A former Portadown man has cast doubt over the efficiency of the pay-by-phone service in Magowan Buildings car park.
The service, called Parkmobile, was highlighted by the Department of Regional Development (DRD) last week as a method of payment which offered the same benefits as manned car parks.
The DRD comment was in response to a campaign launched by DUP councillor Sydney Anderson to re-introduce the barrier system in the car park.
However, Robert Wilkinson, who is a regular visitor to Portadown, said he had not found the automated voice system easy to use.
In fact, the 70-year-old, who describes himself as IT literate, ended up receiving a ticket which he then successfully appealed, but only after a lot of inconvenience.
Mr Wilkinson parked in Magowan Buildings on July 29 so he could take his sister for lunch in the Yellow Door. He said, “I was driving a loan car as my car was in getting fixed so I didn’t have the pouch I use for change.
“I was afraid to leave the car to go and get change, in case I was fined, and saw the notice about paying by phone.
“I used my iPhone to pay but it was very difficult. You have to dial a number, then key in certain information, including your registration number, and then you have to listen to further instructions.”
He added, “It took me at least 10 minutes to sort it out and it eventually read out a registration number which I had to confirm as mine.
“I replied ‘yes’ but either the voice recognition didn’t work or I didn’t hear it properly - it was very noisy in the car park. Either way, I returned less than 50 minutes later to find a ticket.”
Unable to find a contact number on the Parkmobile machine, Mr Wilkinson ended up going home and finding the firm’s number on Google where a member of staff explained to him that the system had recorded MFZ rather than NFZ.
He added, “I had to print this off, send it to the DRD and spent time typing up a letter explaining what happened.”
Almost three weeks later, he got a letter saying the fine would be rescinded but that “a similar approach will not be taken in the event of a repeat occurrence”.
He added, “You really need to be fairly technical to use this method of payment. Certainly for a pensioner, it would be very difficult. I found it frustrating and time-consuming and the whole experience caused me a lot of anxiety.
“It certainly wouldn’t encourage people to come to Portadown and park in Magowan Buildings.”
Mr Wilkinson has not been back in the car park since then but now goes to another restaurant on the outskirts of Portadown.
AWAITIG STATEMENT FROM DRD