The body managing the Yorkshire Dales National Park has voted unanimously to press local authorities to help transfer access to public transport across the protected area.
Councils representing North Yorkshire, Westmorland and Furness and Lancashire will be urged to support a “significant increase” in numbers of bus and rail services across the national park and improved coordination between bus and rail operators following the park authority’s decision.
The authority’s natural environment member champion Mark Corner told a meeting of the authority at its headquarters in Bainbridge there was very little chance of achieving its ambition of being carbon neutral by 2040 unless car usage was cut, so a viable alternative was needed.
He emphasised how 82 per cent of the park’s five million annual visitors arrived by car while the lack of public transport services was perpetuating an inequality of access to the park for residents and visitors alike.
Mr Corner said added it was “irrational and frankly ridiculous” that renowned visitor hotspots such as Burnsall or Malham did not have a daily or full day bus service or that North Yorkshire Council did not provide any Sunday service in the Dales or support any voluntary organisations that strived to fill the gap.
The meeting also heard statements from bus user groups, such as DalesBus, saying it hoped the park authority’s stance would be “a catalyst for rapid change in the context of the immediate climate emergency”.
It highlighted the “impending calamity” for public transport users of the planned significant reduction of the Skipton and Grassington bus service and that neighbouring councils needed to work together
Transport campaigner Ruth Annison and HarBus, the bus users’ group for the Hambleton and Richmondshire area, said public transport on the park was key to combating issues ranging from climate change, carbon emissions, rural isolation, social exclusion and economic poverty.
The authority’s chief executive David Butterworth said 14 of the authority’s 25 members would also be members of statutory transport bodies for North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Westmorland and Furness, who could try to influence public transport improvements.
He said members would also be able to consider whether to increase the limited resources the park authority was currently spending on public transport, but warned they would need to consider any move against the park authority’s existing plans for its resources.
North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for highways and transportation, Coun Keane Duncan, who has been invited to discuss the issue with the authority, said the council welcomed the ambition for sustainable public transport for the Dales.
He added: “Good public transport is important for economic growth and vitality of our communities. We will continue to champion this, supporting services wherever we can, lobbying government and seeking
funding whenever opportunities arise.
“The launch of North Yorkshire Council next month marks the start of our journey to create a new local transport plan for North Yorkshire and York, which will look at all aspects of the region’s transport, including road, rail, bus, cycling and walking.
“We look forward to engaging with the National Park, other partners and the public to shape the future of transport in North Yorkshire for the decades ahead.”