Next stop…National Parks

  • Contributor information: CNP

1 March 2018

National Parks are spectacular spaces created for all to enjoy, but it is easy to forget that for large parts of the country they are largely inaccessible. As someone who grew up in the West Midlands, with the nearest National Park the distant Brecon Beacons, I can understand the difficulty in getting out into the Parks, let alone in a car-free way! It really begs the question: why is it so difficult to provide society with the option to travel to and within National Parks in a sustainable way?

For too many people without cars, getting into and around a National Park is simply not an option. And we are not just talking about Midlanders here. A quarter of households have no access to a private car. Therefore there are a huge number who have to depend on public transport if they want to enjoy the wonders of the countryside and too often that public transport can be expensive, unreliable and infrequent. Even those living within or on the edge of a National Park can struggle to access the natural marvels in their area!

The benefits of better car-free travel to and within National Parks are clear. In addition to providing access to those who would otherwise have no other way to get to the Parks, a well thought-out public transport network can boost the rural economy, connect communities and contribute to improved mental and physical well-being.

Meanwhile an overreliance on private cars is creating environmental problems in the Parks, with congestion, noise and carbon emissions all of which are undermining the special qualities we know and love. Public transport needs to be at the heart of plans to encourage more people into the National Parks of England and Wales if more people are going to be able to enjoy these places both now and in the future.

But currently, a fragmented and under-supported public transport system struggles to provide an adequate alternative to the car. As author Bill Bryson entertainingly illustrated across his work, getting round the British countryside via public transport can frankly be an absolute nightmare.

What’s more, as Campaign for Better Transport has shown, the coverage of rural public transport services have shrunk to levels last seen in the 1980s. When we consider that what is at stake is access to the very best landscapes in England and Wales, I would say we deserve better than a piecemeal public transport network.

Over the coming weeks we will be focusing on the issue of sustainable travel in National Parks. We will be highlighting our new report, National Parks for all: Making car-free travel easier, which will be published shortly and which sets out recommendations for improving the options for travelling to and around National Parks. We will also be publishing a number of guest blogs to discuss some of the current issues. In future, we hope to be able to say full steam ahead for sustainable travel for National Parks. Join us in demanding National Parks truly are for everyone.

By Andrew Hall, Campaign for National Parks