Construction begins of Exeter specialist ambulance hub
Construction work has started on a new ambulance hub for the south-west of England.
The special operations centre (SOC) at Exeter's Skypark is the base for the ambulance service's Hazardous Area Response Teams (Hart).
Hart units are trained to respond to incidents such as collapsed buildings, hazardous materials and flooding.
If the building work remains on schedule, the centre should be operational next year.
South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said the new base in Exeter, together with a base in Bristol, would provide cover for serious incidents across its area which includes Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.
Trained personnel will also be deployed to major national incidents elsewhere.
Hart paramedics have also been trained in convoy driving, which means up to four vehicles can respond to an incident without causing too much disruption to other drivers.
The Exeter SOC will operate 24-hours-a-day and will also be used as a training and administration facility for the trust.
A rapid response ambulance service will also be provided for the local area, including the new town of Cranbrook.
Stuart Blatston, Hart manager at the ambulance trust, said the new hub's "ideal location" and proximity to the M5 would "guarantee the delivery of an effective and essential rapid response service for the South West".