Car-free travel - Local Sustainable Transport Fund
In 2012, Hampshire County Council, the New Forest and South Downs National Parks, and five partner authorities were awarded £3.8m from the Department for Transport through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF). The aim of this funding is to reduce the impact of car traffic in the National Parks by encouraging 370,000 visitors to switch to car-free travel at each park by 31 March 2015. This includes:
- improving key public transport services into the two National Parks
- make it easy to reach visitor attractions within the two National Parks
- promote travel by bus, rail and cycle to and around the National Parks.
A full list of all LSTF projects will soon be available on Hampshire County Council’s website.
The 2013 LSTF visitor survey suggests some changes in the way people travel in the New Forest. The 2014 visitor survey will soon be available.
Here are some case studies of LSTF supported projects in the New Forest National Park.
New Forest Tour
The open-top New Forest Tour offers passengers spectacular views of the National Park, discounts at easy-to-reach attractions and good public transport links with local trains, buses and ferries. It’s run in partnership by the New Forest National Park Authority and bus operator Go South Coast.
The Tour began in 2004 with one route and 4,000 passenger journeys. It grew to two routes until 2013 when LSTF funding allowed a third new route to be launched. The ‘Blue Route’ now takes passengers along the coast and around the south west of the New Forest. By the end of its 11-week summer season in 2013, the Tour had grown to 40,653 passenger trips.
In 2014, LSTF funding was used to add new stops at Hythe Ferry and attractions like New Forest Wildlife Park and Longdown Activity Farm near Ashurst. Passenger journeys increased again to a record 41,877 that summer.
The New Forest Tour saved an estimated 226,000 private car miles in 2014, and provided a boost to local businesses, contributing an estimated £680,000 to the local economy.
The New Forest Tour has also developed good relationships with local commercial partners including the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Ringwood Brewery, Shorefield Holidays, New Forest Wildlife Park and Exbury Gardens.
The New Forest Tour was awarded a ‘Certificate of Excellence’ by Tripadvisor in 2014 for being listed in the top 10 per cent of businesses on its website.
The existing 112 bus service runs three days a week, a few times a day between Hythe, Beaulieu and Lymington. In 2013, LSTF funding was used to re-launch the 112 as the Beach Bus, running hourly services seven days a week during the school summer holidays.
Working in partnership with bus operator morebus, the National Park Authority re-branded the existing buses, timetables and marketing, and re-routed the service via the popular Lepe Country Park. Passengers benefited from 20% discounts at attractions on the route including the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Buckler’s Hard, and Exbury Gardens, as well as free ice creams at Lepe beach.
During its first summer season in 2013, the Beach Bus attracted 5,898 passenger trips over a five week period. In 2014, a free ferry link to Southampton was introduced and passenger journeys increased to 7,993 – a 35% increase from the previous year. The Beach Bus saved an estimated 58,000 private car miles in 2014.
In the autumn of 2014, the Beach Bus was shortlisted as one of five finalists for Local Authority Bus Project of the Year at the UK Bus Awards.
Cycling is a great way to discover the beauty of the New Forest, with many quiet country lanes and more than 100 miles of way-marked cycle tracks across the Crown Lands of the Forest – many of which are off-road routes.
LSTF funding was used to open a new route for cyclists on the Beaulieu Estate which had previously been restricted to walkers only. The two-and-a-half mile path from Beaulieu towards Buckler’s Hard was repaired and resurfaced, and in spring 2014 it was opened to cyclists thanks to a new 10-year agreement between the National Park Authority and the Beaulieu Estate.
In May 2014, LSTF funding was used to support a month-long digital promotion of cycling by the National Park Authority, targeting young families to inspire the next generation to ride their bikes. The Family Cycling Adventures promotion used colourful imagery to appeal to children and included local cycle hire discounts at Cyclexperience in Brockenhurst and New Forest Activities in Beaulieu as well as a photo competition through Facebook and Twitter. Families could also pick up free cycling badges and download free activity packs for their train or bus journeys to the National Park.
In 2015 the National Park Authority teamed up with Garmin and local bike hire companies to provide cyclists with free GPS navigation devices to help them find their way along the tracks and enjoy the National Park.
Walking is the most popular pastime in the New Forest. This includes the freedom to ramble across unenclosed land as well as a growing demand for guided walks.
In autumn 2013, LSTF funding was used to establish the New Forest Walking Festival to encourage car-free travel. Most of the guided walks started from train stations or bus stops with free minibuses provided for walks with no public transport links. All of the walks were free or discounted if walkers arrived by bus, train, bike or on foot.
The Walking Festival was run by the National Park Authority with support from the Forestry Commission, New Forest District Council, New Forest Association, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Brand New Forest and the New Forest Tourism Association.
The 2013 pilot included 11 guided walks during the autumn half-term attracting 102 walkers. In 2014, the walking festival tripled in size, expanding to 31 guided walks over a fortnight which attracted 341 residents and visitors. The Walking Festival also attracted a sponsor, reducing the amount of LSTF support required.
New Forest Travel Concierge
Face-to-face engagement with visitors and residents has been a key factor in encouraging car-free travel around the New Forest National Park.
In 2013, LSTF funding was used to establish the New Forest Travel Concierge service at Brockenhurst rail station. Two seasonal staff were employed to run a pedal powered mobile unit full of information on the New Forest Tour, Beach Bus, trains, Twizy electric vehicles, cycling and walking routes, as well as visitor attractions.
During their first summer season, the Travel Concierge gave travel advice to around 2,000 visitors and residents over a six week period. This increased to 11 weeks during the summer of 2014, with the Travel Concierge giving travel advice to 4,441 visitors and residents. The team also sold 1,445 New Forest Tour tickets and handed out hundreds of car-free leaflets and 1,200 cycling route maps.
In 2014, the Travel Concierge also ran the Tech Crèche, a safe place for visitors to leave their car keys, tablet and smartphones whilst enjoying a car-free and tech-free break in the New Forest. The innovative publicity campaign exceeded marketing expectations, featuring in 66 newspapers and radio programmes, including 15 national publications and broadcasts such as The Guardian, The Times, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 2. A tongue in cheek video featuring a ‘Young David Attenborough’ discovering the Tech Crèche also attracted more than 68,000 views on YouTube. In the week following the Tech Crèche campaign, passenger numbers for the New Forest Tour increased by 30% compared to the same period in 2013, whilst Beach Bus passenger trips rose by 115%.
The National Park Authority’s work to promote car-free travel was also recognised in 2014 after being shortlisted in the PRmoment.com Golden Hedgehog Awards for the best Public Sector Campaign of the Year in the South.