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No more 'free' park and ride for hospital staff
FREE parking for hospital staff at two of Oxford’s park and ride sites has been scrapped.
Long-stay charges were introduced at Thornhill and Water Eaton back in April but some hospital employees were exempt.
The council passed plans to bring in short-term charges but didn’t agree to exclude the same staff from the costs.
Doctors are concerned at the impact the new charges will have with one even claiming “people could die”.
Speaking at the meeting at County Hall yesterday, Dr Mark Woodhall, from the university’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, said the charges could force staff to watch the clock and restrict their work to fit in with the 11 hours charge.
He said: “I’m currently working for the University and for the NHS and I run an extremely rare diagnostic process.
“Without me being able to do that, people could die, because no-one else is able to do it.
“Hospital and university staff are told to use the park and ride by their employers and then you go and charge us to park there.
“It’s actually cheaper to park at the hospital than it will be to use the park and ride.”
The change was made as cabinet members approved short-term parking charges of £2 for up to 11 hours at the sites, where drivers pay £4 for between 11 and 24 hours.
The council claims it cannot afford to offer the exemption as it attempts to save £500,000 from its annual budget by introducing the short-term charges.
Staff will instead be offered a “season ticket” deal when booking annual tickets – giving them a 25 per cent discount.
Dr Woodhall’s concerns about cars being parking in neighbouring streets are shared by residents, who say they have already seen a rise in the number of cars since long-stay charges were introduced.
Delbush Avenue resident Sue Holden said hospital workers were likely to leave their cars in the estate and catch the bus rather than pay to park.
She said: “All the good work done through the extension will be lost as far as Sandhills residents are concerned.”
Dr Louisa Kent, a doctor and researcher who works at the John Radcliffe Hospital, also raised concerns about lower-paid staff.
She said: “I am particularly worried about the hospital, because I think an extra cost of £1,000 a year is too much.
“I also think that 11 hours isn’t a reasonable enough time. The NHS relies on people staying until the job is completed and I don’t like the fact this penalises people working longer hours.
“An extra £1,000 isn’t affordable for me, and I dread to think what it will do to nursing staff and cleaners.”
OUHT spokesman Richard Maynard said: “The trust has consulted extensively with the county council, and is disappointed at the introduction of charges because it discourages the use of public of transport and the park and ride service.
“These additional costs to staff will inevitably impact on recruitment.”
The charges have also been opposed by Oxford University, and at the meeting its travel officer Ed Wigzell raised concerns that staff might be put off working in the city.
He said: “There are a large number of university staff who strongly oppose this proposal.”
Cabinet member for environment David Nimmo-Smith said: “It’s important to remember Oxford has five park and ride sites.
“It’s also important to remember park and rides are set up for the benefit of all Oxford commuters and visitors, and whatever happens today it is still cheaper to use the park and ride than to park in the Westgate for a day.”
Council leader Ian Hudspeth also questioned whether taxpayers – who currently subsidise the service – should foot the bill for commuters.
He said: “There is a cost involved in running these services, and it’s not cheap. Should the users pay that cost or should it be the general public?”
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