Monday, 23 July 2007


Today I was made to feel like and old fogey and stick-in-the-mud who can't grasp or use new technology.

This morning I parked my car at the station car park and queued to buy my train ticket and car park ticket. It's a great system that allows me to buy my car park ticket at the rail ticket counter. I write my registration number on the car park ticket and it's stored in the ticket office. I get a receipt there and then and am saved from having the task of saving the £5.50 in loose change for ticket machine in the car park.

This morning the cheery man behind the counter advised me that this was the last day that I'll be able to buy my ticket at the station ticket counter. The car park will be managed by NCP and payment will have to be made either at the ticket machine that takes loose change or by text, and he handed me a leaflet explaining how text payment worked.

I had noted that payment by text was available for a while and thought it might be useful when I chose to leave my car in the car park for more than one day.

I read about the text process.

To set it up the customer has to send a 35 digit alphanumeric text containing credit card number, expiry date and security code. I thought texts could be intercepted so I wasn't sure how secure this was.

The cost of the parking ticket remains the same at £5.50 but there's an additional charge for the text of £0.20 which is in addition to the network text charge. There's also a charge of £0.10 for a reminder text which is sent when the purchased parking expires, which for me would be at midnight. Now the nominal rate for sending a text with my mobile provider is £0.10. Add this all up and the cost for me to pay for parking has just risen by 7.2% and this follows the increase in basic parking charges just before Christmas of 10%.

I phoned NCP and asked for the old system to be reinstated. They told me that it is the railway that determines the method of payment.

I phoned One Railway and waited on hold for 40 minutes. When finally connected I asked for the old system to be reinstated. I was told that it's the car park company that determines payment method.

When I refused to be the ping pong ball batted between NCP and One Railway she advised me she merely worked in admin and I should e-mail. I asked how long I could expect to wait for a reply. They aim to respond within six days. I clarified - six working days. I e-mailed.

I e-mailed the company that administers the text payment process to ask about receipts. It's possible to log on to the web and print receipts but the receipts are just for the £5.50, not the text charges. Text charges will show up on my mobile phone bill.

I had always liked the method of paying and getting a VAT receipt because it enabled the company to claim back the VAT. I know the ticket machine in the car park doesn't print a receipt.

I phoned HM Revenue and Customs and navigated the phone menu. I spoke to a very nice lady who explained that private car parking is subject to VAT. The only car parking not subject to VAT is that operated by local authorities.

So for the company to be able to claim for the VAT paid on the text charges they'd have to have sight of my personal mobile phone bill. Isn't that an infringement of my privacy for them to have sight of who I'm phoning and texting and when?

My point is I want the old system back! I'm not a technophobe, I just struggle to see how this is an improvement.

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