# Trends in Peak District transport
Car usage is high among residents and visitors, as the majority of visitors to the Peak District National Park continue to arrive by car and resident use of public transport is declining.
Overall, use of public transport in the PDNP has declined, although railway usage has increased. Active transport is popular and the four multi-user trails owned and managed by the National Park Authority have over half a million visits each year by walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
# Active travel
Walking is the most popular recreational activity for visitors and residents in the PDNP. Over half (58%) of all visitors listed walking as their main reason for visiting in 2015, while a 2016 survey of recreation hubs found that almost four out of five (79%) respondents were going for a walk during their visit. Similarly, 79% of residents listed walking as their most frequently undertaken activity in the National Park.
The National Park has increasing numbers of cyclists using roads and multi-user trails and hosts popular cycling events such as Eroica. Cycling was the second most popular activity (27%) for residents, while one in five (19.7%) respondents at recreation hub sites were cycling during their visit. Nationally, cycling mileage on roads has increased by 34% over the last 25 years.
However, although there is significant provision of active travel routes within and across the Peak District National Park, there are fewer active travel opportunities for getting to and from the National Park itself. Many popular locations are only accessible via motor vehicle, with 100% of visitors surveyed at some sites, such as the Goyt Valley and Langsett, arriving solely by car, reflecting the lack of active travel and public transport access to these locations.
# Multi-user trails
Recent years have seen over half a million (519,000 in 2017) visits each year by walkers, cyclists and horse riders across three of the multi-user trails owned and managed by the Peak District National Park Authority. A number of recreation hubs including visitor and cycle hire centres provide direct access to the trails, which are suitable for many users including families and those with limited mobility. The PDNPA collect annual pedestrian and cycle counter data in order to track user trends.
PDNP Multi-user trails, 2017
|Trail||Length||Peak Month||Annual AADT of Walkers (2 way flow counts)||Annual AADT of Cyclists (2 way flow counts)||Total Visitor Movements|
|Monsal Trail||8.5 miles||August||657||370||331,320|
|Tissington Trail||13 miles||August||89||146||62,211|
|High Peak Trail||17.5 miles*||August||48||115||43,879|
The Monsal Trail is the most popular of the multi-user trails, with over half of all total visitor movements in 2017. There was an increase of 112% in cyclists recorded between 2015 and 2017 at the Hassop Station counter on the Monsal Trail, but the number of walkers (215,129) still significantly outweighed the number of cyclists (132,991)
Cyclists & walkers two-way counts, Hassop Station, Monsal Trail: 2017
However, it is important to note that the counters track the number of movements and level of activity along a trail, not the actual number of individuals using it. Although the counters are fairly robust and the data is generally reliable, there can be issues with data loss or corruption due to vandalism or damage to counters, technical faults with equipment or data transmission, repositioning or severe weather conditions.
# Cycling and cycle hire
Cycling is a significant element of active travel and sustainable transport strategies and the Peak District National Park is home to a number of renowned cycling routes. Cycle hire is available across the PDNP, including from PDNPA run locations at Parsley Hay, Upper Derwent, Hulme End and Ashbourne, which is just outside the Park but linked by the Tissington Trail. Parsley Hay and Derwent cycle hire centres also provide a variety of disability-adapted modes of transport, including tricycles, hand-crank cycles, wheelchair bikes, electric bikes and all-terrain mobility scooters. Cycle hire is also available from non-PDNPA operated centres at Hassop Station, Brown End Farm and Blackwell Mill.
# Public rights of way and access land
There are 3,540 footpaths and bridleways within the PDNP with a total length of 2,459km (not including byways and restricted byways). The latest ease of use survey showed that 81% are in good condition, although there is on a downward trend. There are also a number of permissive paths (paths for which the landowner has given agreement for public access).
