Are you sure it’s not just a parking charge notice (PCN) that may have been issued in error?
Motorists who have recently received ‘fines’ in the post for what they have assumed is an ‘offence’ of using Bristol Parkway Station as a through road or ‘cut through’ are urged to double-check their notification letter to see if they have instead been wrongly accused of a parking violation.
The station can be accessed from both the west side (off Hatchet Road) and the east side (Hunts Ground Road) but is clearly signed as a ‘private road’ that is also a ‘no through road’. However, station management company Great Western Railway (formerly First Great Western) confirmed to a member of the public back in 2015 that the rule was not currently being enforced (see below). Furthermore, numerous people have reported driving through on a regular basis over many years, right up to the present time, without any issues.
However, reports on social media suggest that early January saw a flood of letters sent to people who regularly drive through the station without stopping (or who only stop for a moment to drop off or pick up a passenger) notifying them of a £50 ‘fine’.
Analysis of these reports by the Journal reveals that most of the ‘fines’ relate to the period 6th to 9th December 2018 and that they have been received by people who make regular ‘through and back again’ journeys through the station, for example to take a child to school in the morning and to collect the child in the afternoon.
The clearest sign that they are, in fact, not a ‘fine’ for violating the ‘no through road’ condition can be seen in the title of the letter: ‘Parking Charge Notice’ (PCN). However, anyone overlooking this might easily be misled by the fact that the letter, instead of stating both the entry and exit times for the alleged parking offence gives just a single event time. Furthermore, the letter includes two photographs of the offending vehicle entering and leaving the car park, but does not state the locations at which the photos were recorded. Because the backgrounds of the photos inevitably look different (as there as separate cameras pointing in opposite directions at each end of the car park), the reader can easily assume that they were recorded at different ends of the car park, thereby reinforcing the assumption of a ‘drive through’ violation.
In reality, the date and timestamp of each photo is shown in tiny white print on a thin black strip along its top edge, which many recipients say they hadn’t noticed or found illegible. The timestamps, which are key to understanding the details of the alleged offence are, however, clearly readable in the online version of the PCN, accessible via the parking contractor’s website.
Of five contested PCNs that the Journal examined in detail (thanks to the recipients sharing details of the PCNs and their own accounts of journeys made on the days in question), it is clear in each case that a fine has been issued because of the parking management system’s failure to detect a vehicle exiting the station at the Hunts Ground Road end, after having entered the station at the Hatchet Road end a few minutes earlier. This means that the vehicle is considered to have remained parked within the station grounds until it is next seen exiting, i.e. when the vehicle next drives through, which could be hours or even days later.
Anyone who has received a PCN but not parked at the station, particularly if they make regular ‘through’ trips in both directions, might wish to examine the alleged entry/exit times in detail to ascertain whether an exit event at another time may have been missed.
In the light of the previous statement from 2015, we approached GWR with a set of questions relating to enforcement of the signed ‘no through road’ rule. Instead of providing answers to our specific questions, a GWR spokesperson responded as follows:
“We only use Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) to enforce parking restrictions at the station car park (both short and long stay). A significant grace period is allowed before any enforcement action, ensuring plenty of opportunity to pick up/drop off even at the busiest times.”
The spokesperson said there had been no camera or power issues on the dates in December which we had mentioned, adding:
“Where there is a power supply issue (at any one of our managed stations), enforcement would be suspended until the issue is resolved.”
“Other possible reasons for failure to detect a vehicle include the licence plate not being readable because of dirt or being too close to the vehicle in front for the plate to be read.”
If you have received a PCN despite only driving through the station and are unsure about the locations of the entry/exit photos shown, or are having trouble determining the alleged dates and times of entry/exit, guidance can be found on this page of the Stoke Gifford Journal website: Bristol Parkway No Through Road
The drop-off zone at the station has a maximum stay limit of five minutes. There is a small short stay car park where vehicles can stay for up to 20 minutes, but a ticket must be obtained from a machine, which involves entering the vehicle registration number.
N.B. No information in this article should be interpreted as being an encouragement to motorists to use the station as a through route or a guarantee that doing so will not result in a penalty of any kind.
Email from GWR to member of the public in April 2015
I can confirm that the road that goes through Bristol Parkway station is not a through route, and this has been clear from signage going back to 2001. As ANPR cameras have been installed we have recently updated our signage to comply with local conditions relating to this change, confirming that ANPR cameras enforce the land.
Passengers are welcome to use the station to both park and pick up/drop off using the new ANPR database, which a ticket can be issued for. Currently the system does not enforce any conditions against road users, but this is something we have already discussed with the local authority and is something that will be introduced in the future. This will be done in consultation with the local authority and not brought in without prior warning.
This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal news magazine (on pages 12 & 13). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to over 5,000 homes in Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Harry Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
Postscript (16th February 2019)
Since the above article was written, we have learned of two people who have made successful appeals against PCNs issued for, they claim, “just driving through”. In both cases, the appellant argued that the ANPR camera at the Hunts Ground Road end had not recorded them exiting the station. The PCNs were issued on for alleged offences on 7th/8th December 2018.