Council bosses have come under fire over a £118,000 car park machine revamp in South Tyneside.
Drivers claim the new machines – which require the registration number of the vehicle to be logged – is a way for South Tyneside Council to increase its income by stamping out ticket sharing.
The council says the new scheme replaces ageing machines and will prove helpful to customers and officials if an appeal against a ticket is launched.
The council has installed 42 new machines at car parks in South Shields town centre – scrapping meters which were “well past” their best and often leaving drivers frustrated and the authority unable to keep them maintained.
It says the new machines will take newer coins – a problem with the older machines – and the technology links up with its offices, so they can be updated and faults identified without the need to attend each machine in person.
They will also flag up if they are running low on tickets or paper or have coin jams or repairs that need to be addressed.
Customers will also be able to pay for their parking by card – with the council working with a company called RINGO to run an extended trial to put it to the test.
It will also mean an end to drivers passing on their tickets with time left on them.
The council’s latest figures show that in the last financial year, parking charges generated £920,244, and says it is not possible to say if the new meters will lead to a change in the cash it makes, but any surplus income is spent on parking provision, highways, traffic and road safety work.
Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for area management and community safety, said: “The previous machines were well past the manufacturer’s suggested working life of five years. Some were more than 20 years old.
“Although they have provided extremely good value for money, the meters were becoming more unreliable and harder to maintain, causing issues particularly at busier times.
“The new meters not only feature more reliable technology, they give drivers more flexible options to pay for their parking, so they don’t have to rely too much on having enough change in their pockets.
“They provide a better service for both the council and the public.”
The new scheme has also seen additional machines installed in some car parks.
Drivers who contacted the Gazette were less enthusiastic.
Susan Atkinson said: “The queues are really long to use them.
“Imagine what it’s going to be like in the summer holidays or when there’s events on.”
Linda Wood claimed: “They only changed them so you have to put in your registration to stop you giving your ticket to another driver if you have time left on your tickets.”