Pound Coins, Gatwick, Wales, Abu Dhabi


Pound Coins, Gatwick, Wales, Abu Dhabi

Way back in 2016, the UK’s Royal Mint introduced a new pound coin, the old one being counterfeited on too large a scale. At today’s rate, a pound is worth about $1.30, so large-scale forgeries are a problem. The new state-of-the-art bi-metal coin became legal tender on March 28, and the old-style coin ceases to be legal tender on Oct. 15 this year.

So, to cut to the chase, municipalities have had about a year to reset their parking systems. As most machines now use an electronic checker, this is not rocket science. A simple program change and it’s done.

Indeed, since many machines are now networked, it literally can be done at the press of a button. Or so you would think. However, with a stupendous lack of urgency, it seems that many councils have yet to do anything.

A freedom of information request by the Automobile Association has found that 74 out of 340 councils (22%) haven’t done a thing! Well, that’s not strictly true; some of them have gone ‘round and put stickers on their meters saying that they haven’t done anything!

Going into August when, as a nation we go on holiday, it seems that in popular holiday destinations such as Devon, nothing has changed, and places such as Oxfordshire anticipate that changes won’t be completed until September, after the holiday season has ended.

Now, since the old pound doesn’t go out of use until October, you might think that this doesn’t matter, but it does.

The Bank of England is gobbling up as many of the old coins as it can, as quickly as it can, and they are now a rarity. This means, of course, that any driver trying to pay for a day’s parking at a Devon beach is screwed.

Their legal new pound coins can’t be used. They can’t get old pound coins any more. The machine is most unlikely to be able to deal with multiple lower-value coins (£8 in 10p and 20p coins? I don’t think so). And if they don’t pay, they get a fine.

The knock-on effect in bad PR and lost income from visitors is going to be enormous, and I wonder how many fines will be upheld on appeal. It’s not the driver’s fault if the councils are incompetent.

Am I being unfair to the councils? I don’t think so.

Many supermarkets use shopping trolleys or carts where you have to use a pound coin to unlock the trolley, and these mechanisms have to be physically modified. Nearly all of them were done within a month of the new pound coin being launched.

Once again, a shambolic underachievement makes our parking industry look like idiots. And the British Parking Association response: “The Public is advised to ensure that they carry a range of coins to pay for parking while this transition takes place.” Sounds like it’s the customers’ fault, then.

I have written before about the seemingly endless problems caused at London Gatwick Airport by off-site unauthorized parking operators of dubious probity who fail to deliver the service that they promise.

It astounds me that, rather than use the on-airport facilities or a secondary company that the airport has checked and approved, people continue to hand over cars sometimes worth more than $100,000 to unapproved companies often identified by nothing more than a webpage and a cellphone number.

Inevitably, yet another such company has gone pop, leaving hundreds of people to return to the airport and find that their cars have disappeared.

Gatwick First Parking claimed that cars were stored in a CCTV-monitored secure compound. Well, the webpage is suspended, and no one is answering the phone. Indeed, it appears that the key players may have left the country.

Sussex Police are involved and have found some cars were in a compound; others, however, seem to have been parked at the roadside on factory estates and at various other places. That’s accounted for 120 of the cars that the company had. However, the police have another 30 or so sets of keys and no idea where these vehicles are, and no one has hung around to help find them.

This isn’t really a police matter, but they seem to have got involved by default and with drivers spending days chasing down their cars. I wonder how many of the affected drivers will actually work out the true cost of saving a few pounds over using the “official” services. Incidentally, while researching this item, another of these unapproved companies went bust, with similar results

Could this be more wrong?

The University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff is one of the largest hospitals in Wales, and some years ago, it entered into a deal with a private company to build a new carpark as part of the government’s deeply flawed PPP (Private- Public Partnership) funding scheme.

The theory was that the private sector would fund capital infrastructure developments for the National Health Service and then be paid back over an agreed timescale. In reality, many of these plans have turned out to be very bad deals for the hospitals involved, with financial deals that have meant they have paid many times the value of the asset provided.

In Cardiff, the deal was going to be that the parking operator would take the income from the carpark for a fixed time to repay the investment. However, the numbers didn’t work, and the hospital ceded control of all its parking to the company.

Under British law, all this parking operates as “parking on private land,” meaning that the operator can “fine” people who break the site rules. Only, the parking site didn’t seem to be working too well, and many doctors and nurses who were unable to park in staff parking, which was too small (8,500 permits for 1,800 spaces), even although they had paid for a permit, opted to park in the public spaces, where they were ticketed.

Not unreasonably, the medical staff thought that if they had already paid for their parking – and because it really was quite important that they attend their patients – they put their cars in the public spaces. The operating company then duly issued each one with a $170 parking fine.

Over a 12-month period, it is claimed that the company had issued 100,000 such tickets – which seems to me to be a pretty clear indication that the staff/visitor balance is wrong – and yet the company has just got judgment against the staff, leaving one nurse with nearly $200,000 to pay, just for trying to do her job.

The hospital seems to have remained silent on this throughout. Personally, I think that the parking company, having established its right to penalize, should do the bigger thing and start again with a clean sheet – and with a more realistic allocation of staff parking. It won’t.

And, finally, I recently wrote about the big, big project I am involved in in Abu Dhabi. We did a presentation last week, and were waiting outside when the previous bidders came out after their presentation. They had a 1980s Duncan meter with them for “Show and Tell.” Really? In Abu Dhabi, whose motto is “A Smart, Safe and Sustainable City”?

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest
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