There has been new year chaos and widespread condemnation of a new parking system at Preston and Chorley hospitals.
Visitors and patients have told of a 40-minute wait to pay and queues were seen stretching around corridors in Royal Preston Hospital and across the front entrance at Chorley.
This comes after the introduction of new automatic number plate recognition parking machines at the hospitals two weeks ago, replacing the old barrier system.
Lynn Brooks posted on the Post's Facebook site, saying: "It was horrendous at Chorley today. Only one pay meter working so had to queue for over 40 minutes."
Pat Sweeney said: "Its awful at R P H only 2 machines both in side next to each other que right past the blood clinic we need more pay stations."
Kenny Sutton wrote: "12.15 in...14.45 out (2 hours 30 minutes) charged us £5.50.(4hrs ) Qued 4 around 30 mins. 2 get a ticket."
Liz Beaver said: "Been to Chorley hospital twice this week. Ridiculous queue. Why can't there be more pay stations. I heard from a friend you have to pay near the car park where you have parked. Crazy. I went through a long procedure to pay online at home. I'm still not sure if I paid! Please those responsible talk to the people in the queue and prioritise sorting this out!"
Kris Tina said: "We couldn't use the machine tonight as they had crashed at Chorley. Was told to just drive away as there was no way of paying."
Laurence Bishop wrote: "I signed up to pay on line with their "good2go" site. Added £20 on their site, but I've still not seen any transactions or any indication of the days I parked. Tried ringing "good2go" but no answer, seems a very amateur set up to me."
Adam Fletcher wrote: "Not once have the cameras picked up my car reg both at Chorley and Preston on several visits."
A private firm, ParkingEye has been brought in to deal with enforcing the new system.
A ParkingEye spokesperson said: “Motorists are able to pay at the kiosks or online via good2go.
“New users of good2go can register before, during or up to 24 hours after their visit to the car park (www.parkgood2go.com) and will get their first visit free of charge.
“Each time you park thereafter payment will be dealt with automatically.
“All kiosks are operational and we have plans in place to install additional kiosks in the coming weeks in areas of high footfall.
“This will help address many of the concerns.”
The spokesman added: “ParkingEye is a member of the British Parking Association (BPA) and operates an audited appeals process, motorists are encouraged to appeal if they feel there are mitigating circumstances.”
When the changes were announced in early December, Paul Havey, Deputy Chief Executive and Finance Director at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH), which runs the sites said: “The introduction of the ANPR technology brings our car park infrastructure and management system up to the standards that many drivers have come to expect from modern-day car parks.
“The new ‘pay on foot’ approach and additional payment methods makes things far more convenient for visitors.
“Our current barrier and payment system is very dated and more of a hindrance than useful. We have continually received complaints from visitors and staff over the years about delays at the car park barriers when entering and exiting and the knock-on effect this has on the surrounding roads on our sites.”
Speaking on Thursday, December 3, Mr Harvey stood by the Trust's decision to introduce the APR car parking system.
He said: “Many people who visit our hospitals will be familiar with ANPR car parking systems in places like shopping centres or supermarkets for example. These systems which, use the pay on exit approach with no ticket being required as the system recognises when vehicles enter and exit the car parks, are very common nowadays and the installation at our hospitals is a way of bringing our car parking facilities into line with the standards people have come to expect.
“ANPR also provides a consistent way of charging for parking and will allow us to introduce new ways to pay too. Previously people have only been able to pay by cash at our hospitals and this can sometimes be an inconvenience when trying to find a cash machine and get the right change. Nobody wants to be inconvenienced or unnecessarily stressed when visiting hospital.
“We realise there have been some issues and confusion as we transition over to the new system. Engineers from Parking Eye have now rectified reported issues with pay machines and the system is now fully working at both our Preston and Chorley hospital sites. We are also working with Parking Eye to install additional pay machines and relocate others to high footfall areas in order to reduce queues as much as possible.
“Once people become familiar with using the new system, we are confident that the ANPR technology will help to improve peoples’ experiences of parking at our hospitals by reducing the delays associated with the old barrier system and removing some of the stress that the old payment method caused.
“We’ll be working closely with ParkingEye over the coming weeks to make sure that all of our staff, patients and visitors are aware of the change and do not experience any avoidable problems. This includes applying a grace period whereby any driver who makes a genuine error in using the new system for the first time will not receive a parking charge notice.”