CONGESTION at Great Western Hospital may be a thing of the past thanks to a new staff shuttle service to be introduced in January.

The shuttle-bus will run from Honda’s South Marston site and will free up around 200 parking spaces at the hospital for use by patients and visitors.

The service is set to launch on January 4 with no cost to its users who pay between £3.33 a week and £200 a year to park at Great Western Hospital.

Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust will foot the £30,000 bill but points out that the cost is dramatically under budget.

Mark Bagnall, director of estates and facilities management at GWH NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We had hoped to get this in place by Christmas but there are still a few issues to sort out.

“The service will be up and running by January 4 and after speaking to staff about the plans, many have said it is a service they will be glad to use.”

The shuttle bus has been launched after a review of the hospital’s parking provision following a surge of complaints about hour-long waits to find a space.

Mr Bagnall said: “We decided to create the bus service for staff because in some circumstances it would be difficult to ask patients to park up and take a bus in.

“Many may also drive to the hospital to find a space and would only use the service as a last resort whereas staff would find it more convenient as many have to pass Honda to get here anyway.”

The news will be a welcome relief to most patients and visitors.

After 45 minutes of driving round the packed car park, Melanie Crayford from Old Town said the changes couldn’t come quickly enough.

“It is definitely about time something was done there,” said Melanie, who has been stranded with husband Stephen in the car park on several occasions.

“It has been okay in the past but suddenly it is mayhem up there,” she said.

“I am certainly pleased the bus is going to be for staff because it will not only free-up spaces for patients but it means patients are not forced to take a bus.”