A LONG-AWAITED solution to some of Marlow’s parking woes got off to a shaky start, with a new automated system causing confusion and breaking down in its first fortnight.
Long queues began appearing in Wycombe District Council-run car parks after the Automatic Number Plate Recognition System was installed last month.
And after the new machines in Central car park were covered on Sunday after problems, residents and visitors enjoyed free parking at an estimated cost of at least £3500 to the council.
Residents contacted the MFP after scenes of confusion in WDC’s car parks as motorists got used the new system during the busy holiday tourist season.
Reader Bob Street, who had already registered his car online, said: "There were a lot of angry people, some of them were fuming. People seemed to know nothing about it and I guess we all lose our rag from time to time.
"It looked as if people were confronted with this unexpectedly and quite a few had to go back to their cars because they couldn’t remember their registration numbers. There were some older people who didn’t seem to understand, I must admit I felt sorry for them."
Other residents encountered problems with the camera system, which automatically logs number plates for payment at the end of the stay.
Sarah Innes, who used ANPR on its first day, said not even help from council staff in the car park could get the system to work.
She said: "I have been told to keep (a receipt) because it is very likely that my 'payment' will not have been acknowledged at the office end because it did not contain my registration number and yet the camera will have recorded it, so I am likely to be issued with a fine!
"If this very poor start was then repeated, even only periodically, throughout the next few days, it is small wonder that queues built.
"It was of no surprise to me at all that the machines now have black bags over them because they are not functioning."
After teething problems with the cameras, officers took the machines in Central car park out of action on Sunday, with black bags still covering the new terminals as the BFP went to press late last week.
And with Central raking in over £247,000 in revenue in 2012-13, the costly period could lose the council as much as £5000 were the problem to extend to a week.
WDC insists it has stationed extra staff in council-run car parks during busy period while people get used to the new system, which requires parkers to type in their number plates before paying.
Spoeksman Sue Robinson said: "We have covered the payment kiosks for the time being as part of the change over to the new systems while our contractors do necessary fine tuning to our ANPR systems. We are taking this action to reduce inconvenience and confusion to our customers.
"The bags will be removed once WDC and the contractors have finished and checked the system.
"In the long term the new systems will deliver savings operating our car parks for the public "So for us it’s a case of a small loss in revenue in order to get ANPR in place and working correctly to give a better service at a reduced cost to the taxpayer."
With fewer machines than before in Pound Lane, Central and Liston Road car parks, WDC has accepted that queues are forming but insist it will die down as people use other ways - including online - to pay.
And with all the teething problems, WDC has confirmed it has not issued any penalty tickets during the first two weeks while residents get used to the system.
ANPR was trialled in High Wycombe before being rolled out in Marlow, with the exception of Riley Road and Dean Street car parks.
Tariffs remain the same, with the advantage that motorists only pay for the time they have used.