and around Oxford.

If approved, car drivers will be able to purchase a combined ticket which covers both parking and return bus travel at a rate of £4 for a car with only one driver and £5 for a car with two or more people.

Currently, other than a combined £6.80 family ticket, drivers pay separately for both parking and bus travel. The new combined ticket also provides a lower cost alternative to the existing £6.80 family ticket.  

It is expected that the combined ticket trial will take place from 30 September 2022 to 31 March 2023. 

Drivers will be able to buy the combined ticket at the parking machine or by using the RingGo parking app.  

This will be supported by a marketing and communications campaign to help promote the ticket offer.  

An initial review of the trial will be conducted after the first three months which will inform a future cabinet decision on the next steps and a planned joint city/county feasibility study on medium and long-term options for park and ride and transport hubs.  

In addition to the combined ticket system, the partnership is also proposing to permanently amend the parking periods at all park and ride sites across the county, so that customers needing to park for longer, such as those working longer shifts, pay less.

If approved, this will mean that:

  • The current £2 tariff, which covers the one - 11 hour parking period, is to be extended to cover one - 16 hours.
  • The current £4 tariff, which covers the 11 - 24 hour period, will be updated to cover 16 - 24 hours.

The proposal follows discussion with major employers, including city centre retailers, which identified that the current 11-hour time charge creates a ‘cliff-edge’ for shift workers. The change aims to better support these drivers to continue to use the park and ride services.

Aside from these changes, all other car parking charges at these sites are proposed to remain the same.

Both car parking and bus patronage have been dramatically reduced at all park and ride sites in comparison to pre-pandemic levels, and while bus patronage levels are now actually better than pre-pandemic over the weekends, they have still not recovered on weekdays, especially during peak hours.  

Bus passenger levels are currently running at between 75 and 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels on average. Without improvements and action, including continued government financial support, services may have to be reviewed later this year. 

These proposed changes are part of a multi-partner campaign to encourage bus use across the city and county. Last month, a campaign launched with the partnership highlighting the financial advantages of taking the bus over a car.

Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, said: “This new deal will make it cheaper and more convenient for many people to use the park and ride services instead of driving all the way into Oxford city centre. More people on the buses will reduce car use and cut congestion and pollution.”

Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Health and Transport, Oxford City Council, said: “Buses, especially park and ride services, are crucial for people travelling into our city for work, leisure, and tourism. We want to ensure that our services are easy to use and affordable for as many people as possible, which is why we are proposing a combined ticket and updated parking tariff to make it simpler and cheaper.

“We hope that these measures will encourage more people to use park and ride when they come into Oxford.” 

Luke Marion, Oxford Bus Company Interim Managing Director, said: “The park and ride service has been a crucial part of Oxford’s transport infrastructure since 1973 and now needs support to help it fully recover from the impact of the pandemic. The service is integral to helping Oxford achieve its net-zero ambitions and it’s great to see all parties working in partnership to introduce changes that we expect will make the park and ride more attractive and easier for customers to understand.”

Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director, Stagecoach, said: “We are looking forward to getting behind this campaign and trial to encourage more people on to the park and ride services we operate from Thornhill and Oxford Parkway. We want to work together to keep things simple and reduce the number of single occupancy car journeys on the roads.

“We know that people want to pay a combined price, saving money and hassle and are encouraged by the extensions that will be introduced to the duration of the parking tariffs.”

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