Accessing attractions beyond the urban fringe…

Couple at Windermere station - credit golake travel

The Urban Transport Group is a supporter of Good Journey, an independent, non-profit organisation working to transform car-free travel to visitor attractions and venues in the UK. In this blog, Good Journey’s Director, Nat Taplin, explains how they’re changing the way people travel to attractions and beauty spots within easy reach of our cities.  

Around 25 years ago (can it really be that long?!) I lived in a shared house in Manchester. Whenever we popped into the city centre – for a museum, a meal or a show – we automatically went by bus. It was a no-brainer. But when we headed out-of-town for a picnic at Dunham Massey Park, we would all pile into a camper van. For a variety of reasons, the countryside and the car are firmly intertwined in the British psyche.

In big cities most people arrive at visitor attractions and venues by train, bus, tram, bike and foot. We know it’ll save us the hassle of queueing and parking. But as soon as we venture beyond the urban fringe, to country houses and honeypot villages, most of us default to the car. Often, it’s just lack of information and an assumption that a visit to countryside means getting in the car.

Underlying this is a diffuse anxiety about abandoning the cocoon of the car. Where do we catch the bus? Will it turn up? Where do we get off? What if we get stranded? These fears are reinforced by subliminal messaging that the car is the normal (or even the only) way to reach many attractions. On attraction websites, you see words like ‘infrequent’ and ‘difficult’ used to describe public transport, while the car is ‘easy’ and ‘close’. Bus visitors are often dropped at the side of a busy main road to walk, while drivers are greeted with capacious car parks right by the entrance.

Given all this, it is little surprise that, outside cities, nine out of 10 visitors arrive by car. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A survey of National Trust visitors showed that 48% were open to visiting car-free. And some pioneering visitor attractions have realised that they can widen their audience, reduce their environmental impact and increase their income by welcoming car-free visitors (after all, one in four of us don’t own a car).

For example, Harewood House near Leeds, offers an impressive 50% discount for visitors showing a bus ticket. Smart buses run direct from Leeds and Harrogate, every 15 minutes (every 30 minutes even on Sundays). Visitors are met at the gate by a free shuttlebus to take them up the drive to the house.

Family on Beach Bus, Lepe, New Forest National Park

Good Journey is creating a UK-wide network of visitor attractions and venues which welcome and reward car-free visitors – with excellent travel information and discounts for arriving by train, bus or bike. Good Journey provides step-by-step travel information for participating attractions – including journey planners for bus and train times, and maps showing the walking route from bus stop to front door – like this. Participating attractions are recognised with the Good Journey mark – the symbol that car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount.

We have already been joined by leading attractions including Blenheim Palace, Cadbury World and Chester Zoo as well as RHS, National Trust and RSPB sites. And we look forward to working with the Urban Transport Group and its members to change the way people travel when venturing beyond the urban fringe.

Some Good Journey attractions within easy reach of cities are:

Chester Zoo
Waddesdon Manor
Beamish Museum
Castle Howard
Harewood House
RHS Harlow Carr
Cadbury World
National Botanic Garden of Wales
Blenheim Palace

Find out more about Good Journey – and sign-up for a free newsletter and eBook Great Scenic Rail and Bus Journeys of Britain at www.goodjourney.org.uk

Our blueprint for urban transport can deliver transformational change

Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Nexus and Chair of the Urban Transport Group, offers his thoughts on our new report – Policy Futures for urban transport.

Over the coming few weeks the major political parties will be getting together to debate their policies for the next few years. Ensuring our urban economies can grow in a sustainable and inclusive way has to be a key part of those debates. We believe modern and efficient transport networks can be the link between policy objectives and delivered results.

Very few other services brings together – or facilitates the success of – the goals of many government departments and agencies. The Urban Transport Group calculated that in 2014 local bus services alone contributed to the policy goals of half of all government departments and 46 policy goals of those departments (41 outside of the DfT).

That’s why we are launching our latest Policy Futures vision – a blueprint that can lead to transformational change for everything from economic development, social mobility and inclusion through to creating the cities we will need for the future.

At its heart, the Policy Futures vision requires a national framework that brings together government and civil service at the national level with the urban transport authorities delivering services in their local areas. Potentially, the barriers between departments and agencies can be lessened so that the benefits that joined-up transport thinking might be realised – in such disparate policy areas such as health, employment and education.

Not only that, a national framework could also deliver real economic and budgetary goals – funding decisions for transport schemes and infrastructure can be streamlined and made more efficient enabling transport authorities to have more control over a more stable funding regime. A more focussed transport framework will unlock additional job opportunities by helping people get into work and increase the skills base of the population by easing access to education and training.

The Policy Futures vision has 16 specific policy changes we would like to see implemented – I won’t list them here, but we will be on hand at the Labour and Conservative party conferences to explain them in detail.

Our member authorities deliver vital urban transport services for millions of people  in the UK – and we hope to make their voices, and the voices of our members heard this party conference season.