Lancashire street's parking signs cause confusion after drivers are told to call the wrong number to pay

Lancashire County Council has apologised after the wrong phone number was put on signs telling drivers how to pay to park on a city centre street.

Sunday, 20th March 2022, 1:26 pm
Within sight of the building where Lancashire's on-street parking fees are set and penalty charges are processed, the pay and display sign on Pitt Street in Preston bears the wrong phone number (all images: Neil Cross)
Within sight of the building where Lancashire's on-street parking fees are set and penalty charges are processed, the pay and display sign on Pitt Street in Preston bears the wrong phone number (all images: Neil Cross)

The error was made on three parking information plates on Pitt Street in Preston – in the shadow of the authority’s own headquarters at County Hall.

Charging was introduced at the location for the first time last year when a new pay and display system was installed.

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Drivers are told that they can pay at the machines or by calling the number on the sign

Payment options include the traditional purchase of a ticket with cash or the use of an app.

The full range of methods is correctly detailed on the pay and display machines themselves, but the roadside signage advising motorists how long they can park also points them towards a “pay by phone” option.

However, anybody following the instructions on those signs in order to use that service will have been confronted with a message telling them that the number they have called is not recognised and asking them to dial again.

Yet no matter how often they try, their call will never be connected – because a digit has inadvertently been missed off the plates.

Spot the difference? The phone number on the sign has 10 digits...

The county council says that it will rectify the signs – which are attached to lampposts alongside the on-street parking bays – after it was brought to the authority’s attention by a driver who received a penalty charge for leaving his vehicle without paying when he was unable to get through on the phone.

The motorist, who did not want to be named, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “After the first couple of goes, I just thought I must have misdialed, because I was in a rush – but then I presumed that there must have been a problem with the line.

“I didn’t have any change on me to pay in cash and, in the panic that I was going to be late for a meeting, I never dreamed of going over to one of the machines to see if the phone number there matched up with the sign in front of me.

“If I had done that, I’ve since discovered that I would have found out that there was also a credit card option and an app – but I just assumed that the cash or call options on the lamppost sign were the only possibilities. I probably should drag myself into the digital age.

...whereas on the pay and display machine, the correct 11-digit number is shown - with the missing '0' included after the '3' (the different 0010 and 0060 endings seen on the machines and signs are interchangeable and both connect to the pay-by-phone service)

“I’ve got no problem with paying the penalty charge – that was the risk I took by leaving the car knowing that I hadn’t bought a ticket.

“It’s easy to make mistakes, especially with numbers – but you always just take it for granted that roadsigns are correct.”

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said of the error: “We’re very sorry that the phone number given for people to pay for their parking on these signs is wrong – we will get them corrected as soon as possible. However, the phone number on the actual pay and display machine is correct.

“In addition to pay by phone, there are a number of alternatives available, which are to pay by cash or card at the pay and display machine, or by downloading the RingGo app.”

Lancashire County Council has apologised for the error on the signs, but pointed out that the details on the machines are correct

Until the pay and display system was introduced, Pitt Street was a mixture of free parking and double yellow lines where parking was not permitted.

County Hall brought in the charges – and a maximum four-hour stay – between 8am and 6pm every day in order to increase the turnover of vehicles and to accommodate more people visiting the city centre.

The street had also previously been the scene of double parking and drivers leaving their vehicles in restricted areas.