Staff persuaded to cut number of car journeys, reports Olga Wojtas
The University of East Anglia has started a car-hire business as part of a green transport initiative designed to put the brakes on the number of people driving to and from campus.
UEA's car club, launched this week, is thought to be the first of its kind at a UK university. Transport experts say it could provide a model for other universities trying to reduce their impact on the local environment.
Already, 13 per cent of UEA's staff - about 300 people - say they would stop driving to work if they still had access to a car for occasional work-related journeys.
Two Renault Clios are available for hire for work and leisure use. The university expects to get more cars, provided under the European Community-funded initiative CIVITAS-SMILE, as demand increases.
Dawn Dewar, UEA's transport manager, said: "We aim to offer our staff and students the freedom of a car when they need one, without the hassle and expensive overheads of owning one."
She added: "Research at existing car clubs has shown that, on average, members reduce their overall car use by 35 per cent."
Higher education institutions have launched a range of measures to deter campus car use, ranging from levying often highly contentious parking charges to improved public transport.
Local planning authorities are putting increasing pressure on institutions to develop "green" travel plans to reduce pollution and congestion.
Several institutions operate car-share schemes. Bournemouth University, for example, which recently won a transport Green Gown sustainable development award, links drivers and passengers online.
UEA's travel plan, launched in 2003, includes a car-share scheme that has encouraged about 500 people to share journeys regularly to and from campus.
UEA car-club members, who must be over 21, pay a one-off registration fee of £39.50, which entitles them to lifelong membership. They can then hire a car for £3.95 an hour or £20 a day, plus a mileage charge of 17p.
Harriet Waters, environmental co-ordinator at Oxford Brookes University, said: "It is different for each university and for different sites at each university, but car clubs are something that could work in our sector. We are trying to educate our students by teaching them about sustainable travel, and if they start the habit, it could be something that they take away with them."