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THE car park system at RUH Bath has been taken over by a new contractor, Saba UK, who is implementing new pay stations, easier to use payment machines, and more payment options say Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust. The change comes years after strong criticism from the local community who lambasted the previous car park scheme.
Since 2017, Melksham News has reported that numerous visitors were complaining about unfair charges, implemented by the previous company, ParkingEye, who ran the car parks on behalf of the RUH. The complaints included people being fined despite paying the correct amount or if they typed in the wrong registration number by mistake; concerns over the confusing system; poor signage; and the complicated and lengthy appeals system.
Some people claimed that the system was “designed to deliberately entrap people” to maximise the fines.
Of particular concern was how Blue Badge holders were treated. At the time, they had to register their Blue Badges at reception which was difficult for people with mobility problems and, if they were parking at A&E, they had to go to reception at the other end of the hospital. The parking office at the main reception was also not always open.
In 2019, Melksham News reported the case of a 93-year-old Blue Badge holder who was fined after parking at the hospital. As a result, Melksham News was inundated with cases of other people who had a similar experience. Several people were fined, despite registering their Blue Badges. All the complaints received were forwarded to both Parking Eye and RUH Bath, who issued statements in reply. However, more readers cited problems with the parking system.
Patients and visitors told Melksham News that the system was causing extra stress to people who were often visiting the hospital for appointments, tests or seeing loved ones, often in stressful circumstances, and they said too many mistakes were being made.
Several drivers also said they had paid the fine even though they didn’t think it was due, because the appeals system was so difficult.
One reader said he has asked his doctor to refer him to Salisbury or Swindon hospitals, in preference to the RUH, because the car parks were not run by ParkingEye.
Number Plate Recognition
Now, under the new car parking system, RUH Bath say that Saba Ltd will install new barriers in the main patient and visitor car park to improve traffic flow and give people the option to pay before they leave.
The hospital states, “Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras will log the time a vehicle has entered the car park. On leaving, all visitors need to do is enter their car registration number into a payment machine to find out how much they need to pay.
“Parking for blue badge holders will remain free of charge and free parking will remain in place for those patient groups who need to make frequent visits to the RUH.
“Parking charges have been frozen at £2 for the first hour. Two hours’ parking will rise from £3 to £3.30 and it will now cost £4.80 to park for three hours, an increase of 80p. This is the first time parking charges have increased in 10 years.
“A 20-min grace period will remain in place in the patient and visitor car parks and existing time-limited pick up/drop off points also remain.
“Larger price rises will apply to people parking for four hours or longer, to deter non-hospital users from parking on site, taking up valuable spaces needed by our patients and visitors.”
Brian Johnson, director of estates and facilities at RUH Bath said, “We’re confident that the new infrastructure provided by our contractor will really improve the experience of visiting the hospital site.
“The new machines will be easier to use and there will also be new ways to pay too, including the option for visitors to pay by debit or credit card, Google Pay and Apple Pay as they leave.
“While we understand that nobody likes an increase in parking charges, it has been 10 years since the RUH last increased its parking fees and we have made every effort to keep price rises to a minimum.
“Paid parking ensures a regular turnover of spaces for patients and visitors and discourages people who are not using the hospital from parking there all day and commuting into the city centre.
“Money raised will be used to cover the cost of the car parking contract as well as maintenance, lighting and staffing costs. The model is not designed to raise profit, but any additional money that is raised will go back to the RUH.”
The hospital added, “Additional support will be in place during the first few days of the new contract to help visitors parking on site and to offer guidance on using the new payment machines and the different options available to pay for parking.
“There will be works taking place around the RUH site over the coming weeks to prepare for the start of the new contract. We apologise in advance for any disruption caused and thank you for your patience while the work takes place.
“You can find out more information about parking costs and ways to pay on the Saba UK website: https://www.sabaparking.co.uk/royal-united-hospitals-bath-nhs-foundation-trust
“If you have any questions about the new car parking contract, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Saba UK’s customer support team on 0300 123 5247.
“Information on visiting the RUH by public transport, by bicycle or on foot can be found on the RUH website.”