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

Smart futures for urban transport: making it work for travellers and cities

Change isn’t coming – it is already here. Transformative technological change (allied with social change – the transition to a sharing economy in particular) is shifting the ground beneath our feet as big city transport authorities. Three areas in particular stand out. Firstly, the explosion of data which means that citizens can be far better informed as travellers about their options but also potentially have a greater say over decisions on transport. The planners evaluating the options for new services, infrastructure and facilities will also be far better informed about the implications of different options. Secondly, new vehicle technologies will mean that vehicles are smarter, greener and better connected. There is also the potential for them to become more autonomous. Thirdly, new means of paying for access to transport alongside new business models open up the potential for Mobility as a Service – where travellers can buy packages of mobility that can be used across all modes (including bike hire, car hire and taxis).

Better informed decision making, both individually and collectively, as well as transport systems which are smarter and cleaner, offers an exciting prospect. However, there’s more to getting the best from this smart future than just letting technology rip. For example the growth in the taxi market, fuelled by new business models, is bringing benefits to consumers but at the expense of growing traffic congestion. Who will ensure that those on the wrong side of the digital divide can still get around? How can we ensure that technology plays its full role in improving air quality and tackling carbon emissions?

Much of the debate on what we call ‘smart futures’ tends to be focussed on excitement around the technology itself. However, technology should not be an end in itself. It should be about making individual journeys easier whilst also serving wider public policy goals for cities – like cleaner air, inclusive growth and urban environments that people want to visit, invest in, live in and work in.

This is where the Urban Transport Group, and its members come in, and it’s what ‘Our Vision for Smart Futures’ that we launched today is all about.

A vision that commits us to recognising the pace of change and the benefits it can bring in the way that we work and operate; making sure that change makes travel simpler and easier whilst ensuring that change does not leave behind any sector of society or community or leads to unintended consequences that damage cities as a whole (such as more traffic congestion)

I hope that this vision statement will help remind national government, Transportation Network Companies and the tech sector that to get the best from smart futures we need a broader dialogue on smart futures on transport, one in which public sector transport authorities and wider city region government is integral.

Follow this link to download a copy of ‘Our Vision for Smart Futures‘.