PATIENTS and their families visiting the Countess of Chester Hospital are set to have a smoother parking experience.

New parking machines have been installed in the Liverpool Road and Jubilee car parks that allow people to pay by cash, card, contactless or smartphone.

It is a ticketless system that uses automated number plate recognition (ANPR).

Chief Operating Officer Lorraine Burnett said: “Parking is an issue at many hospitals and The Countess is no different.

“Our previous pay system was cash only and the equipment and technology over ten years old. Anyone who has parked at the Countess in recent times will know that this system has been subject to continual breakdowns leading to frustration for many users at what can already be a difficult time.

“By introducing new technology we hope to significantly improve the parking experience for our patients and visitors.”

The new technology means that tickets will become a thing of the past as the automated number plate recognition system (ANPR) will simply ask users to key in their car registration number at the pay station before being provided with the option of paying by cash, card or contactless.

Those leaving a car park within 30 minutes will not have to pay and the barrier will lift automatically after the number plate is scanned.

The NHS trust that runs the hospital has also reached an agreement with Cheshire West and Chester Council to introduce a Park and Ride scheme for patients and visitors to the Chester hospital.

Available from the council’s Upton and Wrexham Road Park and Ride car parks, buses will stop directly outside the Countess on Liverpool Road and run every 12 minutes. The cost is £1 per return journey.

The council’s cabinet member for environment, Cllr Karen Shore, said: “The new service will benefit hospital patients, visitors and the environment. Our buses use the very latest enviro-clear engine technology and will ease congestion at the Countess of Chester Hospital site.“Our Park & Ride service provides a stress-free visit without the hassle of traffic or parking on a busy site. Information about the new services and all available stops can be found on the council website or at any of our Park and Ride sites.”

Mrs Burnett added: “I am pleased we have been able to work with colleagues at Cheshire West and Chester Council to improve the links to the hospital and we hope that patients and visitors will benefit from the improved transport and parking options in 2018.”

* In December this newspaper revealed that patients and their families forked out £1.39 million to park at the Countess of Chester and Ellesmere Port hospitals over the previous 12 months.