AN AMBITIOUS £6.9 million travel programme has been announced to encourage people use environmentally friendly transport alternatives when visiting the Lake District.

The GoLakes Travel programme, which is being delivered by a partnership between Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Tourism and the Lake District National Park, aims to inspire visitors to change their behaviours. It aims to save up to 11,000 tonnes of Co2 emissions by 2015, with continued reductions after that. It also aims to generate an additional £7 million in revenue and create 100 jobs.

The programme, which has been funded primarily through the Department for Transport, along with some matched funding, is focussed on the central and south Lakes, including the towns and villages of Grasmere, Ambleside, Windermere, Kendal, Hawkshead and Coniston. This area has been chosen because it receives the majority of visitors to the national park.

The programme includes nine interlinking projects which will deliver multiple improvements to travel infrastructure, such as improved cycleways, more and better bus stops, more frequent bus services, a low emission car hire network, the expansion of an electric cycle network, improved and more flexible ticketing and better transport information.

A series of studies are being carried out to identify the most effective ways to help people use sustainable transport. The programme, which will be launched this summer, will see some new transport developments during 2012 with the most significant changes taking place during 2013 and 2014.

Coun Tim Knowles, transport and environment portfolio holder for Cumbria County Council, said: “This is a real opportunity to provide a change to the mind-set of visitors coming to the Lake District. There will be really significant tangible improvements to the quality of the sustainable transport options that are available, as well as improvements to the information available to help make it easy for people to plan their trips.

“People come to the Lake District because it is a beautiful clean place to visit and if we can convince people to use busses or bikes it will help to keep it a clean and green place to be.”

The GoLakes Travel programme aims to cut car use by visitors within the Lake District National Park by seven per cent by 2015. Visitors travelling around the national park account for 205,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. That compares to 165,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions caused by residents’ car use.

Steve Ratcliffe, Director of Planning and Partnerships at the Lake District National Park, said: “This is a really unique programme. It is unique because of the partnership behind it and it is unique because it is orientated towards the visitor. Other sustainable travel projects elsewhere in the UK have focused on residents.

“This programme is about inspiring visitors that they can change their behaviour. We are trying to get to the point where people can forget about their car while they are in the Lake District because using sustainable transport will be easy and fun.”

Richard Greenwood, head of policy and research at Cumbria Tourism, said: “This programme will help to make the central and southern Lake District a shining example to the rest of the UK of how best to encourage people to forget about their cars when travelling around.

“In order for this to work we have to give people the confidence that they can get where they want to go easily and make it enjoyable for them. The significant improvements to the transport infrastructure will give people that confidence to leave their cars at their accommodation, or, even better, at home.”

The GoLakes Travel programme is a £6.9 million initiative, funded by the Department for Transport, and being delivered in partnership by Cumbria County Council, the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria Tourism. The programme runs until 2015 and aims to generate a step-change in how visitors travel to and around the Central and Southern Lake District, enabling them to make greater use of sustainable modes of travel.