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Central London waves goodbye to parking meters

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Published by webmaster for 24dash.com in Local Government

Central London parking meters 'consigned to the dustbin of history'

Parking meters in central London have been consigned to the dustbin of history after Westminster Council announced today the decision to rollout Pay by Phone Parking across the city.

Westminster Council introduced cashless parking in the West End and one other area last year in a six month pilot to reduce the theft from parking meters and to also make life easier for motorists through coin-free convenience and remote top-ups.

Councillor Danny Chalkley, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Transport, said: “The evidence has shown that there is overwhelming support for the wider use of this new technology.

"We launched Pay by Phone Parking in October last year to give motorists a new, coin-free way of paying for their parking.

"Being able to top-up your meter on the move without returning to your vehicle provides greater flexibility for motorists and helps them avoid unnecessary fines.

"While the parking meter has a long and distinguished history in the city stretching back almost 50 years, it looks like it has finally had its day."

The parking meters and cash pay and display machines will be scrapped from October onwards, with the council no longer accepting coins on street by December 2008.

It follows a detailed survey conducted on behalf of a number of central London boroughs in which 60 per cent of customers favoured doing away with parking meters in the capital.

The results showed that 77 per cent were either satisfied or very satisfied with pay-by-phone parking. Over 75 per cent found it easy to set up an account and 82 per cent said the system was easy to use once they were up and running.

When quizzed on the major benefits of the scheme, around 35 per cent of motorists pointed to the coin-free process, and the top-up facility, as the big plusses.

There was also no noticeable effect on the number of parking tickets issued.

Under the scheme, drivers set up an account and pay by text, inputting their registration details and parking bay number, which is then transmitted to parking attendants’ handheld computers in real time.

The scheme is part of the innovative Partnership in Parking project. This is a cross London venture set up to achieve procurement efficiencies across the capital.

This means that Westminster will be sharing the data gained through the trial with the other boroughs (Camden, Islington, Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea, City of London) as well as Transport for London who are also considering the roll-out of Pay by Phone Parking together under an umbrella framework contract.

This week, Westminster Council is also introducing a whole raft of basic, common sense measures to improve the way they carry out parking enforcement.

This will include clearer suspensions signs, more flexibility on expired permits such as additional reminder letters and the introduction of 5 minutes waiting time on yellow lines for residents.

These measures are to iron out and resolve some of the tensions and grievances motorists’ feel.

Westminster Council have also responded to customer feedback from motorists at a 'Parking Summit' and proposed doubling the time allowed for loading and unloading by heavy goods vehicles from 20 to 40 minutes on a trial basis. 

The Pay by Phone parking scheme, however, has come under fire from specialist SMS security company Broca.

Broca Managing Director Ian Price, MD, Broca, said: "What doesn't seem to have been taken into account here is the fact that actually SMS as it stands is a thoroughly insecure medium, with is surprisingly easy to hack.

"By asking drivers to send their credit card details via SMS, Westminster is unwittingly opening up thousands of Londoners to credit card fraud.

"These payment details will be left in consumers’ outboxes so any phones that are lost or stolen will have the user’s card details on them.

"Such a service has the potential to be a fraudsters dream - a free pool of credit card details to dip into and make off with at leisure. Users simply must be made aware of this danger!"

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