A group representing bus passengers in the Lancaster district have questioned the viability of the city’s new Park & Ride facility.
The facility is due to open alongside the new Bay Gateway Heysham to M6 Link Road at the end of the month, providing a 650 car site, including 60 disabled spaces and bus shelters, in Caton Road.
The scheme, like those in many other UK cities, would provide buses to shuttle visitors and commuters to and from Lancaster city centre.
The Park & Ride was a planning requirement of the new road.
But Lancaster District Bus Users Group says that Lancashire County Council could be setting the service up to fail and that it could be cheaper for motorists to park in the city centre.
The group has also questioned why the council is proposing just one bus every 30 minutes, when the recommended length of time for waiting is between eight and ten minutes.
Andrew Varley, public transport manager for Lancashire County Council said parking would cost £1 all day, and £1.50 for a return bus ticket.
He said the Park and Ride site will be a convenient place for people to park and use the bus to complete their journey and that it will also appeal to those who want to car share or use the nearby cycleway to cycle or walk.
Questions have also been raised over the provision of good quality waiting areas, toilets and real time information, the lack of a timetable, and where in the city centre the bus would stop.
Jim Davies, chair of the group said: “The proposed payment system is hardly user-friendly, requiring users to park, find a ticket machine and buy a ticket, return to the car to display it and then find the bus stop where they can wait up to 30 minutes for a bus.
“Whether the cost is attractive depends very much on the length of time users will be spending in town and the number of concessionary pass holders in the car.
“Where the service falls down badly is the proposed frequency of one bus every 30 minutes.
“This service is supposed to attract car drivers who are used to the freedom of setting off when they please.
“It appears that the service has been designed around what the county can afford, rather than what is needed to make it a success and that were it not a requirement of the planning consent it might not be provided at all.”
The county council says the service will run for at least 18 months to get it established.
Mr Davis added: “From what little information has been provided it appears that the service is, perhaps intentionally, perhaps through lack of expertise, being set up to fail.”
Mr Varley said: “Parking is proposed to be £1 all day with a £1.50 return bus ticket, which people can buy on the bus.
“The site will also offer mobile payment to offer a more convenient option for those who don’t want to get a printed ticket.
“People will also have the option of buying a 7-day ticket for £5.
“The bus shelter will be fully enclosed with seating.
“Initially the buses will operate every 30 minutes, which is the longest anyone will have to wait for a bus.
“This is the level of service we can afford at present, however we will look for any opportunity to improve the service once it is up and running.”
A spokesman added that the site will be covered by CCTV. The first bus is proposed to be at 6.45am Monday to Friday and 7.45am on Saturdays. Last bus from Lancaster to the site from Lancaster Bus Station is 1930 Monday to Friday and 1830 on Saturdays.
The bus users group has invited County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, to its next meeting at Lancaster library at 2pm on October 20. All welcome to attend.