Commuters could be hit with a fine of up to £100 if they overstay in Huntingdon railway station’s car park because of new automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras that have been installed.
Govia Thameslink Railway, which manages the station, has installed the number plate recognition technology to its stations around the country, including at Huntingdon and St Neots.
Previously, the station used a system where you could pay for your parking ticket, which was 'pay and display', whilst buying a train ticket.
Under the new system, however, which was installed at the end of September, motorists no longer have to display their ticket, but are monitored for the time spent in the station by the cameras.
Drivers now have a 15 minute 'grace period' before they are expected to pay for a parking ticket but some users say the new system will discourage people from using the trains as, if a train is delayed, heavy fines can be issued to unsuspecting visitors who used the car park to pick up relatives or friends. Paul McGowan from Godmanchester has been dropping his wife off at the station for the past three years.
He said: “My wife works in London and I work from home, so every day I will take her to the station and pick her up in the evenings. Before these cameras were installed it was fine for me to wait for her train to get in without having to pay for a ticket.
“However, because of these cameras it means that if my wife's train is delayed, which is usually is, I could get fined for waiting. If a train is delayed by more then 15 minutes then the ticket holder gets £2.80 in compensation, whilst the driver gets a bill for £100.”
Mr McGowan said: “The government are trying to encourage people to use public transport and it is already expensive enough as it is to use the trains, and I think this will discourage people from using the station.
“Not only that but it's not very clear to people that you only have this amount of time. Another worry of mine is if you are stuck waiting to pull out of the junction from the train station, there is usually a lot of traffic, so you could leave the station on time but still be billed for waiting to get out the car park.
“I also understand that if you are disabled and you have a blue badge, that you will need to phone the company to make them aware of this each week.”
A spokesman for Govia Thameslink Railway said: “Trains can be delayed for many reasons, most of them outside our control. A short grace period of 15 minutes is allowed once a car has entered the camera zone to allow for dropping off as well as picking up.
“After this period, payment is required and this is clearly displayed. Motorists need to be aware of the time spent in car parks and make the necessary decision as to whether to stay and pay or move from site. We will always apply common sense when we know there has been delays and will not penalise drivers unnecessarily.”