MOVES to close the Groundwell park and ride site have sparked the ire of commuters.

Plans set out in Swindon Council’s 2009/10 budget proposals suggest that the council could save £331,000 by mothballing the site.

But passengers say the effect on congestion and town centre parking would be unbearable.

Now a petition is circulating on the buses calling for the plans to be abandoned and for the park and ride to be saved.

Jo Marlowe relies on the service to travel from her home in Redhouse to her town centre office.

She said: “The road down to the Moonraker’s pub is already congested and this is going to make it even worse.

“The difference in price is going to affect me as well – at the moment it costs me £10.50 for a ticket that covers five trips, but if I have to park in the town centre it’s going to cost me an extra £40. And that’s only because my company offers a parking scheme for employees.

“I use the bus at peak times but it’s always very busy, so this decision would affect a lot of people.”

But Coun Peter Greenhalgh, cabinet member for sustainability, transport and strategic planning, said the choice is simple.

“We either make savings where we can or we put up council tax,” he said. “While the park and ride is an excellent service we are losing a lot of money because it is simply not covering its costs.

“The number using the service is not that great so I don’t think the effect on traffic will be huge.

“We have good parking facilities in the town centre and while this is not an ideal situation it is something we have to look at.

“This would not be a permanent move and hopefully there will be a change in government and Swindon will be given the kind of funding it needs.” But according to regular passenger, Rosemary Potter, the council should consider alternatives.

She said: “It is a disservice to Swindon and I don’t see why they can’t have the service running at normal times in the morning and evening and for the rest of the day have one every hour.

“People would get used to that.

“My daughter has got a two-year-old and when she goes to work three times a week she has to get a nanny.

“If she is now going to have to pay for town centre parking I don’t know how she is going to cope.”

Joanne Ord, who lives in South Marston, said the service was a “lifeline” to her.

She said: “I’m not sure I would have accepted a job in the town centre if I had known this would happen. I worked out that it would cost me an extra £108 to pay for parking in the town centre.

“I think the council should be looking at alternatives to this or they will have a lot of unhappy people on their hands.”

'Plan sends the wrong message'
THAMESDOWN chief, Paul Jenkins, has also criticised the plans.

He believes that closing the park and ride would have a negative effect on his company and Swindon.

He said: “We believe it sends the wrong message in terms of road congestion and tackling climate change.

“If the people currently using the service are forced to take their cars instead it will have a major impact on traffic congestion, which will cause problems for other drivers and bus passengers.

“Passengers have a right to make their views known on these plans.”

Mr Jenkins refused to comment on whether the plans would affect current negotiations over staff cuts at the bus company.