Almost 40% (202miles2 or 524km2) of the Peak District National Park is open access land. This can be accessed on foot for activities such as walking, running, wildlife observation and climbing and is covered by the ‘right to roam’, meaning there is no requirement to use footpaths. However, other activities such as cycling, camping or driving a vehicle tend to be restricted on open access land, unless the land has no designated protection and permission has been granted by the landowner.
There are also a number of trails and routes crossing the Peak District National Park, including the Trans Pennine Trail, the Pennine Way, the Pennine Bridleway, the Derwent Valley Heritage Way, the Limestone Way and the Peak District Boundary Walk. Some of these are national, long-distance trails.
# Rail travel
Annual use of rail stations within the PDNP increased by 7% during 2018/19, with passenger numbers continuing to increase on all four cross-Park and gateway lines (see Figure 4). More than four million rail journeys (4,021,657) were taken during 2018/19 on these four lines; an increase of 40% since 2008/09 and well over a million more per year over the decade. National trends are broadly similar, with national rail journeys in 2018/19 up by 2.9% on 2017/18 and by 38.9% on 2008/09.
Use of the cross-Park Hope Valley line has increased significantly, with numbers up by 63% between 2008/09 and 2018/19. Of the five railway stations located within the PDNP (all on the Hope Valley line), all but one saw increased passenger numbers compared to 2017/18: Bamford by 9.1%, Edale by 5.1%, Hathersage by 14.3% and Hope by 2.5%. Only Grindleford saw a reduction of -6.5%. Similarly, passenger numbers increased on the Glossop and Buxton lines, with Glossop station recording over one million passengers for the first time and an annual increase of 19.5%. Use of the Derwent Valley line in 2018/19 was almost double (98%) that of a decade earlier. Although the total for 2018/19 was slightly down on the previous year, this was the first decrease in passenger numbers for over 15 years and the result of 11 weeks of engineering works.
Covid-19 has impacted public transport provision due to government advice at times not to use public transport as well as public hesitancy.
Changes in rail patronage on cross-Park and gateway railways between 2008/09 and 2018/19
|Railway Line (Cross-Park / Gateway)||Patronage in 2008/09||Patronage in 2013/14||Patronage in 2018/19||Change between 2008/09 & 2018/19 (% Change)|
|Hope Valley Line (Cross-Park)||530,000||764,000||866,000||+336,000 (+63%)|
|Buxton Line (Gateway)||789,000||938,000||820,000||+31,000 (+4%)|
|Glossop Line (Gateway)||1,224,000||1,637,000||1,686,000||+462,000 (+38%)|
|Derwent Valley Line (Gateway)||328,000||596,000||650,000||+322,000 (+98%)|
It should be noted that some lines are almost at, or even beyond, capacity. This means that rail passenger data may not accurately reflect the true numbers, as over-capacity can lead to an undercounting of passengers on busy services. The Hope Valley line, and most likely the Buxton and Glossop lines, are almost certainly undercounted, meaning that increases in rail usage are likely to be even greater than documented.
# Bus travel
The number of subsidised bus services serving the Peak District National Park has steadily declined in recent years, with most public transport authorities withdrawing some publicly subsidised bus services as a result of austerity and declining local authority funding.
Derbyshire County Council is the main local authority provider of PDNP bus services and helps support an important core network, although there has been an overall reduction in services – particularly on evenings, weekends and bank holidays. In recent years, scheduled bus services in the Staffordshire area of the National Park have greatly reduced, with demand responsive services filling the gap. Cheshire East Council made the largest withdrawal of funding, no longer providing any subsidised bus services to areas within the Peak District National Park. West Yorkshire Combined Authority still subsidises some services to Holme Village and South Yorkshire Combined Authority provides scheduled services to PDNP villages such as Low Bradfield and Langsett, although these vary in availability. Greater Manchester Combined Authority still provides some bus services, but these are limited and the withdrawal of others has severely impacted some areas.
In a national context, total UK public expenditure on local public transport continues on a broadly downward trend, with 37% less spent nationally in 2018/19 than the peak of £3.9 billion in 2009/10. The estimated net support from central and local government for local bus services and concessionary travel in non-metropolitan areas (like the Peak District National Park) fell by 15.5% between 2008/09 and 2018/19, with bus service operators’ grants down by 19%.
