Hospital car park was in a different time zone

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WHEN Pat Savage put her parking ticket into a machine at West Suffolk Hospital, she thought she would avoid paying for extra time by minutes.

By her watch she had been parked for an hour and 58 minutes, but according to the machine it was three minutes later than her watch said and the fee jumped from £2.90 to £4.20. The extra minute over two hours had cost her £1.30.

Mrs Savage, from Belchamp St Paul, near Sudbury, went to parking contractors Vinci Park’s kiosk to query the timing.

“I explained what happened and asked him the time,” she said. “He said all the machines ran off the same timer. He wouldn’t check the time and refused to give his name or a refund.”

As she had been visiting her husband Chris in the hospital’s cardiac unit, Mrs Savage was already stressed and said the parking attendant’s attitude made it worse. “He was thoroughly unpleasant,” she said.

When she checked her watch against the BBC time signal on her car radio, she found the car park machines were even faster than her watch said.

The Bury Free Press checked the clock on a mobile phone against the speaking clock and the Greenwich Mean Time website. It showed that last Thursday the hospital parking meters were five minutes fast.

Nobody would have paid for more time than they used, because the ticket’s start time would also be fast. But it meant anyone checking the time on their ticket and trying to return to the car before having to pay a higher fee had five minutes less than they thought.

A Vinci Park spokesman said: “We apologise to Ms Savage for any inconvenience caused. All of our pay stations are synchronised with the entry barriers to ensure that only the time used is paid for. We have carried out a full review of the timings of the machines and can confirm that these have been adjusted to ensure they synchronise with GMT.

“We would also like to reassure Ms Savage that we take complaints against our staff seriously and are carrying out a full investigation.”

On Wednesday, Mrs Savage said she had been given a day’s free parking and signs now ask drivers to check the shown time against their watches.