PR: Bathampton Meadows Alliance says council is inflating demand for an eastern Park & Ride with talk of adding a bus service to the RUH

 Campaigners against a 1,400 park and ride in eastern Bath have warned councillors that claims that patients at the RUH could use up to 500 parking spaces a day at a new Park and Ride to the east of the city, are not backed up by the evidence, and could be seen as an attempt to inflate demand for the controversial development. Transport officials have even been talking of providing a direct bus service from the proposed eastern Park & Ride to take patients across the city to the RUH. However Christine Boyd, a spokesperson for the campaign group the Bathampton Meadows Alliance, said the extension of parking by a further 300 spaces that’s currently underway at the RUH is expected to go a long way to meeting demand, and there is already a good established bus service from the east via the bus station.
 Ms Boyd, who is herself a former councillor, said: “Once again we see forecasts from BANES that are in fact just assumptions. These figures that BANES’ consultants have come up with appear not to have come from the hospital or any patient surveys.”
 Ms Boyd said: “For people travelling from Wiltshire who don’t want to drive, or don’t have a car, there is already a great bus service to the RUH via the bus station. All the Wiltshire buses go into the bus station and the number 14 leaves the station every 10 minutes to the RUH. This makes a nonsense of providing a bus from a Park & Ride to Queen Square, to intercept a bus that they could pick up on existing services.” In a letter to the Cabinet, on behalf of the Alliance, Ms Boyd pointed out that a third of Bath residents don’t have cars, and that this proportion could be higher among those travelling to the hospital.
 “The sick and the very elderly and people with disabilities can’t always get to a Park & Ride,” Ms Boyd said. “And it would be discriminatory to focus our scarce resources on services that they can’t access.”
 Council plans for an eastern Park & Ride are expected to cost up to £12 million, and come at a time when other front-line services in BANES are being cut to save money. Ms Boyd said that current NHS strategy is to aim to treat as many people as possible closer to home, to try to reduce the numbers visiting hospital. “This means that in future we may see a decline in demand for travel to the RUH, not a rise, as these figures seem to assume. And we know that the figures BANES is basing these assumptions on are already at best two years old.”
 The consultants Mott MacDonald estimate that a Park & Ride to the east of Bath would remove 5% of morning traffic off the London Road but that figure would not be reached until 2029. Campaigners say that that figure also doesn’t take into account suppressed demand, that is people currently choosing not to travel along the London Road because it is so heavily congested at peak times but who would then use the London Road if it did become less congested.
 Ms Boyd said: “Before BANES takes the very costly step of developing a large-scale P&R to the east with its stated aim of reducing congestion, and given that existing P&Rs in Bath are so underused when daily congestion is highest, the council must do something that will actually ease congestion when it is most needed, rather than build what will be an expensive white elephant.”