COACH operators have criticised the new parking arrangements at Donard car park in Newcastle. Warning that the new layout could deter operators from coming to the town, they say the site’s reconfiguration has not taken into account the many coaches and minibuses which routinely use the site.
Speaking after a site meeting with a number of local politicians, Annalong businessman Sam Hughes, who runs Classic Coaches, and James Rogan, representing Newcastle Coach Hire, said the changes to the site’s layout are far from ideal. Mr Hughes, who was also representing Coach Operators NI, a body which works on behalf of the industry, and in particular independent operators, has called for a rethink. Otherwise, he added, the drivers of these large vehicles will be presented with so many problems trying to manoeuvre into their parking spaces that operators may stop coming to the car park, and even “abandon taking bookings” altogether for trips to the seaside town.
The car park underwent changes in a bid to deter incidents of both antisocial and dangerous driving and late-night unruly behaviour, which has been plaguing residents who live in the park’s vicinity for a number of years. Work commenced at the start of the year and the car park was reopened to vehicles just over a week ago. However, Mr Hughes has described the adaptations as “just an absolute mess” and said the very limited number of spaces which coaches have been given make the site far from accommodating. “When you take into account the amount of money that has been spent on this work and the situation our drivers now face, well it’s just unbelievable,” he said. He also believes that coaches, and private domestic vehicles, now run the risk of getting damaged. “It’s just a disaster, and something needs to be done and done very soon before the season really opens up,” concluded Mr Hughes. Cllr Willie Clarke was one of the elected representatives to attend the site meeting last Wednesday. He confirmed that “a number of options to improve the layout to accommodate bus operators were discussed” and that council officers will now study the proposals to decide which option to recommend to proceed with. “There has been considerable resources spent to improve Donard car park, it is important to try to accommodate all responsible users,” he continued, adding that one of the main problems being encountered is in relation to the “manoeuvrability” of these larger vehicles. Cllr Clarke added that he hopes these can be quickly resolved.