IMPROVEMENTS to Colchester’s park and ride service have been hailed as a “victory for common sense” by campaigners.

Some of the changes to the service, which allows passengers to park at the Cuckoo Farm site and then use a bus service to access parts of Colchester, have long been suggested by councillors and residents.

Martin Goss (Lib Dem), Colchester councillor for Mile End, took a motion to Essex County Council two years ago asking for extended hours and more family-friendly pricing.

But it was not universally supported.

He said: “This means more commuters can use what is a fantastic facility.

“I did predict the park and ride would have longer operating hours and a pricing structure to introduce group tickets, it is common sense.

READ MORE: All you need to know about the important changes to Colchester park and ride

“The majority of park and ride schemes across the UK have a group availability, Essex County Council will bring in thousands of pounds as this better suits the people using it.

“The park and ride did not suit the majority of commuters who get the train from London at 6pm.

“I took a motion to Essex County Council two years ago and it was passed by everyone, yet the Tories abstained from the vote.

“However, the new council leadership have listened to Colchester residents and I am really pleased this has gone ahead.”

Colchester MP Will Quince said: “Extending the hours makes this service a viable option for commuters and is a victory against the monopoly NCP and Greater Anglia have over parking at Colchester North Station.

“This represents a cost saving for rail users and gives them another option. It is going to make park and ride a more viable option and take traffic away from North Station.”

'Anything which makes it easier to come to Colchester should be welcomed' 

TOWN centre traders have welcomed the big changes to Colchester park and ride.

Peter Donaldson is the owner of independent store Red Lion Books, which has been in Colchester High Street since 1986.

He welcomed news of extended hours and group fares, hoping more shoppers would be tempted to visit the town centre.

He said: “I think Colchester has a bit of a problem in the minds of many shoppers, which is over access and parking.

“So I would welcome anything which makes it cheaper and easier to get into town.

“I haven’t seen the latest statistics for use of the park and ride, but the earliest numbers suggested take-up was beneath expectations.

“So anything to improve this and get more people using the service is very good.

“It is really important we get people into the town in as convenient and efficient a way as possible.”

Patrick Maynard, of the Essex Chambers of Commerce, added: “We want to support this and get the message out to businesses.

“There are a lot of good businesses in the town which will support these changes and we will let them know.”

A number of changes were announced as Essex County Council look to attract more passengers to the service.

Opening hours will be extended from the current 7am until 7pm to 5.30am until 9pm for one year, while a park and fly option is also under consideration, involving long-stay and overnight parking.

It would allow passengers to use the service to travel to Stansted Airport and back.

The extended hours will start next spring.  Since the service was launched in April 2015, it has faced criticism for not starting early enough in the morning to allow London commuters to use it.

Calls have been made for group discounts to be introduced to attract people who arrive in the same car.

Now the council is set to offer group tickets, priced at £5 for up to two adults and three children travelling after 9am.

Bulk discounts are also now on offer to businesses buying multiple tickets.

Colchester General Hospital became the first organisation to take advantage of the bulk ticket discounts.