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All aboard the holiday express

13 May 2021
All aboard the holiday express

Nat Taplin, Director of Good Journey, on how trains, buses, bikes and boots offer a greener, healthier future for leisure travel in the UK

This time last year Covid-19 had put a ‘CLOSED’ sign in the window of every tourist attraction in the country. Buses and trains trundled around sad and empty. The furthest most of us travelled was on our daily walk.

One year on and we’re set for a record summer for day trips and staycations. The forecast is: ‘Heavy traffic expected across the UK. Slow to clear in coastal areas. Temperatures likely to be hot and bothered, especially in Cornwall and the South West.’

Why we need change

Traffic in the UK has reached epidemic levels. It is making us sick – with air pollution causing around 40,000 deaths a year. Cars are the top cause of UK CO2 emissions and leisure travel the biggest part. As we unlock from Covid-19, traffic is surging back worse than ever.

This is also an issue of social justice and wellbeing. 24% of UK households don’t have access to a car – rising to 45% in the poorest areas. Many people have been locked down in cramped city housing, with little access to nature or recreation for twelve long months. They, more than anyone, need access to leisure and nature now. This is crucial to mental as well as physical health. But, all too often, it’s out of reach for those without cars.

Photo: family beside bus

Change is in the air

Following the pandemic, we’re walking and cycling more than ever – footpaths have been trodden clear and bike shops cleaned out. And there are signs that train and bus companies are starting to respond to the changed landscape too. It’s not just extra cleaning and paperless ticketing, both welcome of course, expect more capacity and innovation for leisure travel in the coming years.

Already, First Bus is introducing an additional 60 open top buses in the South West this summer. Train operators are gearing up to market leisure travel in a big way from 21 June. The reopening of The Dartmoor Line is perfect timing. It feels like there is a real opportunity for change.

Here’s a few things we’d like to add to the ‘build back better’ flip chart at the Department for Transport:

  • Extra summer holiday trains to seaside resorts
  • Bike carriages on popular tourist routes, as on Scotrail
  • More buses on Sundays and Bank Holidays
  • Simple rover tickets for buses and trains
  • A pilot car-free seaside town or even national park

Greening visitor travel

Good Journey’s new website goodjourney.org.uk features a growing list of attractions and car-free adventures around the UK. In 2019 we helped 106,000 people plan car-free days out. We’ve helped Blenheim Palace increase car-free visitors by 25,000 in just two years. Altogether we’ve taken over 100,000 car journeys off our roads. This is good for everyone. More exercise means better health, immunity and wellbeing. More car-free visitors means more support for local businesses and public transport. More people on trains, buses, bike and foot means a healthier planet.

We’re right behind Campaign for Better Transport in urging a return to buses and trains this summer. I took the train to Weymouth recently and it was clean, airy and friendly. I soon forget about my face mask, distracted by may blossom, bluebells and deer from the window. And, after an open-top bus ride to Portland (a bargain with PlusBus!), followed by cocktails and live music on the quayside, the journey back seemed to fly by.

Here’s to a care-free, car-free summer for everyone.

Top tips for car-free trips this summer

For more car-free adventures head to goodjourney.org.uk, where you can sign-up for a free newsletter and eBook of Scenic Rail and Bus Journeys of Britain.

Needles open top bus

Photo above: Southern Vectis