Sunderland City Council

Sunderland City Council

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

Building on the  successful network of Co-wheels community cars  already in place at more than 60 towns and cities across the country, it’s aimed at both business and residential customers providing easy and affordable access to low cost car hire on subscription to members of the car club.

Delivered by Sunderland City Council and managed by the independent national car club operator and social enterprise, Co-wheels, whose head office is in Durham, the regional sustainable transport project is part funded through the North East Combined Authority (NECA).

Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for City Services, Councillor Michael Mordey, will meet one the scheme’s private use customers this Thursday at one of the designated city centre parking bays for a ‘Top Gear’ type review of the service so far.

Councillor Mordey said: “Our city is committed to promoting sustainable transport, and I was delighted to be one of the first behind the wheel of one of the low cost, eco-friendly cars available for hire at convenient city centre locations near public transport links.

“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.”

One of the motorists taking up the opportunity is Jonathan Adams, 68, a retired Church of England priest and former community development worker in Ford, Pallion and Millfield who lives in Tunstall Vale.

He 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.”

Also taking to Co-wheels is William Harrison, a Governor Support Officer at Sunderland City Council, who drives one of the vehicles for business use throughout the day (8am – 6pm).

He added: “During the day I often go to meetings across the city and having access to a Co-wheels car adds to my travelling options alongside the bus and Metro. In one month alone, there has been immense time and cost savings to the Council not to mention the environmental benefits.

“I’m saving money (and arguments) by not bringing the family car to work and have been very impressed with all the models available.

” The Nissan Leaf is remarkably easy and comfortable to drive once you get used to it, and I’d encourage everyone to become a member of the car club.”

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, enabling huge savings to be made on the cost of driving compared to car ownership.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

All Co-wheels cars are low emission, hybrid, or fully electric vehicles which help to lower emissions and improve local air quality. The car club also adds social value by encouraging more active and sustainable travel choices, and providing access to cars for those who might be unable to afford a car of their own.

In Sunderland the vehicles include an electric Nissan LEAF manufactured in the city at the Washington plant.

The scheme also allows businesses and organisations to use the car club as an efficient ‘pool fleet’ service for staff, simplifying mileage claims and reducing carbon footprint.

Parking pressures can also be eased as people are able to walk, cycle or use public transport to get to work, knowing a car is available nearby to hire when needed. All employees of businesses and organisations who use Co-wheels for business travel are also eligible for free personal membership of Co-wheels as further financial incentive to become a member of the scheme.

The four Co-wheels car club bays in Sunderland include a Toyota Yaris hybrid car at Boughton Street public car park, and Toyota Aygo at Millfield Metro car park which are both available for public hire seven day of the week.

Sunderland City Council and the University of Sunderland have exclusive access to the other two cars during working hours which include a Nissan LEAF electric car at Cowan Terrace / Park Lane Interchange, and a small Toyota Aygo at City Space University Campus which are both available for public hire during evenings and weekends.

Hire of the cars cost from £4.50 per hour, plus a small mileage fee, with discounted day and evening rates. Find out more, and claim £20 free driving credit at: www.co-wheels.org.uk/northeast.