Pay-by-phone parking pilot extended – despite wet reception from AA

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A TRIAL scheme allowing drivers in South Tyneside to pay for parking over their mobile phones is being extended – despite a motoring organisation refusing to give it a ringing endorsement.

The RingGo initiative was introduced in South Shields town centre in November to make it easier to park up by enabling motorists to pay using a credit or debit card via their phones.

The number of motorists who paid using RingGo last month was 371, more than three times as many as when it was introduced.

That means an average of just a dozen people a day are using the option in the town centre.

That has been deemed a success by South Tyneside Council, so it is now set to extend the scheme to 10 car parks on the town’s seafront.

The move comes despite a lukewarm welcome for the parking scheme from the Automobile Association (AA).

After the initiative was launched in the town centre in November, 114 motorists went on to use it over the course of the month, and that figure rose to 186 in December.

And that upward trend has continued almost month on month since, with 232 in January increasing to 386 in March, though there was a slight dip in April to 371.

Coun Tracey Dixon, the council’s lead member for area management and community safety, said: “We’re delighted with the success of the scheme so far.

“We’re doing all we can to support both shoppers and traders and encourage people to come into the town centre.

“This system makes it quick and convenient for people to park and complements the 300-plus free spaces we already offer in the town centre.

“More and more visitors will be heading down to the foreshore as we approach the summer, so it’s great that we are now extending the trial to include our seafront car parks.”

Users need to register their vehicle and card details online or by phone. The system then stores and remembers their details.

A spokesman for the AA said: “We have found that the service is not particularly popular with the public, who still prefer to use cash or a credit card. Of course, it does have the advantage of it sending a message to remind you when your car-parking time is up.

“Generally, people find it a bit of a faff to register and, because of the surcharge incurred in doing so, you end up paying more for your parking.

“People who do a lot of driving in the UK encounter several providers of this service and end up having register more than once. It can get confusing, and we’d like to see one universal system.”

Each car park has a unique four-digit code identifying its location. Civil enforcement officers can look up number plates to check that parking has been paid for.

The car parks that have now joined the scheme are at Harbour Drive North, Harbour Drive South, Pier Head, Pier Parade, South Promenade North, South Promenade South, the Dragon, Trow Quarry, Marsden Lea and Whitburn Bents.

Twitter: @shieldsgazettepaul