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 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 the council does not have a timetable for when that strategy will be placed before cabinet.

The authority 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 that 48 per cent of pensioners will not use park and ride services if the concessionary system allowing free travel is scrapped.

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.

Cllr Stephen Robinson, leader of Chelmsford City Council, warned against policies that might increase traffic in an already congested city – especially given the problems at the Army and Navy junction.

He said: “Obviously the county council shouldn’t be doing anything which might discourage people from using the park and ride, particularly at the moment in Chelmsford where we want to encourage as many people as possible to use the park and ride until we are clear what is happening at the Army and Navy.”

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 per cent of those using park and ride services in Chelmsford travel for free.

Cllr Ray Gooding, cabinet member with 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 which will greatly inform our future strategy.”

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