The elderly and vulnerable who don’t have a smartphone, or struggle with using them, will be especially hard hit as Britons will only be able to pay for parking if they download and use a car park’s designated app. But there are thought to be up to 30 different smartphone apps in operation over the country meaning motorists could have to regularly download different programmes and navigate various rules, or risk a fine.
As well as causing a technological headache, it will likely make motorists late for appointments as they are forced to sit and wait for another app to download to their phone.
London boroughs Bromley and Enfield will both stop using pay and display machines by April, while Brighton and Hove city council is due to end the practice by May 31.
Harrow in London, along with Westminster, has already removed all its machines.
The reason for the shift is mobile phone providers are switching off 3G data networks which run the parking meters. Bromley said it would cost £1 million to update all its machines to 4G.
Dennis Reed, director of over-60s campaign group Silver Voices, told the Daily Express: “This is blatant ageism. They know very well when they introduce these systems that they are discriminating against older people. A lot of older people don’t have a smartphone or if they do, they only use them for calls and texts. They don’t know about apps, let alone downloading them.
“The answer is that a lot of people simply drive off and find somewhere else to park such as the road or someone’s street. There needs to be an alternative.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the move was “disastrous for anyone without a smartphone” and it could leave the elderly more isolated.
She said: “If you are an older person who is reliant on your car for getting around but you have no means of legally parking it near to where you want to go, then you may be left feeling there is little point going there at all.”
One benefit of using a smartphone app is it often gives users the ability to add extra time to their stay without having to rush back to their vehicle.
But there are numerous providers, such as RingGo, JustPark, PayByPhone and Parkopedia, and they usually each require users to key in their contact information as well as their car details – which takes much longer than simply inserting coins or a bank card into a machine.
As with any online programme, there is also a risk of scammers taking advantage of users. RingGo warns customers an unauthorised website called APKPURE has been advertising its app without permission and urged users not to download it via the APKPURE website as it could contain a virus.
RingGo blamed theft from machines – which saw Westminster council lose an estimated 25 percent of its takings – as well as vandalism, maintenance and the loss of 3G, for the change.
It said a joint initiative by the Department of Transport and local authorities was being trialled to create a National Parking Platform that simplifies payments with a single app.
Dave Smith of the British Parking Association said parking operators should offer cash payment as well as digital and fines shouldn’t be issued if the system isn’t working.
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