TRANSPORT bosses are set to extend the hours of Colchester Park and Ride in a bid to entice more commuters onto the service.

Essex County Council is also set to start offering group tickets rather than charging £3 per person.

The £5 ticket for any group which arrives in the same car will be available after 9am on weekdays, weekends and Bank Holidays. 

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

The extended hours are set to start in Spring 2018 U's fans will also be able to buy parking season tickets. 

Since the service was launched in April 2015, it has faced criticism because it does not start early enough in the morning to realistically allow London commuters to use it in order to catch a train to the capital in time to start work.

There have also been calls for group discounts to be introduced in a bid to entice people who arrive in the same car. At the moment, they would each pay a £3 charge.

This morning’s meeting saw business leaders and Essex County Council officials, as well as Colchester MP Will Quince, discuss how best to promote the service.

There is already a family ticket, while pensioners’ bus passes are also accepted after 9am.

Ian Grundy, Essex county councillor responsible for highways, said the council had listened to feedback from the public before announcing the changes.

"I am delighted to be able to announce these new offers which we plan to introduce over the coming months.

"The Park and Ride is here to help tackle the issue of congestion around the town centre, which costs businesses and residents more than £20 million.

"More than four out of five Park and Ride users surveyed said they would recommend the service and we want to make it available to as many people as possible.

"Extended opening hours will look to help ease the stress of finding a parking space for those who drive to the railway station, hospital or work in the early hours of the morning or later in the evening.

"We will look to work with residents neighbouring the site to mitigate the effects of longer hours before they are implemented in Spring 2018."