DRIVERS now have to pay to park at three of the city’s park-and-ride sites for the first time in four years.

From this week, motorists at the Oxford City Council-run Pear Tree, Redbridge and Seacourt sites have to pay £1.50 a day on top of the £2.20 return bus fare. One of the first drivers to pay and display at Pear Tree was Suzanne Port, 33, an events manager at Malmaison. She said: “It’s a complete pain. Often when you arrive there’s a bus already waiting, and now you have to faff around with paying for parking.

“I thought the aim was to reduce congestion, but now you might as well park in the city centre.”

Ian Townsend, 43, from Headington, who works at Johnson’s Volvo, said: "I used to park here every day for work, but now I can’t afford it, so I’ll have to park on the road."

And research scientist James Foadi, 48, from Cumnor, said: "Up to today it was £1.30 cheaper to use the park-and-ride than to get the bus in, but after today I’m going to go back to the bus."

Park-and-ride parking had been free since 2008.

But charges were reintroduced by the cash-strapped city council after Oxfordshire County Council handed back control of the three sites and stopped its subsidy. The county council still runs Water Eaton and Thornhill sites, and both remain free to park.

City council leader Bob Price said: “It has always been Oxford City Council’s aspiration to provide a free park-and-ride service for people coming into the city. More people have been using the sites and fewer people have been driving into the city centre in the last three years. This has helped reduce congestion.

“However, budget pressures mean the subsidy that Oxfordshire County Council paid, approximately £1m, can no longer be afforded.”

Last month, the Oxford Mail reported that a growing number of commuters, incensed by the proposed charges, had launched a campaign against them.

In August, the county council reintroduced on-street parking charges in the city centre in the evenings Users can pay parking charges using the RingGo system by phone. Anyone who has already registered need not register again.

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