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Reducing tourism’s burden through public transport: the pilot Ullswater bus service

Guiding Principle 6: Reduce tourism's burden. Account for all tourism costs in terms of local tax burdens, environmental and social impacts, and objectively verifiable disruption. Ensure investments are linked to optimizing net-positive impacts for communities and the environment.


Guiding Principle 8: Mitigate climate impacts. Strive to follow accepted scientific consensus on needed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Invest in green infrastructure and a fast reduction in transport emissions involved in tourism - air, sea, and ground.


Guiding Principle 11: Diversify source markets. In addition to international visitation, encourage robust domestic tourism, which may be more resilient in the face of crises and raise citizens' perceived value of their own natural and cultural heritage.


Visitors to the picturesque Ullswater region of the Lake District National Park in the UK are now able to leave their cars behind and opt for the bus instead using a pilot bus scheme linking holiday accommodation with attractions in the Lake District. Public transport routes used to be limited in this popular region, meaning tourists had no option but to drive, which often resulted in congestion around the lake as well as an increase in pollution. The pilot Ullswater bus service hopes to change this by providing a minibus service that improves connections between where people are and where they wish to be within the valley.  


The objectives of the pilot are multifold including improving transport in the valley for residents, visitors and businesses, encouraging visitors arriving by car to leave it at their accommodation, reducing the amount of private vehicle transport in the valley and helping to meet the Lake District’s and Cumbria’s net zero targets.


Key to success in operations has been collaboration with a number of stakeholders. The Ullswater bus service complements rather than competes with the existing services provided by Stagecoach and Ullswater Steamers, and helps to simplify public transport to various destinations.  Financing was secured through a number of sources including businesses, parish councils and grant-giving bodies. And publicity and marketing has gained traction through the support of many people and businesses including Ullswater Steamers and many businesses on the routes - especially the accommodation businesses - who are promoting the service to their customers.


Michael Firth from Sustainable and Integrated Transport for Ullswater (SITU) advises other organisations keen to improve public transport options in their own destinations. He said: “Don't let the best be the enemy of the good. Had we insisted on our “ideal” solution, the service would not have happened.

“Meet a need. There was a clear need for improved public transport connecting where people are and where they wish to be.  This was recognised by everyone we approached, and helped to generate widespread support.”


In nine days of operation the service carried 262 passengers and the bus service is seeing an overall increase, weekend by weekend in the holiday period. If the pilot is a success the plan is to extend the service in 2024.



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