Commuters clash with highway chiefs

HIGH noon was today approaching in a looming clash between commuters and highway chiefs at one of the area's railway stations.Drivers who have traditionally left their cars parked alongside the A137 near Manningtee station are in for a shock when £70 fines are introduced in less than a fortnight.

HIGH noon was today approaching in a looming clash between commuters and highway chiefs at one of the area's railway stations.

Drivers who have traditionally left their cars parked alongside the A137 near Manningtee station are in for a shock when £70 fines are introduced in less than a fortnight.

A rail users' group today warned the change would cause big problems as the car park at the station was not adequate to cater for the 50 vehicles which are regularly left parked at the side of the road.

Commuters returned to their cars yesterday to find notices warning them that a new clearway order had been introduced.

The warning said: “This means that from 14 April 2008 it will be an offence to park on the carriageway, footway or verge alongside the A137 and you will be liable to be ticketed by Tendring District Council civil enforcement officers.”

Derek Monnery, chairman of the Manningtree Rail Users Association, said: “The timing is not good.

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“They've been planning for some time to put an extension to the car park but for one reason or another it's been held up.

“There are 50 cars that park down there every day and there isn't room for 50 cars in the car park. What they're doing is forcing 50 drivers off the trains and on to the roads.

“There's bound to be problems. I don't think there's any doubt there's going to be a lot of very angry people over there.”

The change will be the latest headache for motorists who could be forgiven for wanting to avoid the Manningtree area at the moment. Work on the tunnel under the railway bridge has led to congestion after cars were limited to travelling over the bridge and hence faced delays when the crossing barrier was down. Drivers reported queues of up to half a mile.

The number of cars left along the A137 while their owners head to London or other towns to work has grown over the years.

Among them are motorists from Ipswich keen to avoid the busy platforms and parking charges at Ipswich station.

Mr Monnery said: “It's grown over a period. People come from as far away as Aldeburgh and Woodbridge.”

Peter Meades, spokesman for rail operator National Express East Anglia, said plans for the extension to the Manningtree car park were progressing well but he admitted it could still take several months to complete.

“There's every likelihood the scheme will commence in the not-too-distant future. We've gone through a number of the planning stages, at the moment we're carrying out surveys on site.

“It will significantly increase the capacity. We recognise it's something that needs to be taken forward.”

What do you think about the parking crackdown? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk