Health services want Park and Ride scheme introduced in Southend

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New plans for improving health care across South Essex show that health services want a park and ride service introduced in Southend to tackle growing levels of air pollution.

Details of the idea have been outlined in a five-year plan which looks at how healthcare will be transformed to focus more on preventative measures.

One aspect of this is to work out way to improve air quality, which Public Health England has said kills up to 36,000 people in the UK each year and has also been branded deadlier than smoking by European researchers.

The Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership report said part of tackling air pollution in Southend would include include exploring “the creation of Park and Ride schemes that could better serve the airport and encourage the use of the excellent train service to access its beaches”.

Councillor Ron Woodley, who oversees transport in Southend, said: “In the past it has been a consideration and we are not going to rule it out, but we would need to identify where it would work. We know on the A13 boundaries there is not a lot of space to do that and the same thing on the A127 approach.

“So we need to look at what we’ve got and wonder where can we best put a Park and Ride site.”

He added: “We are not ruling anything out but also not ruling anything in.”

Southend Council did trial a park and ride scheme in 2017 with a bus service from Southend Civic Centre car park on Victoria Avenue to the seafront, but passenger numbers were low and the idea was eventually scrapped.

The scheme is being used in towns and cities across the country including Chelmsford and Cambridge.

Proposals for a scheme have also been submitted to Basildon Council to improve access to the hospital. It would lead to hospital staff parking being removed to encourage employees to use the buses.

Councillor Matt Dent has strongly advocated for improvements to air quality in Southend but has also opposed the health care transformation plans which would include splitting treatment between Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospital.

He said: “I like the idea of a park and ride scheme and its an idea that has been mooted for forever and a day. The main thing we would need is a site in the borough but outside of Southend.

“If they are talking about improving air quality I would ask how does the air quality improve under their plans to run patients between Southend and Basildon?”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter