Want to leave your car at home this spring? Tim Woods takes a look at the bus options for Yorkshire and Snowdonia.
Spring is here, and as the flowers pop out of the ground, so summer bus timetables for National Parks start appearing. And the good news is that many services are becoming increasingly popular with walkers.
The Dalesbus has been operating Sunday and Bank Holiday services in the Yorkshire Dales since 2007, and the growth in passenger numbers has been impressive. From around 15,000 passenger journeys in its first year, there were over 40,000 passengers on a much-expanded network in 2011. This shows that if a service is regular, reliable and reasonably priced, people will use it.
The story of the Dalesbus demonstrates the vulnerability of many rural services. It was threatened because the local County Council and National Park Authority withdrew funding for all Sunday and Bank Holiday bus services. Now run through the not-for-profit Dales & Bowland Community Interest Company, the network relies on subsidies; in 2012 this comes from the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund, and West Yorkshire Metro.
But there is a risk of severe cuts to this funding in 2013, which will in turn threaten the Dalesbus. And despite its increasing popularity, over 90% of the 8 million annual visitors to the Yorkshire Dales still travel by car.
Over in Snowdonia, the local council have taken steps to encourage sustainable transport. The Snowdon Sherpa buses are popular with locals and visitors alike, enabling walkers to tackle many linear walks as well as providing access to all the routes up Snowdon.
In an effort to encourage use of the service, the Snowdon Sherpa now offers one-way tickets for just £1.00 – a significant discount on previous prices. And this attractive fare is being subsidised using revenue from local pay and display car parks, creating a further incentive to take the bus, not the car.
The core services forming the Sherpa bus network have also been revised, and the council worked with operators to design routes and timetables. This allowed them to make the most of resources and provide services that are most useful for passengers.
Keeping rural bus services running, both in National Parks and beyond, will be difficult in the current climate of spending cuts. But if more walkers, climbers and day-trippers leave the car behind and hop on the bus, then their future will remain bright – nothing sways political decisions like weight of numbers.
Thanks to Colin Speakman and Gerwyn Jones for their inputs.
For walking routes from bus stops in the Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia and beyond, visit www.carfreewalks.org
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Snowdon Sherpa Bus