Drive to encourage more people to use Sunderland car hire scheme

From left Coun Michael Mordey, project user Jonathan Adams, University of Sunderland Mike Foster, Co-wheels manager Liz Gray and travel officer Diane Hilder
From left Coun Michael Mordey, project user Jonathan Adams, University of Sunderland Mike Foster, Co-wheels manager Liz Gray and travel officer Diane Hilder
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A drive to encourage more Wearsiders to give up their cars and consider more environmentally and economically friendly ways to travel have moved up another gear in Sunderland.

Car sharing operator Co-wheels car club now provides four low emission cars for hire from parking bays in the city centre on a short-term ‘pay as you drive’ basis.

“What we want to is make more people aware of the fact they can leave their car at home, and pick one up one easily in the city centre to drive either for business or personal use.”

Councillor Michael Mordey

Already in place at more than 60 towns and cities across the country, it is aimed at both business and residential customers providing easy access to low cost car hire on subscription to members of the car club. The project is part-funded through the North East Combined Authority (NECA).

The council’s portfolio holder for city services Councillor Michael Mordey, met one the scheme’s private use customers Jonathan Adams at one of the designated city centre parking bays to share their views as members of the club.

Councillor Mordey said: “I must admit I’d never driven an electric car before but the online tutorial made it easy, and there are petrol cars available too so there’s no problems.

“What we want to is make more people aware of the fact they can leave their car at home, and pick one up one easily in the city centre to drive either for business or personal use.”

Jonathan, 68, a retired Church of England priest and former community development worker in Ford, Pallion and Millfield who lives in Tunstall Vale, said: “Twenty years ago our kids didn’t need ferrying around any more.

“We thought there were too many cars in cities and we tried living without one. After two weeks we were happy with buses and bikes and we sold the car – no worries about the MOT or finding a parking space and more money to spare

“I use public transport a lot, occasional taxis and have a contract with a car-hire firm for longer trips, but close to home Co-wheels is much more flexible.

“As a member you don’t have to rely on hire offices being open, and can pick one of four cars within a mile radius in the city centre including use in the evenings or at the weekend.”

“Last week I was in Carlisle and needed to make an awkward journey to a rural business.

“I went on the train and picked up a Co-Wheels car at the station for a couple of hours. It was much more restful than driving the whole way.”

Co-wheels members book cars online and unlock them with a smartcard.

At the end of the booking time the car is then returned to its bay for the next driver.

The cars can be hired for periods of 30 minutes up to several days at a time and are charged on a per-hour basis.

For more details go to www.co-wheels.org.uk/northeast.