The park and ride scheme opposite Bangor’s train station offers free parking spaces to commuters and has proved immensely popular – too popular, in fact, as it’s often extremely crowded and drivers have been known to double-park to squeeze onto the site. The Department for Regional Development (DRD) has suggested fixing the problem by building a multistorey car park on the edge of Castle Park, or making Dufferin Square’s pay and display car park free again. North Down Green Party MLA Steven Agnew says none of that’s necessary, however, and managed to get the DRD to promise they’d look at bringing in a properly regulated ticketing system – which Mr Agnew thinks is all that’s really needed.
Yet it now turns out that it could take the government up to a year to put the ticket booths in place, and since the DRD says the multi-storey could be built by late 2014 it’s possible that major construction work could have already started by the time the tickets are ready. The Spectator contacted the DRD asking if a ticket system would be a feasible quick fix, as Mr Agnew thinks. A spokesman replied that it might be next July before they’re even ready to think about putting one in place.
“A feasibility study on a replacement ticketing system commenced in July,” said the spokesman. “The study has to consider ticketing across all Translink services, not just the control of park and ride sites, and is expected to take approximately one year to complete. “A recent survey showed that the park and ride site was full by around 7:30am and that over 95% of those observed using the site entered the rail station. This would indicate that the current system is working adequately but that additional capacity is required. “The DRD is aware of a much increased demand for park and ride in Bangor. Consequently, the department has included Bangor in the programme for the delivery of additional facilities across Northern Ireland over the next two years.”
The spokesman added that an assessment of the options for increasing the number of park and ride spaces, which would include the multi-storey, is ‘at an advanced stage’. The year-long delay to what was meant to be a quick fix angered Mr Agnew, however, who said that the hold-up would put the park and ride ‘well out of step’ with the coming revamp of Bangor. “No real solutions will even be considered until towards the end of next year,” he said. “If their eventual solution is a multi-storey car park, then surely that needs to be looked at immediately so it can be factored into the public realm [revamp] plans. “One suggestion was for a car park on the site of the former leisure centre but I believe the expansion needs of Bangor Central Integrated Primary School take precedent in regards to the future development of that particular site.”
He added, “A parking solution to the park and ride issue will not be enough on its own, and I’ve been calling for a more holistic solution to the transport needs of Bangor town centre which should be more ‘pedestrian-focused’. “But again, we have a piecemeal approach which is out of step with the public realm development and which fails to look at the bigger picture or the integrated transport needs required to make Bangor work better.”