More than 110 people attended a conference about sustainable transport in the Lake District hosted by landscape conservation charity Friends of the Lake District in Kendal yesterday.

The ‘Rerouting Expectations: Future transport options in the Lake District’ conference brought together people from national parks and AONBs around the country, Cumbrian businesses and councillors, transport researchers, travel companies and sustainable travel campaigners.

Around 20 million tourists visit the Lake District each year, with independent surveys showing nearly two thirds of businesses find congestion a problem and one third of visitors have difficulties parking.

Research by National Parks UK in 2014 suggested that 93% of visitors to the Lake District National Park arrive by car.

Karmen Mentil, director of Alpine Pearls, joined the conference from Austria via Skype. She described car free holidays in the Alps, including electric bikes, tandems, scooters and toboggans. There are car free villages and valleys as visitors hand over their car keys on arrival in exchange for free sustainable transport options whilst on holiday.

Other speakers included Nick Lancaster from Langdale Estates - a tourism business employer that runs bus services from Whitehaven, west Cumbria and Kendal for staff to get to work. Ruth Bradshaw from the Campaign for National Parks, spoke about improving car free travel across national parks, and Professor Jillian Anable, Chair in Transport and Energy at the University of Leeds, and Beth Hiblin, a travel behaviour change expert gave views on the future of transport. Tom Burditt from the National Trust talked about solving parking problems at Seathwaite.

Robert McCracken QC, told the conference ‘sticks as well as carrots’ were needed to get more people out of their cars and road pricing could have a “powerful nudging effect”.

He said: ’National parks are one of the most suitable places to introduce road pricing after large cities like London.’

Julian Whittle from Cumbria Chamber of Commerce said: ‘road charges would be the least of all evils compared with a visitor tax, which would tax those contributing most to the visitor economy.’

Key points which came out of delegate discussions included:

Some form of visitor payback scheme is needed to fund better transportation services and options. 

Road use charging and traffic management which is fair, flexible and smart and does not penalise residents and businesses should be seriously investigated.

Actions need to be identified on a place by place basis to suit local needs.

Public transport needs to be better co-ordinated so that trains connect with buses. 

Integrated ticketing for trains, buses, boats and bikes.

People in cars should be encouraged out of their vehicles as they arrive in the Lake District, with reliable alternative transport guaranteed.

Destinations should offer incentives to visitors to arrive without cars.

Smart, real time information available both online and at bus shelters. Gives people more confidence that they will not miss buses and trains.

More physical information on the ground about transportation options for walkers, cyclists, public transport users.

Kate Willshaw from Friends of the Lake District said: “We had consensus across the board that there is a problem with car traffic in the Lake District and that radical solutions are needed.  Business groups, transport experts and environmental charities all agree that we need solutions that could include road use pricing for visitors, car free valleys and massively improved public transport so people can get around the Lake District without having to use their cars.”

What happens next?

The Lake District National Park Partnership has recently set up a sustainable transport group and findings from the conference will go here.

Transport for the North (a government organisation set up to coordinate and improve travel across the north) has asked for the findings also.

‘The conference has started these conversations. Now it is up to the responsible organisations and their partners in the county to take action to improve travel and transport within the Lake District and other rural areas,’ added Kate Willshaw.