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Councils urged to rethink switch to parking apps and keep cash car park payments

One-in-five drivers say their councils want to make mobile phone payment compulsory in public car parks

Parking payment machine

Councils should rethink plans to scrap cash payments for car parking, and ensure drivers have access to multiple means of payment.

That’s the verdict of the RAC motoring organisation, which polled drivers and found nearly one-in-five say their local authority has either scrapped coin payment machines or is consulting on doing so, with the intention of replacing them with mobile phone app payment schemes.

The process of replacing current machines, many of which accept phone app and coin or card payments, is being accelerated because they use older 3G mobile phone tech which is being phased out by telecoms companies, the RAC says. Councils are therefore being forced to consider buying more expensive machines, or getting rid of them and forcing drivers to use a phone app if they want to park.

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The RAC survey of almost 2,000 drivers found that 59 per cent are angry about the loss of coin and card payment options, with the number rising to 73 per cent among drivers aged 65 and over. A worrying 20 per cent of drivers said they felt the moves were discriminatory, as they can’t use mobile phone apps to pay parking charges. In the over-65s age group, that number rises to almost a third.

The problems have already been recognised by the government, with levelling-up minister Michael Gove writing to councils in April to warn of the risk of drivers being ‘digitally excluded’. However, the Department for Transport is also working on a so-called National Parking Platform that would theoretically allow users to pay for parking anywhere using a single app of their choice.

“It’s vital councils, and indeed private parking operators, carefully assess the impact of going down this route before taking machines away,” said RAC spokesman Rod Dennis. “Our research shows that by removing some methods of paying for parking they are undoubtedly making life harder for some drivers and possibly contributing to social isolation. The move could also lead to lower parking revenue as a result of drivers being put off from parking in the first place, something that’s surely not in any local authority’s interests.”

Are you a fan of parking apps? Let us know your thoughts on cashless parking in the comments section...

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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