TRADERS are asking transport bosses to think again after they announced the region's biggest park-and-ride scheme would be closed on some of the busiest shopping days of the year.

The £10m park-and-ride scheme in Durham City, which opened earlier this month, is to close from 7pm on Christmas Eve and will not re-open until next Wednesday morning. It will also be closed on January 1 and 2.

Durham County Council, which operates the scheme, says about 3,000 on-street car parking spaces in the city centre will be free over the holiday to compensate for the loss of the 1,100 park-and-ride spaces.

But businesses are angry that the showpiece scheme will not be operating and say they fear there will be insufficient parking to meet the demand from shoppers - particularly on the Tuesday after Christmas, which is the busiest day of the year for some shops.

The North East Chamber of Commerce said it is urging the authority to re-assess its plans to close the system.

John Mowbray, the chamber's Durham committee chairman, called for an urgent review of the decision.

He said: "The park-and-ride was introduced to make the city a more appealing place to see, visit and shop in. This is an important period during which we will be looking to draw as many people as possible to our beautiful city. We should not miss that opportunity."

However, a county council spokesman said: "There will be more than twice the amount of free on-street parking spaces available in the city centre than there are spaces at the three park-and-ride sites combined.

"People will be able to travel right into the city centre, park on-street - actually closer to the shops -- free of charge and without having to pay a park-and-ride fare."