The body charged with looking after the communities and landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales is developing an ambition to ramp up public transport in the national park, despite lacking powers and resources to remedy the dearth of services.
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chairman Neil Heseltine told a meeting of the authority it would aim to “provide a view” to the councils responsible for public transport across the 2,179sq km area, most of which lies within North Yorkshire.
The move comes three weeks after North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for highways and transportation Councillor Keane Duncan warned many commercially-run bus services were in peril or being downgraded.
Mr Heseltine was speaking after veteran public transport campaigner Ruth Annison told members how travelling by bus the 1.5 miles from Askrigg to the park authority’s headquarters in Bainbridge for the meeting had involved a three-hour round trip, partly due to recent changes in services.
Ms Annison told the meeting although the park authority does not have statutory responsibilities for transport, there was a great deal it could do to show leadership in encouraging and promoting the development of good transport networks and connectivity across the park and surrounding areas.
She highlighted how the authority’s members had resolved to adopt a “routemap to carbon negative”, which included a target to cut private car usage by 48 per cent by 2030.
Ms Annison, who in 1989 successfully took a campaign to Downing Street to save the Settle-Carlisle Railway, called on the authority to establish a public transport group.
She said the park authority could explore and draw attention to opportunities for the authority to make a practical contribution to combating climate change through encouraging sustainable travel, whilw enabling more people to visit the park without needing a car.
Her call comes as more members appear to be backing the authority becoming more active in encouraging the development of sustainable travel, both to and within the national park, to cut visitors’ vehicle emissions while noting the authority’s second statutory purpose, to promote opportunities for
enjoyment and understanding.
Mr Heseltine replied that a members’ policy development forum two weeks ago had recognised that the authority had neither the remit, the expertise or the capacity to deal with such a large and contentious issue.
He said the remit rested with the transport authorities at councils in North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire and that national park members representing the authorities would consider highlighting the issue.
Mr Heseltine said: “In spite of our lack of remit, members did feel it would be useful for the authority to provide a view to the three transport authorities and the wider world of our vision for what we want to see in terms of public transport for the park, even if we are not the body responsible for delivering it.”
He said a public transport ambition for the park was being developed, which would be considered early next year.