It’s time to make sure everyone can visit our National Parks

The daffodils are starting to flower so spring must finally be on the way. Perhaps, like me, you’re starting to plan visits to National Parks now the days are getting longer. You may also be thinking about how you’re going to get there. I’m lucky. My nearest National Park is the South Downs and it’s easy to get there by train from where I live. But for too many people, the options for visiting their nearest National Park by public transport are far more limited and these beautiful places can effectively be out of bounds for those without a car.

Daffodils in the Lake District. Photo credit: Helen Reynolds. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. The report we are launching today, National Parks for all: Making car-free travel easier , identities lots of opportunities for improving sustainable travel to National Parks. It considers ways of increasing the range of options available as well as making the existing options easier for people to use, for example, through improved information and better integration between services. We have also identified what National Park Authorities (NPAs), local transport authorities, tourism organisations and others need to do to make car-free travel easier.

The report is based on a review of existing sustainable transport initiatives ranging from traditional bus and rail services to electric bikes and innovative new ideas, such as Vamooz which offers pre-bookable shared journeys to the Yorkshire Dales.

It may not be apparent in National Parks, but there is a revolution going on in transport at the moment with advances in technology resulting in the launch of lots of new services such as dockless bike hire and app-based shared services. Most of the initiatives launched so far are aimed at commuter journeys in urban areas but we think there is significant potential for these types of on-demand services to be used to improve access for visitors to National Parks.

That’s why we are calling for the setting up of ‘a smarter travel National Park pilot’ to test some of these new types of app-based shared services alongside measures which discourage car use, such as road pricing and parking charges.

We also want the pilot to include the development of sustainable travel hubs - key centres within the Park which offer a range of activities within one location and good access to other locations nearby. These hubs would be places where it is as easy as possible to have a great holiday without needing to use a car. The learning from this pilot would provide valuable lessons for other parts of the countryside as well as National Parks.

We have also made a number of other recommendations which you can read about in the report.

Over the next few months, we will be pushing for NPAs, the Westminster Government, the Welsh Government and others to make the changes we are calling for. Some of our recommendations are relatively easy to implement and could make a difference very quickly. Others such as the smarter travel pilot will take longer to deliver. But my hope is that by the time I start planning days out in National Parks next spring, there will be many more options for places to visit without a car.