Covid-19 has impacted public transport provision due to government advice at times not to use public transport as well as public hesitancy.
# Demand responsive services
Demand responsive services are those that need to be pre-booked and they have gone some way towards alleviating poor public transport provision in rural areas. Derbyshire Connect covers significant areas of the PDNP and links to connecting bus and rail services such as the 6.1 and TransPeak buses and Cromford train station. Moorlands Connect in Staffordshire links villages and communities with the larger hubs of Buxton, Leek, Cheadle and Ashbourne; for some villages, it is the only public transport service available.
# Private motor vehicles
In the latest visitor and recreation surveys, four out of five respondents had travelled to the National Park by car. Information on PDNP resident car use is not currently available, although residents have above average car ownership and their use of local public transport has declined significantly from 78% in 2012 to 66% in 2019. The major reasons given for this decline were that journeys were easier, quicker and more convenient by car. Additionally, public transport provision has fallen since 2012.
UK road use is increasing, with total vehicle miles travelled by all motor vehicle traffic increasing by 8% between 2013 and 2018. Rural roads in areas like the PDNP tend to carry a higher share of total road traffic: in 2018, 44% of total UK road traffic was on rural roads compared to 35% on urban roads and 21% on motorways.
# Traffic flows in the Peak District
Overall, average annual daily traffic (AADT) flows on Peak District National Park roads increased by 12.6% between 2010 and 2017.
Previous to this, road traffic flows within the PDNP declined by 6.5% between 2008 and 2010 after the 2008/09 financial crash and subsequent austerity measures. However, traffic flows have since increased relatively consistently, reaching a record high of 6,560 AADT in 2016. National road traffic trends are broadly consistent with those in the PDNP, although less pronounced. National AADT flows declined by 2.5% between 2008 and 2010, but increased by 7.9% between 2010 and 2017.
PDNP Overall Combined Average Annual Daily Traffic Flows 2008-2017
The slight decline in overall road traffic flows between 2016 and 2017 is largely attributable to a 1.8% decline in traffic on cross-Park roads (A roads that cross the PDNP). Conversely, traffic levels on recreational roads (B and C roads) within the PDNP increased by 2.1% between 2016 and 2017, which is in line with increasing visitor numbers and the trend from previous years (see Figure 7). Traffic on PDNP A roads (excluding cross-Park roads) also increased by 0.6%, although this was a significantly smaller rate of increase than for the preceding years.
Average Annual Daily Traffic Flows (% Change on Previous Year)
|Year||Cross-Park Roads||A Roads||Recreational Roads|
|2017||8,563 (-1.82% on 2016)||7,341 (+0.60% on 2016)||3,737 (+2.08% on 2016)|
|2016||8,721 (+3.63% on 2015)||7,297 (+3.03% on 2015)||3,661 (+3.62% on 2015)|
|2015||8,416 (-7.55% on 2014)||6,784 (+3.71% on 2014)||3,533 (+3.63% on 2014)|
|2014||9,103 (+9.89% on 2013)||6,541 (+5.60% on 2013)||3,409 (+2.72% on 2013)|
|2013||8,284 (-1.05% on 2012)||6,194 (-3.64% on 2012)||3,319 (+10.56% on 2012)|
Traffic flows are monitored using counter data captured from a number of the PDNP’s roads and can be affected by many factors, from economic influences to severe weather. In addition, traffic counters can be inaccurate and there can be gaps or limitations with the available data. Therefore, small changes in the traffic flow data may not necessarily reflect the actual traffic flows.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, traffic has been affected by the multiple lockdowns and easing of lockdowns, with both exceptionally quiet and exceptionally busy periods.
