The cost of train travel is bad enough, but a recent study has revealed that the cost of parking your car at the station can be even more horrendous. In four particularly shocking cases, city-centre stations charge £215 if you want to park for the day.
A study by the TSSA rail union found that the most outlandish charges were at Liverpool Lime Street, Birmingham New Street, Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds station - where to park for a 12-hour day costs £215. The union called it 'daylight robbery'.
Very regular travellers may end up having to buy an annual parking ticket, which can come in at an eye-watering sum. The union highlighted that Birmingham's Snow Hill station charges an incredible £3,000 a year for a ticket, while Guildford and Reading charge £1,800. That's as much as some people pay for their annual season ticket.
In total the union says that Network Rail and the 19 private rail franchises made £800 million between them on car parking charges. General Secretary Manual Cortes said: "Rail passengers are being caught in the crossfire by these greedy rail firms. They can charge what they like for parking because, unlike key rail fares, there is no government cap, it is a free for all." He added: "These firms now simply regard stations as local profit centres with passengers as captive cash cows."
The union is calling for parking to be included in the price control curbs that the Government uses to fix annual fare increases. Cortes said: "When you consider that the rail firms are making £800 million a year in parking fees from these passengers who already paying out £9 billion in fares, I think commuters deserve some additional protection. They are effectively being squeezed dry at the moment."
What can you do?
The study highlights how important it is to check the cost of parking before you travel. If the station car park charges are outlandish, then it's worth considering whether you really need to drive to the station. In the case of the most expensive car parks, it's clearly much cheaper to take a taxi to and from the station instead.
It's also worth checking for alternatives. Have a look at other car parks and the cost of on-street parking. Then calculate whether it's worth walking a bit further in order to bring the costs down. Near Liverpool Lime Street, for example, there's a Q-Park car park on Hanover Street that costs £14 for 12 hours.
It may also pay to have a look at websites offering driveways, where you can park for less, such as www.justpark.com. Just under a mile away from Birmingham New Street, for example, there's a driveway at £10.50 a day, and just over a mile away there's another at £5 a day. Manchester Piccadilly, meanwhile, offers a space 0.14 miles away at £4 a day.
Eventually the government may take action, and the price of station car parks may come under control. Until then, you can take control yourself, and slash the cost of parking immediately.
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