Free parking needed at Christmas - Mayor

URGENT talks with the Transport Minister have been called for to waive parking charges in Lurgan and Portadown during the Christmas shopping period.

Craigavon Mayor Carla Lockhart said the minister had brought in free parking for Lisburn and Belfast last year during Christmas and the same should be done in the borough.

Speaking at this week’s Council meeting, Cllr Lockhart said a meeting must be set up urgently to bring in the changes before Christmas.

She was speaking as Minister, Danny Kennedy, announced a package of measures to provide help for shoppers and traders in the run up to Christmas.

The package of measures includes: expanded Park and Ride Services for Belfast, Lisburn, Newry and Londonderry. These Park and Ride services will operate on each evening when there is late night shopping and all day on Saturdays with the last service leaving the city centre 30 minutes after the shops close. These services will operate for five weeks from Monday 19 November to Saturday 22 December.

Free Park and Ride Services after 4.30pm on weekdays and all day each Saturday. For these five weeks, each of the Park and Ride services listed above will provide free parking and bus travel for people travelling into the city after 4.30 pm on the weekdays when late night shopping is in place and all day each Saturday.

Reduced Saturday Metro Fares: Translink currently offers a promotional day ticket for £2 offering unlimited travel on Metro services in Belfast after 09:30 on Saturdays. This promotion will be extended until 5 January 2013.

Embargo on road works on strategic routes in the Greater Belfast area from 26 November until after Christmas; this applies to works carried out by Roads Service and the utilities with the exception of emergency works.

Increasing train capacity: from 19 November the majority of train services operating between Belfast and Coleraine will be increased from 3-carriage to 6-carriage services.

Additional late night Christmas shopping train: From Saturday 3 December an additional late night Christmas shopping train will be introduced from Great Victoria Street Station to Coleraine, departing Belfast at 22:08 (Monday to Saturday). This service will operate until Saturday 22 December.

The Minister added “These measures will encourage people to use public transport which will, in turn, make it easier for those who need to use a car to park and drive within the cities.

“I am aware that there have been calls for free on-street parking in the lead up to Christmas but in previous years we have seen that this led to an increase in congestion and created parking safety issues. The measures developed by my Department, in conjunction with Translink, provide better choice and value for all road users which will lead to more people using our city centres for Christmas shopping, providing a vital boost for our traders.”