I stopped at Abington services on the M74 to charge my electric car. I had to wait over half an hour for a connector to become free, then spent an hour and a half charging. Ten days later, I received a £100 penalty charge for exceeding the two-hour free parking period. Like most people, I’ve never spent more than two hours in a motorway service station and it didn’t cross my mind to buy a ticket. Others should be warned that when charging, it’s easy to run over the limit.
DW, Cupar, Fife
The mandatory free parking period, which applies to service stations across the UK, belongs to a different era when two hours was ample to use the lav and buy a meal. The rationale was that without a parking limit, the public would embrace service stations as a destination for a delightful day out, rather than as a pit stop.
As electric vehicles proliferate faster than public charging points, some motorists may need longer. At Abington, a punitive £15 parking fee kicks in after two hours and many drivers will be unaware they’ve exceeded the limit while charging. If this is not paid, a £100 PCN is issued
Welcome Break, which operates the service station, says there are signs “dotted around” and that it has a duty to ensure drivers leave promptly to make way for others. “The parking policy reflects the guidance from National Highways which states that a two-hour break is adequate for all drivers who seek a rest while driving,” it says. National Highways told me its guidance was based on the requirements of the Department for Transport and it has no powers to amend parking limits.
The Department for Transport has no plans to increase the limit. Instead it says it is providing £1.3bn to increase charge points and aims to install 6,000 on the motorway services network by 2035. “Our measures are increasing charging speeds, while making plug-in points more accessible, and today a driver is never more than 25 miles from a rapid charge point anywhere along England’s major A roads and motorways,” it says, rather missing the point.
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