Park and Ride 'Not the Answer to Congestion' Local Journeys Are 'Key'
Byline: Rhodri Clark
OFFICIALS are overdoing park and ride schemes in South Wales instead of encouraging people to leave their cars at home, transport experts claim.
One described the new Cardiff East park and ride, where people catch a free bus to the city centre, as a "car park for John Lewis".
Millions of pounds have been spent on new or bigger car parks at rail stations in Cardiff's commuter land, with another pounds 6.1m earmarked for new parking spaces at Bargoed, Rhymney, Pengam and Abercynon.
Sarn and Pencoed are due to follow suit.
But a new station for Energlyn, Caerphilly, promised by the Assembly Government in 2001, has still not been built. With no station in walking distance, residents drive to the Aber or Caerphilly stations, or further afield.
Last month, Cardiff council unveiled controversial plans to deter long-stay parking in the city centre.
It wants people to use park and ride schemes, to share cars or to use public transport to get into the city centre. Last autumn it launched two bus-based park and rides - at Pentwyn and Leckwith - to encourage motorists from the east and west to park outside the city centre.
All-day parking at the Pentwyn, Cardiff East, facility costs pounds 2.50, with free bus travel to the centre.
That may leave residents who take ordinary buses into town - at pounds 3 per adult - feeling penalised for leaving the car at home.
Councils in the South East Wales Transport Alliance have delivered many park and ride schemes, but now want a change of focus.
They say the Assembly's plan to cut Wales' carbon emissions focuses too much on "promotion of park and ride interchanges". Sustrans Cymru, a charity promoting car-free travel, said park and ride was expensive to provide.
Director Lee Waters said: "The Cardiff East park and ride is effectively a car park for John Lewis.
"That's fine, but if we've only got a small amount of money is that the most effective way to spend it? "You can achieve reductions in car use far more cheaply and sustainably by tackling local journeys, rather than building vast car parks at the edges of towns which still encourage people to drive for most of the journey. …