The future of Truro’s park and ride, operated from two sites at Langarth and Tregurra, is hanging in the balance after its operator First Bus gave notice to run the service on behalf of Cornwall Council. 

The bus company say the park and ride, which provides valuable travel in the city for commuters, is “unsustainable”. 

When first approached the bus company said that rumours that it had given the council notice were wide of the mark, adding that talks were under way with the council as the “existing operation [is] unsustainable in its current format”. 

However, the Local Democracy Reporting Service have now seen an internal council email which verifies that First Bus has pulled out of the service which is used by staff at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Cornwall Council and myriad businesses and organisations in Truro. 

The council email states: “As you will be aware, First Cornwall operate Truro Park and Ride on behalf of Cornwall Council, through a contract that commenced in March 2020 for eight years. First Kernow have chosen to give notice to Cornwall Council on this service. The contractual notice period is six months which takes us to early 2024 and we are currently reviewing all the options available to us ahead of a procurement exercise. 

“To offer reassurance, the smooth continuation of the park and ride is key to all that we are doing. We recognise that the service is essential to many people accessing the city for work, health and leisure purposes and to help reduce congestion around the city. 

“Some service users will undoubtedly be concerned for the future of the service and we wish to reiterate that Cornwall Council remains committed to the operation of the park and ride and to sourcing an effective and sustainable resource for its continued operation.” 

The future of the two sites, the first of which opened to great fanfare in 2008, was initially called in to question in a blog about the Duchy’s bus services by former Cornwall councillor Bob Egerton. 

He wrote that a “reliable source within the bus industry” had advised him that First Bus had given the council notice to cease operating the city’s park and ride system, which is known as Park for Truro. 

First Bus said that was wide of the mark and added that talks were under way with Cornwall Council in a bid to safeguard its long-term future. 

Before the council email verifying the company had pulled out had been seen, James Eustace, director for First Bus South, said: “I can confirm that talks are under way with Cornwall Council around the current park and ride service in Truro. Passenger recovery and growth for the park and ride service has been slow since the Covid pandemic, driven by changing consumer behaviours and changes to work patterns. 

“These changes have made the existing operation unsustainable in its current format. We must therefore identify and introduce changes to how the service is operated in order to protect its longer-term future. Discussions are ongoing to address these issues as we look to explore various solutions which will make the service viable, and we hope to share plans as to what this looks like in the coming weeks.” 

Mr Eustace added: “We strongly believe that there is a future for the park and ride service in Truro and will continue to work hard to develop and implement changes which ensure it continues to serve the local community and visitors in the years to come. In the meantime, we will continue to work in partnership with Cornwall Council to ensure the service is operated in the best way to benefit our customers.” 

The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted the bus company for further comment having seen the council’s verification that First Bus has given notice. The company said it stood by the above statement given by Mr Eustace and wouldn’t be making further comment. 

Truro’s park and ride is open Monday to Saturday, except bank holidays, at Langarth Park, which has 1,209 spaces to the west of the city near Threemilestone, and Tregurra Park, which has 1,379 spaces in the east of Truro next to the Waitrose store. Langarth buses stop at Truro College, the Royal Cornwall Hospital, New County Hall / Lys Kernow and Truro Railway Station, while Tregurra serves Quay Street bus station, Victoria Square, the Royal Cornwall Museum and the railway station. 

Part of the park and ride site at Tregurra, Truro
Part of the park and ride site at Tregurra, Truro (Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

Truro councillor Rob Nolan said: “The park and ride is vital to Truro’s economy, particularly following on from the recent shocking hike in car park charges and the loss of the Viaduct Car Park to the Pydar Development. So any suggestion that the service could be reduced, or even stopped, is deeply worrying. Cornwall Council must ensure that this brilliant service is fully supported.” 

Mr Egerton wrote in his blog: “The Truro park and ride system is absolutely essential in enabling workers at Treliske Hospital in particular to get to and from work. Without the park and ride, it would be impossible for everyone working at or visiting the hospital to park in close proximity to it. The park and ride also takes many other cars off the road that would otherwise be clogging up the roads and car parks within the city centre. 

“This means that the council has to find a way to keep the park and ride operating, whether it is through renegotiating the contract with First or finding another operator for the buses. The council has made it more difficult for itself to find another operator since it gave up its own ticketing system earlier in 2023 and turned the provision of multi-day ticketing over to First.” 

From February of this year, the way tickets are purchased for the park and ride changed. Users can no longer buy tickets or top up existing multi-day cards from the site offices or ticket machines at Tregurra and Langarth. Drivers now have to buy day tickets from drivers on buses or purchase multi-day tickets viat the First Bus app. 

A spokesperson for Cornwall Council said: “Truro Park & Ride is a much valued and key transport link for people working in or visiting the city and a service that we are committed to maintaining. It not only offers a low-cost and reliable service for passengers, but also cuts down on the numbers of cars travelling in the city centre, helping to reduce congestion and improve air quality.”