A PARK and ride site has axed admission prices in a bid to get more visitors coming to Weymouth and Portland for the Olympics .

And it appears to have paid immediate dividends.

There were more than 600 cars at the site yesterday afternoon while it was virtually deserted over the opening days of the Games.

Dorset’s Olympic Board says the parking charges have been dropped because there haven’t been as many visitors as originally planned for.

The Monkey’s Jump park and ride site at Dorchester was free all day yesterday and today and from tomorrow it will be free every day from 2.30pm.

Free buses will take passengers from the site to the Swannery transport hub in Weymouth.

Joan and Frank Martin from Swindon were among those using the facility yesterday.

Mr Martin said: “We were looking at the Dorset Echo website to see if it was worth coming and we saw that Weymouth was encouraging people to come.

“So we came and we are really looking forward to enjoying the Olympics on the south coast.”

Two other car parks – Preston Beach and Mount Pleasant in Weymouth – will remain subject to the £10 charge throughout the Games, as the main sites serving ticketed spectators A fourth site at Kingston Maurward has been closed and will be kept in reserve in case of additional demand.

Should it open, it will also be free after 2.30pm.

Angus Campbell , chairman of Dorset’s Olympic board, said: “We are doing what we can to encourage people to come to the town. “This reduction of prices for the park-and-ride facilities will, we hope, make it an even better value day out to an Olympic venue and boost numbers accordingly.

“Weymouth has a tremendous amount on offer for visitors and we have had rave reviews from those who have already come to soak up the Olympic atmosphere here.

“We hope to see many more in the coming days as we approach the medal races in the sailing events at the weekend.”

Hugh Sumner, the ODA’s director of transport, said: “We hope our free parking initiative will get thousands of extra visitors in to enjoy the beaches, shops and attr-actions.

“Weymouth and Portland is very definitely open for business but visitors should plan ahead and check before they travel.”

‘The town is getting busier’

Businesses and traders in Weymouth say the town is getting busier.

Margaret Turner, of Seacrest Guesthouse, said: “I’ve noticed a lot more footfall, it has looked busier over the last few days.

“I had a couple of knocks on Tuesday but there hasn’t been much of a difference.

“Hopefully, if the weather gets better then we’ll see an improvement.”

David Harris, who runs a fruit stall on St Mary Street, said there are a lot more people around.

He said: “There’s definitely a lot more people here.

“There do seem to be more people around but business is no better for me.”

Campaign paying off

A CAMPAIGN to get more people to visit the Games in Weymouth and Portland is reaping rewards.

More people were in the borough yesterday following disappointing crowds over the opening days of the sailing events.

A strategy by Olympic organisers and backed by the Echo to encourage more people to experience the Olympics atmosphere is building momentum.

And the borough got the royal seal of approval as the Duke of Edinburgh took to the water to watch the sailing competition.

Dorset County Council leader Angus Campbell said: “The transport is fantastic and everything’s flowing well.

“Everyone is having a great time – come and join us.”

He added: “Weymouth has always been fabulous. It’s fabulous plus the Olympics.

“Everything’s working well and you can get in an out easier than before.”

After lower visitor numbers than expected at the beginning of the sailing events, the campaign was launched to make the most of social media to promote Weymouth and Portland as a great destination.

Readers can show their support for their home borough by using the hashtag on Twitter #weymouth2012, #weymouth and #cometoweymouth to get the message out.

Road restrictions won’t be lifted but in a move to encourage people to come, park and ride charges were dropped for yesterday and today for the Monkey’s Jump site near Dorchester, and will be free after 2.30pm for the rest of the Games.

Mr Campbell said that there was a host of things to do in Weymouth from the Live Site where people can watch the sailing to trying a new sport at the Sports Arena and enjoy the Weymouth Bayside Festival, as well as the Maritime Mix cultural events.

He said: “We are doing our best to get people to come to Weymouth and Portland. It’s a fantastic time and a fantastic place to be. We have fantastic facilities here.”

He added that he wanted the Olympics to be a success for Dorset.

Mr Campbell said: “I want it to be a success as a sporting event. We want people to spend time and money here.”

The exposure from the Games would hopefully encourage people to visit Dorset in the future, Mr Campbell said.