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Last ditch attempt to rethink park and ride decision rejected
A LAST-DITCH attempt to prevent Worcester's park and ride services being axed has been rejected - despite claims councillors will "live to regret" their decision.
A bid to get Worcestershire County Council to team up with the city council to "look at alternative ways" of keeping them running has been thrown out despite support from Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat politicians.
The Conservative leadership at County Hall agreed last month to slash £1.6 million from public transport, which means park and rides at Perdiswell and Sixways will close in September.
Worcester Labour Party put together motions for both councils to vote on "reviewing" the decision, saying it will only increase congestion and damage the city's economy unless there was an urgent re-think.
It was thrown out by the city council on Wednesday night after the 17-strong Conservative group teamed up with independent Cllr Alan Amos, Worcester's mayor - and yesterday the county council also rejected it.
During both debates opposing politicians got into fierce debates over the merits of park and ride.
Councillor Paul Denham, from the Labour Party, said: "This makes absolutely no sense at all, it also shows a real lack of joined-up thinking from the administration as this is happening at a time when buses are also being cut.
"More people will simply drive into the city centre, it will only add to congestion."
Councillor Pat Agar, also from Labour, said it will have a "devastating" impact, adding: "This backward-looking 1960s style decision is one I believe this council will look back on and regret."
As the debate swung back and forth yesterday Councillor John Smith, the cabinet member for transport at County Hall, called it a "political pantomime".
"We have worked extremely hard to try and get a commercial operator to run park and ride for us, but there isn't one," he said.
"There is only one commercially-run park and ride in the entire country, and that's right by Cheltenham Racecourse.
"I remember the old Labour-Lib Dem pact (at the county council) when park and ride launched saying 'it will wash its face in three or four years',but that hasn't happened, they still lose money."
Councillor Matthew Jenkins, from the Green Party, said the county council was "sentencing more people to a shorter lifespan" as the loss of the service will add to pollution, but Cllr Marc Bayliss, from the Conservatives, said the usage of both sites was not enough to claim "the walls of the city are coming down".
"What we're hearing is hugely overblown rhetoric," he insisted.
The Perdiswell park and ride is used by less than 200 cars daily, compared to 23,000 vehicles currently accessing the Barbourne corridor.
Both park and rides cost taxpayers a combined subsidy of £296,870 last year and have always lost money.
Sixways was used 66,124 times last year, costing the public purse £1.66 per passenger, while at Perdiswell it fell to a record low of 274,935 users, a subsidy of 68p for each customer. t Wednesday night's city council debate followed a similar pattern, with Labour's parliamentary candidate Councillor Joy Squires claiming the Tories are "decimating" public transport.
The likes of Green Cllr Neil Laurenson said it was "the most powerful argument" he'd ever heard since being elected, but the Conservatives said dualling part of the A4440 Southern Link Road by 2019 will do far more to ease congestion.
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