The Campaign for National Parks’ mission is to inspire everyone to enjoy and look after National Parks. If more people are going to benefit from these beautiful places, it is essential that they are well served by public transport, including good local bus services.
High volumes of traffic already have a negative impact on the tranquillity and natural environment in some parts of our Parks. Providing good bus services ensures that increased numbers of people can visit without damaging the special qualities for which these areas are valued. Buses are also vitally important for the significant minority of National Park residents who do not have access to a car.
There are benefits to the local economy too as there is evidence that visitors travelling by public transport spend more than those arriving by car. A recent survey of users of the Moorsbus service in the North York Moors National Park found that they spent nearly £10 on average in local shops and cafes.
National Park Authorities (NPAs) are not local transport authorities (LTAs) but they do have a statutory responsibility to promote opportunities for public enjoyment and understanding of the Parks. In recent years, they have often played a key role in providing bus services. There are also successful bus services in National Parks supported by local voluntary groups, such as Dalesbus in the Yorkshire Dales.
Many of these services provide a vital link for local residents which might not exist without the fare income from visitors. To ensure they can continue operating successfully in the future, the travel needs of both visitors and residents must be considered when planning any changes that affect bus routes in National Parks. That’s why we are calling for changes to the Bus Services Bill to require authorities to consult NPAs when preparing franchising or partnership schemes. We also want the Government to commit to long-term revenue support for bus services in National Parks.
Changes to the legislation are important but the outcomes for National Parks are also dependent on how the new powers are implemented. Whether or not there are statutory consultation requirements, we would urge LTAs with National Parks in or close to their borders to engage with both the NPA and relevant local voluntary groups at an early stage in planning any changes to bus services.
– Ruth Bradshaw, policy and research manager for Campaign for National Parks