Details of Colchester’s Park & Ride scheme revealed

Work underway at the new Colchester Park and Ride

Work underway at the new Colchester Park and Ride - Credit: Lucy taylor

EXCLUSIVE: Colchester’s Park and Ride (P&R) scheme scheduled to open on Monday April 13.

Work underway at the new Colchester Park and Ride

Work underway at the new Colchester Park and Ride - Credit: Lucy taylor

Colchester’s Park & Ride (P&R) scheme is scheduled to open on Monday April 13 it has now been revealed.

In an exclusive interview with the East Anglian Daily Times Rodney Bass, Essex county councillor for highways and transport, unveiled full details of the long-awaited scheme – although there may be some fine-tuning before operation begins.

The details will be revealed later today at a transport symposium in Colchester.

Mr Bass said he was keen to correct earlier reports in other media which contained wrong information.

Parking will be free with bus passengers charged a flat rate of £3 return, though concession holders such as old age bus passes will be able to travel for free after 9am. There are also plans for a season ticket and a weekly pass, which could be £15 for six days use, though this has not yet been finalised.

The scheme will also be completely free for the first few weeks of operation so people are not “penalised” as Essex County Council (ECC) recognises there may be some hiccups as teething problems are ironed out.

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“Our experience with Chelmsford is you never quite know if the buses will run to time, and it is even more complicated in Colchester,” said Mr Bass.

“There is not just P&R but broader infrastructure changes.”

TGM Group has won a five-year contract to run the service, which will have five brand new buses, with an option for a two-year extension.

One of the buses will be held in reserve, though could be entered into regular service if there is sufficient demand.

Initial plans are for peak services to run every 10 minutes, with off-peak services every 12 minutes, and passengers will be kept up-to-date with live information boards – though these may not be ready for the April start date.

The scheme will run from 7am to 7pm Monday to Saturday, although hours of operation may be reduced on a Saturday if it proves too much of a conflict with football matches at the Weston Homes Community Stadium close to the P&R terminal.

Responding to concerns this would not be suitable for commuters travelling to London, Mr Bass explained that was not the aim of the scheme.

“People will use it who want to work in Colchester and that is essentially what it is for. Then there will be a shopping element.

“There might be some commuters who can afford to go slightly later, or commuters to Chelmsford or Clacton.

“We are trying to facilitate Colchester town centre, to support it as a market town and as a place of employment.

“We are not trying to discourage people from using P&R to use the train service, it is a linked public transport system. But we are not primarily in the business of providing cheaper car parking for commuters, that is not our primary purpose.”

Mr Bass said he welcomed talks with Colchester General Hospital bosses about an additional stop serving the health facility, but added it would need some financial input from the trust to prevent P&R simply being a free hospital car park.

The project has cost £6million to build and will cost an estimated £600,000 a year to run, though Mr Bass hopes it will become cost-neutral within two or three years.

There will be 800 spaces at the terminal to begin with, with capacity to enlarge to 1,200 spaces.

Mr Bass added: “We are trying to incentivise people to ride on a comfortable, modern bus moving swiftly through the traffic into the centre of town and park with certainty – that has got to be attractive.”