Thousands of pensioners may abandon park and ride if charges are introduced

Colchester Park and Ride bus

Colchester Park and Ride bus Picture: PAUL STARR - Credit: Archant

The number of elderly people travelling on Essex park and ride services could fall by as much as a half if Essex County Council implements its charging proposals, results from a consultation have revealed.

However the council (ECC) has warned that people should not confuse the purpose of a consultation with the creation of actual strategy.

At this point, no decisions have been made, no strategy has even been formulated and at present ECC does not have a timetable for when that strategy will be placed before Cabinet.

ECC has indicated it wants to charge pensioners £1.50 to use the three park and ride services at Colchester and Sandon and Chelmer Valley in Chelmsford in order to remove the estimated £447,000 annual fee it costs to allow pensioners to travel for free on the service after 9am.

But new data from the consultation launched earlier in the year has suggested 48% of pensioners will not use park and ride services if the concessionary system allowing free travel is scrapped.

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There is no indication from the consultation that those individuals would travel in by car anyway.

But if they do as many as 150,000 extra car journeys each year may be generated from pensioners who previously took the park and ride.

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Chelmsford's services collectively in Sandon and Chelmer Valley made a loss of £23,739 in the last financial year.

At the same time Colchester has seen just 251,000 passenger journeys, while Sandon saw 845,000 and Chelmer Valley 429,000.

About 25% of those using park and ride services in Chelmsford travel for free. Councillor Ray Gooding, Cabinet member with portfolio responsibility for park and ride concessionary fares, said: "No decisions have been made with regard to concessionary fare travel from park and ride services in Essex.

"The results of this consultation are now being studied by officers to form a strategy which will be placed before Cabinet.

"My thanks to everyone who took part in the consultation about concessionary fares usage from park and ride services in Essex, it has allowed us to form a comprehensive picture of park and ride services involving concessionary fares.

The issue is to be discussed by ECC councillors on Thursday (October 17).

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