Parking

£1000 workplace charges are a great idea – if you live in London, and that’s about it

THERESA May is definitely the most Prog Rock Prime Minister that Britain’s ever had. Regardless of whether you voted Remain or Leave you’ve got to hand it to her; the outro for Brexit is way longer than anything Genesis or Pink Floyd could have rustled upSo I’m mightily relieved that over the weekend – day 4,372,918 of discussions over the nation’s EU departure, to be exact – the national press had something other than Theresa’s comeback gig to tune into, and just to get things off politics it was motoring-themed, too.

Nope, not whether it’s right that a 97-year-old who pulled out in front of some suspecting drivers should be told off for being spotted not wearing a seatbelt barely a day after being involved in a horrendous collision. Or the shock discovery that the husband of Her Majesty the Queen is given a Land Rover Freelander – a car that’s been out of production for nearly five years – to tootle about in.

In fact, the thing that got quite a lot of people wound up was some AA research revealing that at least ten local councils are considering introducing charges on workplaces with more ten parking spaces that works out roughly at a grand a year, per person. It worked a treat in Nottingham – so now Edinburgh, Glasgow and parts of London are playing with the idea too.

Go for it, London – you can handle it, if your swanky DLR, Crossrail and Croydon tram network is anything to go by, and I reckon Glasgow and Edinburgh are well connected enough to make it worth their while, too. But I can’t imagine that the mate of mine who drives half an hour from Birkdale into Rainford every morning would be terribly thrilled at having to fork out an extra £1000 for the privilege – or face a journey that’s three times longer, massively more expensive and which he has to take all his tools on the bus with him. Equally, I’d love to take the train rather than the car into work from the quiet market town where I live – if trains and buses ran that early.

Parking levies only work if people have a realistic choice in the matter. I’m sure it’s fine if you live in Bootle and work in the middle of Liverpool, but what if you live in a small village in one of the remoter bits of West Lancashire? The AA called the plans a Poll Tax on Wheels but I’d go further than that – it’s picking on people who, I’d put my not-terribly-well-connected house on, are driving into work because that’s the only option they have.

The only crumb of comfort is that it’s something that’s only being considered by individual councils rather that being a nationwide, blanket charge that’s been dreamt up in Whitehall – but then I suspect that the Government’s a bit busy with other things right now.

Like reminding Prince Philip that it’s about time for him to replace his Freelander with a Discovery Sport, for starters…

Milton Keynes is the venue to win motoring hearts and minds

Ford has developed technology that can sense empty parking spaces
A LONG time ago the blistering heat of the California desert or a fortnight spent in the bitter cold of the Arctic circle were what counted when it came to developing your new car. But it turns out that the latest battleground for motoring supremacy is… Milton Keynes.

Ford dispatched a fleet of Mondeos fitted with some very clever experimental equipment there and – in the best traditions of Tomorrow’s World – a man with a beard and a tweed jacket to attempt to explain their cunning new plan. Essentially, they’ve sent a team of drivers out into this glorious 1960s vision of a New Town and asked them simply to park somewhere. Which, if you’ve ever been to Milton Keynes on a busy Monday morning, can be easier said than done.

If all goes to plan, the Fiesta or Focus you buy in a few years’ time will be able to scan the car park quicker you can, letting you know exactly where that elusive empty space is before the irritating birk in the BMW 1-Series swoops in and steals it at the last second. It’s important stuff; apparently most of us motoring types lose a day a year looking for parking spaces.

Naturally, Volkswagen wasn’t going to let Ford take all the credit for solving our parking problems forever, and just a few days later put out a press release pointing out that it’s been honing its Park Assist system for more than 20 years across three generations of tech, and is now working on an app that’ll talk to your Golf and let you know where all the empty – and better still, cheap – spaces are.

The fact that the combined brainpower of at least two motoring giants is finally being applied to making parking less irritating is wonderful, but what I’m really looking forward to is seeing the Fiestas and Polos of a decade’s time solving the really annoying problems of car parks. Wouldn’t it be great, for instance, if they could fire lasers at all those off-roaders parked diagonally across three spaces? Or have anyone who clips your bodywork with a carelessly-opened door automatically arrested on the spot and sentenced to four years’ hard labour for automotive neglect? I’d go out and buy a new Golf tomorrow if it knew what to do when the ticket reader at a multi-storey stops working, leaving you trapped with six impatient shoppers stuck behind you.

What I’d suggest to Ford is that carries on its important research in the interests of helping the British public by moving its crack team of Mondeo-driving scientists a bit further north than Milton Keynes.

If they – or Volkswagen’s researchers, for that matter – can solve the stresses of parking in Southport town centre or the Skelmersdale Concourse for good, then their millions will have been worthwhile.