Cheaper bus deal for hospital workers

Workers at Norfolk's flagship hospital are to be offered cheaper bus travel as part of a radical congestion-busting plan that could be rolled out to other public-sector workers or large firms.

Workers at Norfolk's flagship hospital are to be offered cheaper bus travel as part of a radical congestion-busting plan that could be rolled out to other public-sector workers or large firms.

Bosses at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital have struck a deal with bus firm First Eastern Counties which would enable staff to buy year- long season tickets at a 63pc discount.

That would see them paying £158 for a ticket instead of the normal selling price of £430.

And supporters believe it could hold the key to cutting traffic levels on the city's streets while boosting bus travel.

All staff, including contractors, would be eligible for the zone 1 to 5 passes which also cover the city and large parts of the county and can be used seven days a week and bank holidays.

The move is an extension of the hospital's so-called Green Travel plan aimed at cutting car use, and boosting public transport and is an upgrade to a preliminary version set up when the hospital opened, offering staff a £260 ticket.

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Similar initiatives are in place at the UEA and James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston.

Paul Forden, N&N chief executive, said: “This new step is an impressive way to cut costs for our staff and contractors, many of whom work across shifts . . . First Eastern Counties has developed an excellent concept and responded extremely well to our requirements. The reduction in the number of private cars and the saving of parking space make the other economic and environmental benefits a real bonus.”

Currently 150 hospital staff use the annual bus passes, but First Eastern Counties hopes that under the new scheme the numbers will rise to 500 - around 10pc of workers.

Philip Seago, First Eastern Counties' operations manager, said the scheme could be rolled out to other major employers such as councils or large firms.

“There is no reason why it can't be applied to other large organisations or businesses in our service area where there is the right volume of people, and we would be happy for anybody who wanted to discuss it to contact us,” he said.

“This has proved an excellent opportunity to develop with our partners a scheme that offers the best possible deal to such important groups of bus users.”

He added that it was the success of the UEA scheme which had made possible the latest initiative.

“The growth in both passenger volumes and their approval levels over the first three years indicates the success of the concept. The environmental benefits are a significant benefit of such a scheme and other aspects of the plan include the promotion of walking, cycling and car sharing,” he said.