Eco-savvy driver's confusion over EV charging fine

Stephen Bird, 57, parked his BMW 330e at the town's railway station charging hub.

Stephen Bird, 57, parked his BMW 330e at the town's railway station charging hub as he lives in a flat on Stewart Road and cannot charge it at home. - Credit: Stephen Bird

There's no such thing as a free charge, as one Harpenden motorist discovered when he received parking tickets for leaving his hybrid car at a train station electricity point. 

Canny Stephen Bird, 57, parked his BMW 330e at Harpenden railway station charging hub as he lives in a flat on Stewart Road and cannot charge it at home, but didn't think he would need to pay for the privilege even though the town's commuters pay £1,290 a year to do so.

He explained: "I started receiving parking tickets for using the chargers as I hadn’t bought a ticket. I had assumed that the parking would be free to charge electric cars, as it is elsewhere. The fine is £100 - or £60 if paid within 14 days.

"So I appealed the first two tickets saying that I was charging and also as the sign they have by the charging point is wrong, but the company APCOA has turned them down."

He said: "I bought a hybrid car as I spend most of my time doing very short distances and wanted to help the environment. 

"I try to fill up with electricity rather that petrol as much as I possibly can. I am shocked that it is so unclear and would like everyone in Harpenden to know about this so that they don’t get unnecessary charges like I did. 

"I would like companies that have public chargers to consider offer free parking, otherwise charging just becomes prohibitively expensive and will really delay the rollout of electric cars in this country."

Stephen Bird, 57, parked his BMW 330e at the town's railway station charging hub as he lives in a flat.

Stephen Bird, 57, parked his BMW 330e at the town's railway station charging hub as he lives in a flat on Stewart Road and cannot charge it at home. - Credit: Stephen Bird

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Thameslink and Great Northern customer services director Jenny Saunders said: "Getting the train is a greener way to travel, but we want to help our customers make their journey to the station sustainable as well.

"That's why, in 2020, we opened what was then Britain's biggest electric vehicle charging hub at Hatfield, and last year we added extra EV pods at 10 further stations across our network, including St Albans and Harpenden.  

"To help people go green, we give away the electricity for free, but I'm afraid motorists do still need to pay to park. Nowhere do we say parking is free and no-one before has ever thought that it was.

"However, as a gesture of goodwill, we will ask the car park management firm to waive this fine, and hope that the publicity will encourage still more people to use our station charging points and go green."