How travel plans can help hospitals save money and the environment

High vehicle usage and limited parking is a recognised challenge for NHS estates. The NHS Sustainable Development Unit estimates the NHS’ 1.3 million staff, patients and visitors each day account for approximately 5% of road traffic in England.(1)

Hospitals also regularly suffer with the volume of vehicles arriving at site, putting strain on the limited availability of onsite parking. This can result in vehicles over spilling into nearby roads, impacting the surrounding community and creates challenges for staff who cannot easily access their workplace or face high parking charges.

Simon Bourke (Building services), Operational Director - Building Services

The sheer volume of this traffic not only slows travel times, it affects the environment, road safety and access times for the critically ill. Importantly, it also makes up about a fifth of the NHS carbon footprint.

One solution is to put a travel plan in place; a package of measures aimed at promoting sustainable travel within an organisation, with an emphasis on reducing reliance on single occupancy vehicle travel.


The Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust recently developed travel plans focusing on staff travel. Each travel plan was prepared based on site specific accessibility reviews (access by foot, bicycle and passenger transport), an analysis of home postcode locations in relation to travel times to and from the sites and travel surveys of staff. The analysis was used to determine how many staff would qualify for allocated parking; in this case staff whose journey to work exceeded either a 25-minute walk / cycle or 45 minutes on public transport.

A propriety digital mapping and transport program was used as evidence-based modelling to demonstrate alternative travel modes or routes that staff who lived locally could use to travel to work without a car(2). This has been very successful, with local staff making use of alternative travel means, freeing up car parking spaces for the public and reducing on-site congestion.

Hospitals can also look at the vehicles they are putting on the road. The York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust worked in partnership with Enterprise to set up a car club that employees use for business trips. Cars are provided by Enterprise and employees can hire for short trips or a full day.

Following major savings from its initial programme, the Trust significantly expanded the car club from 10 to 42 vehicles across 6 of their sites and are now achieving savings in excess of £50,000 per annum.

A well thought out travel plan, coupled with smart car usage, can significantly reduce the impact of hospital traffic on the surrounding community, improve site safety and increase business efficiency. Particular benefit can be achieved when a car club uses electric vehicles that charge off an interconnected smart grid.

Transport initiatives being looked at by freight hauliers servicing London are using depots on the outskirts of London to act as a transfer station from diesel powered vehicles to smaller electrical powered vehicles. This enables them to deliver goods in the proposed Ultra-Low Emission Zones which come into effect from October 2020.

These transport hubs are powered by a smart grid. Low carbon energy is generated on site by the use of combined cooling heating, and power (CCHP), and this is supplemented by photovoltaic cells and battery storage.

This arrangement means that low and zero carbon energy is available to charge the electric vehicles, providing a dual benefit of improving air quality by reducing vehicle generated emissions and reducing carbon emissions.

This type of arrangement would also work effectively for hospitals. A site with a large requirement for business travel can be considered as a transport hub and will often also be a large generator of energy.

Introducing a car club to a hospital has demonstrable cost savings as well as sustainability and health and safety benefits. By extending this to a transport policy that uses electric vehicles for business travel and uses on-site generated low or zero carbon energy sources for charging them will both reduce operational costs and overall carbon emissions.

An extended version of this article will appear in the IFHE Digest 2019

(1) NHS Sustainable Development Unit, SDU Knowledge Briefing 1, undated
(2) Basemap, Case study: Improving Parking and Promoting Active Travel, undated

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