When you think of a car park, you usually think of a dark, eerie place that reeks of exhaust fumes. On top of that, there's always the fear of not finding your car in the same condition as when you left it. To top it all off, there's nearly always high parking charges.
The operators of the car park at Berne station are proud to say that none of this applies to their car park. In 2015, it was the first Swiss car park to receive the European Gold Standard Parking Award, Europe's most prestigious quality distinction. The prize is awarded after an in-depth examination of the car parks based on almost one hundred criteria.
The car park opened in the spring of 1964 and already has 54 years of history behind it. Planning and construction have been forward-looking, with spacious ramps and traffic lanes. Even a large vehicle can be parked in one of the 902 spaces with no risk of damage.
Parking for 60 minutes costs between CHF 2.00 and CHF 4.60 for a standard parking space, depending on the time of day – less than the price of a coffee.
All vehicles with four wheels on two axles, weighing less than 3.5 tonnes and less than 2.10 metres in height may park there. Access is forbidden to two- and three-wheeled vehicles (including those with sidecars).
Bruno Wägli, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors, took the time to answer our questions and welcomed the Protectas interview team to his offices.
How do prices vary depending on the size of the parking space?
Bruno Wägli: "Big Brother is watching you" – when entering the car park, the number plate is automatically recognised (LPR = Licence Plate Recognition) and recorded on the parking ticket; for the "very compact" tariff, the length of the vehicle is automatically measured. When the vehicle is parked in a smart or XXL space, the surveillance system recognises the vehicle and applies the appropriate rate when paying, using the data on the ticket. Of course, the number plate recognition data is regularly erased.
How is on-site surveillance and security provided?
For over 20 years, we've been relying on Protectas as a dependable, professional partner. Our in-house team of just ten people is supported by Protectas security guards, mainly between 10pm and 7am. Tasks range from using the system to providing assistance with lost tickets, credit cards, car breakdowns and patrols. On the whole, it's very varied.
It's interesting to note that there are an average of ten assistance calls per hour. The entire car park, and consequently the 6,000 or so vehicles entering and leaving every day, is monitored by video. Physical presence is nevertheless very important, and this cannot be stressed enough. Staff are present at all times. Protectas' professional security guards work at night and also accompany people to their vehicles if they so request. They can be called using the button on the ticket machines. In addition to the station car park, other nearby car parks are monitored by the surveillance centre.
Where is your sector heading?
In the medium term, car park tickets will disappear as they will be digitalised, as will the payment procedure. But we mustn't forget that there will always be people who want to be served by humans. I think I'm far too old for robots (laughing).
What are your main security risks?
Fire is always a concern, so fire protection must always be fully operational. This issue is becoming increasingly topical with the rise of electric vehicles. Batteries that catch fire cannot be extinguished by traditional means. To date, there have been no fires in car parks – but what if there were?
We also have the problem of illegal fly tipping.
Partners like Protectas make life easier. Based on our many years of experience, we can thoroughly recommend Protectas as a partner. The success factors behind our collaboration are flexibility, professionalism, responsiveness and adaptability. And in Mr Udry (Account Manager and Basel/Berne Area Manager), we have a very efficient contact person.
"Based on our many years of experience, we can thoroughly recommend Protectas as a partner. The success factors behind our collaboration are flexibility, professionalism, responsiveness and adaptability."
Dr. Bruno Wägli Chairman of the Board of Directors and Dr. Bruno Wägli Chairman of the Board of Directors and Managing Director of Berne railway station car park.