A sizeable section of Stratford’s Park and Ride facility is to be sold off, despite more people than ever using the Parkway Railway Station at the site.
last week Warwickshire County Council confirmed that a two-acre parcel of land within the park and ride car park is up for sale, representing just over a sixth of the total site.
A spokesperson for the county council said: “It has long been recognised that there is a surplus of parking at Stratford Park and Ride.
“Warwickshire County Council is in discussions with developers and all key agencies to see what schemes might benefit Stratford and the wider district, using some of the land for parking, which is currently under used.
“Stratford Park and Ride remains key to our vision of the town. It has a very useful role in reducing congestion in and around the town and we are committed to its continued success.”
The sale of the land could be interpreted as an admission of defeat, but a freedom of information request by the Herald earlier this year revealed that the park and ride has been operating at a huge loss since parking charges were introduced in 2016.
According to the figures the county council took £138,654 from the park and ride between July 2016 and April 2018, however for the financial years 2016/17 and 2017/18 the authority spent £436,114 running the facility.
While the finances don’t look great, recently published national rail use figures show that almost 93,000 journeys were taken from Stratford Parkway Station, between 1st April 2017 and 31st March this year- a rise of 14.4 per cent on the previous 12 months.
Stratford Station has also seen a 0.5 per cent rise in rail journeys, with well over a million being made during that same period.
Overall in Stratford there has been 1.5 per cent rise in rail usage.
Maintaining a good park and ride service in Stratford is recognised as a key part of Stratford’s adopted Transport Strategy which states: “Introducing additional P&R facilities with measures that encourage their use could reduce traffic flow into the town centre and alleviate congestion on arterial routes and within central areas.”
However the plan admits use of the park and ride is low, blaming this on the availability of cheap car parking in the town centre.
Reacting to the news of the land sale, rail campaigner Fraser Pithie of the Shakespeare Line Promotion Group, said: “Selling off car parking land at the Park and Ride is totally misguided, I’m sorry that the county council have come to this view but they have not worked hard enough to make the park and ride successful, there’s no way it should be closed on a Sunday. They should look into establishing a ten minute shuttle service into Stratford if they want to support the park and ride.
“I think one of the big reasons that use of Parkway has increased is because the car park at Stratford station gets full up so people drive there because they know there are spaces. Selling off valuable spaces is completely short-sighted and counter intuitive.”
Fraser added that overall growth in rail passenger numbers had largely levelled off in the 2017/18 year and more needed to be done to get Stratford up to the national average for rail visitors.
He suggested that a 20 minute train service to Birmingham from Stratford would most likely lead to a large increase in passenger numbers, and said work should be sped up to establish this.
Mr Pithie is not the only one critical of the sale of land at the park and ride, Cllr Peter Moorse, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat Group at Stratford District Council, said: “The reason the park and ride is underused is because the county council under promote it. It should be opened on Sunday and later in the evenings and should be better advertised.
“Do the county council really believe the best way to solve the Birmingham Road traffic problems is to cut back on the park and ride?”