TRANSPORT chiefs have warned that a scheme to cut congestion and improve the environment in Winchester will not work - even before it has been launched.

A trial extension of the city's park-and-ride service, which is due to start on Monday, has been labelled a dud by experts.

The experiment will see the park-and-ride bus route, which currently runs from Bar End into the city centre, extended to take in Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Romsey Road.

The idea is to encourage hospital workers, along with those at the nearby police headquarters, University College Winchester and the city's prison, to park outside the city centre and finish their journey by bus.

It had been hoped that this could help ease Winchester's chronic congestion problems - and with it the pollution caused by the excessive traffic.

But a senior Hampshire County Council officer has warned that the initiative will not solve the problems.

Passenger transport operations manager, Andy Berncastle, told a meeting of Winchester's highway and transport advisory panel that there was no incentive for people to give up their cars because the daily £1.50 charge for park-and-ride was more than staff were

currently paying.

Hospital staff are paying an average of £1 per day to park on site while Hampshire police employees are entitled to free parking.

Winchester City Council transport supremo, Councillor Richard Knasel, added that the hospital had also declined to contribute towards the extended bus routes, leaving the county and city

councils to pick up the £55,000 tab.

However the Royal Hampshire County Hospital's travel plan manager, John Jacobs, argued that it was not their responsibility to fund the park-and-ride extension when employees from other businesses would also be using it.

He added that he felt confident that employees would use it.

To encourage hospital staff to use the service, bosses will also refund the full cost of the park-and-ride ticket in March, £1 in April and 50p in May.

A spokesman for Hampshire police said that it was not intending to offer staff an incentive to use park-and-ride.