Could congestion charging work in the Lake District?

A sunny August Bank Holiday attracted thousands of visitors to the Lake District bringing traffic congestion and reports of road rage as frustrated motorists clashed over parking spaces.

It’s a familiar story.

When the Chamber consulted businesses on transport issues last year, the A591 through the Lake District was cited as one of the county’s two worst congestion blackspots along with the A595 in West Cumbria.

Businesses in the Lake District also complained about lack of parking, the high cost of parking, poor provision for cyclists and inadequate public transport.

Cumbria County Council stopped subsidising buses in 2014, which means only commercially-viable services survive and fares are relatively high. Many parts of the Lake District are inaccessible by public transport.

Meanwhile, car parks in the Lake District are in the hands of multiple operators – such as the National Park, National Trust and local authorities – making a joined-up parking strategy difficult to achieve.

Businesses told us that these issues deter potential customers and make it more difficult for them to recruit staff.

Solutions began to emerge when the Chamber carried out a further consultation and set up a focus group to shape our response to the Glover Review into National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Chamber Chief Executive Rob Johnston said: “Businesses are divided on ideas such as a congestion charge or a visitor tax to raise revenue but there is a consensus that investment in transport is needed badly and we have to explore innovative ways to fund it.

“Our response to the Glover Review makes two recommendations.

“Firstly, give National Parks a strategic role to tackle transport issues such as parking and public transport.

“Secondly, explore technology-based solutions, such as zonal congestion charging, to raise ring-fenced funds for transport projects such as park and ride, subsidised bus services and dedicated cycle routes. We’d need a system that exempts local people and, ideally, targets day trippers. Number-plate recognition technology could make that achievable.”

The Lake District National Park has published a Visitor Travel Strategy, which aims to reduce the number of visitors arriving by car from 83% to 64% by 2040.

Listen to the Chamber’s Business Engagement Manager, Julian Whittle, discussing these issues with BBC Radio Cumbria’s Adam Powell:

Click here to read Cumbria Chamber of Commerce’s response to the Glover Review into the future of National Parks and AONBs.

Click here to download the National Park’s Visitor Travel Strategy.

© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce