UK National Parks: a role for road-pricing?

The National Parks of the United Kingdom are characterised by their beautiful countryside and spectacular rural landscapes. They are also significant trip attracting locations, the dominant transport mode being the private car, which typically accounts for 90% of all journeys made to these destinations. Excessive car use in National Parks is problematic since traffic congestion, environmental degradation, vehicle noise and parking problems serve to undermine the natural and recreational values which they are intended to promote. Though not widely explored in a rural policy context, recent literature published by key stakeholders has called for research into the potential use of innovative measures such as road pricing in National Park settings. This paper reports on the findings of in-depth interviews with Transport Officers at eleven of the fourteen UK National Park Authorities, which seek to explore the attitudes of this key group of stakeholders in regard to road pricing and the UK National Parks. The paper concludes that the complexity of the transport planning process, the significance of relationships between key stakeholders, and perceptions of existing transport conditions ‘on the ground’ in National Parks, would appear to negate the possible application of road pricing in these settings for the foreseeable future. For policy makers and planners, who have long since called for an integrated transport planning approach consisting of incentives and, crucially, disincentives, the findings question the future direction of transport planning in economically attractive, yet environmentally sensitive locations.