A NEW bus service linking Southend Hospital with the centre of town should encourage more patients and visitors to leave their cars at home, staff say.

The number 17 Arriva service will start running on Thursdays only, beginning next week, to gauge the demand for a permanent service.

The bus will also call at Southend bus station, Tesco in Prince Avenue, Westcliff, and Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff.

The hospital's travel plan co-ordinator, Charlotte Humphries, hopes patients who attend nearly 30 clinics at the hospital on Thursdays will try the new service.

She said: "We are delighted Arriva has agreed to introduce this additional service and feel confident there will be a demand for it.

"It will be a great boon for patients living in that part of Southend and will remove the worry of having to find somewhere to park."

Arriva marketing manager Richard Lewis says the company will keep a close eye on the service.

He said: "We are always pleased to work with the local communities we serve.

"We hope the new service will be well used by people in the Westcliff area who do not presently have a direct link to the hospital.

"We will be monitoring usage of the service over the coming weeks and hope it can become a permanent part of our network of services in Southend."