# Road safety
Currently, two of the roads that cross the PDNP are classified as ‘persistently high risk’ by the Road Safety Foundation (RSF): the A5004 between Buxton and Whaley Bridge and the A57 between Sheffield and Glossop. The A57 (or Snake Pass), in particular, is affected by weather and climate which can cause road closures due to dangerous driving conditions. However, fatal and serious collisions on the A57 have declined by 12.5% since 2014.
Total road casualties increased across both the High Peak (20%) and Derbyshire Dales (6%) between 2017 and 2018, despite there being an overall reduction in total road casualties across Derbyshire as a whole. There was also an 11% increase in those killed or seriously injured, which was believed to be caused by a longer, warmer summer resulting in above average collisions involving motorbikes, pedal cyclists and older drivers.
Nationally, the number of collisions resulting in fatalities or serious injuries has generally fallen in recent years. This is largely due to the review of rural speed limits, measures such as average speed cameras and road safety partnerships. The majority of national traffic fatalities (58% in 2018) continue to occur on rural roads.
# Transport modes by user group
83% of all day visits to the Peak District National Park were made by car (see graph below) according to the 2015 visitor survey, down slightly from 85% in 2005. The most common reason given for this was convenience.
Visitor travel modes to the Peak District National Park 2015
The proportion of visitors arriving via bus (2%), train (1.5%) and motorbike (less than 1%) remained relatively constant between 2005 and 2015. The biggest reduction was the proportion of people accessing the PDNP by coach or minibus: 9% in 2005 and 1% in 2015.
Physically active modes of travel accounted for the largest increases in visitor travel, with those arriving by bicycle increasing from 1% in 2005 to 3% in 2015 and those arriving on foot increasing from 3% to 8%. The 2016 recreation hub surveys also found that walking (8.3%) and cycling (7%) were the second and third most common modes of travel after private car across all sites.
The proportion of PDNP residents who use local public transport has declined significantly in recent years, down from 77% in 2016 to 66% in 2019. Residents have above average car ownership (1.6 cars per households vs 1.2 cars per household in the UK as a whole) and more than a third never use public transport at all. The main reasons given for this are that car use is more convenient and quicker, whereas public transport is not frequent enough or does not run at the right times.
Almost 9 in 10 PDNP households (89%) have access to at least one vehicle, compared to just over three quarters (76%) of households nationally. In 2011, there were an estimated 26,438 cars or vans within the Peak District National Park. Between 2001 and 2011, car ownership across the Peak District National Park increased by 2%, the same as in England and Wales.
# Income and employment
Nationally, average travel differs in distance and frequency according to socio-economic status. The highest income households take almost 200 more trips annually and travel over double the average distance (9,256 vs 4,084 miles) of the lowest income households. The highest income households also take more annual trips and travel larger annual distances by bicycle and train. This trend is reversed for annual travel by local bus service, with the lowest income households taking more than three times the average number of trips (52 vs 16) and travelling more than double the average distance (233 vs 100 miles). The lowest income households on average also take 85 more trips by foot annually than those in the highest income households.
By employment status, those in managerial and professional occupations take more trips and travel further across all transport modes, apart from local bus services. The Peak District National Park has a higher number of residents employed in professional and managerial occupations (37%) than the national average (28%). Self-employed people on average take fewer annual trips (129) across all modes than either full-time (336) or part-time employees (225), including notably fewer walking and local bus trips. The PDNP is home to a high proportion of self-employed people (19.1%): more than double the national (9.8%) and East Midlands (8.7%) averages.
What are the gaps in our research & data?
- 20-year public transport provision change: Produce an up to date comparison of the 2000 SOPR table on scheduled bus routes, scheduled bus services and scheduled train services
- Measuring access to public transport: Assess what access to services and public transport remains for local communities
- Parking demand and provision: Conduct research to understand demand and provision for parking including live data at Peak District gateway and hub sites
- Expand traffic flow data: Gather additional data to get a clearer picture of traffic flows outside the Derbyshire boundary
- Demand for travel: Gather additional data to determine overall demand for travel to and within the Peak District