Why people won't use public transport to get to work in the Lake District

Video report from ITV Granada Correspondent Andy Bonner

There are calls for an overhaul of public transport in the Lake District, after the area missed out on government funding.

With the busy tourism season underway in the Lake District, many visitors and workers have told ITV News they cannot rely on buses to travel around the area.

Many people commute into the Lake District but say services are unaffordable and not fit for purpose

Ambleside is a popular base for climbing, hiking and biking

Earlier this month it was revealed Cumbria was not included in a list of 31 areas selected for a share of £7 billion in funding to level up transport outside London.

A bid was submitted with plans for cheaper season tickets for low paid workers but it was turned down.

Blackpool and Cheshire also missed out on the funding, while Greater Manchester was awarded £94.8m, half the amount it requested.

Warrington was awarded £16.2m, Liverpool City Region got £12.3m and £34.2m was given to Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen.

There has been some other funding in recent months for Cumbria but it's not brought prices down to an amount workers in Ambleside say would make them viable.

Hugh Stoddart, a bookshop assistant in Ambleside, had to buy a car when he moved to the Lakes.

He said: "I just think levelling up is a slogan. I dont think it means anything. I think if they really cared they'd just make buses free, period. That would be revolutionary.

"Suddenly you would find out what the real demand is because people would use them. Pollution issues, parking issues, it could solve a lot of that."

Eleanor Garlick with her bus pass

Much of the Lakes has few buses but while Ambleside is fairly well served, ticket costs are rising for the first time in three years.

The main operator, Stagecoach, says it has had to increase bus fares because of rising operating costs.

But the rising cost of living is biting for many of the Lake District's workers, who are often earning the minimum wage.

Barista Shirley-Ann Quinn said: "It's been roughly five/six years since I've actually left Ambleside myself only because I can't actually afford public transport. I can walk to Grasmere but again it's just far too expensive to leave Ambleside so me and my son stay here."

Standing just outside the cafe Shirley-Ann works in, we found Eleanor Garlick, who has a free bus pass.

Anyone over 60 is eligible for a free bus pass.

Eleanor said: "It's very important to me because I no longer am able to run a car and so without the bus and my trusted Now card I really don't know how I'd get to appointments especially medical ones."

Some are calling for buses to be free Credit: ITV

Workers in the local deli are worried about the rising cost of fuel and are trying to car share, but that's difficult when working shifts.

Heisi Kearsey said it's cheaper to drive from Kendal than use public transport.

She said: "It's more than an hour's pay for me and that's just not financially viable. So I was driving and then obviously petrol prices have gone up exponentially in the last few weeks so I've started cycling in as much as I can but obviously the weather in the Lake District is not always kind. And getting in and there's no shower facilities or anything at work.

"On some days it's fine, other days not so fine so I end up having to drive and we try to car share as much as we can but we all work different shift patterns and there's not always someone else coming from that side."Responding to the issue, the main bus provider Stagecoach said: "We've been very sensitive to the cost of living [with] no fare increases for three years."

But it says its operating costs are up 12% with rising fuel prices. So fares went up in March.

Ambleside Action For A Future is a group of local residents with a focus on the environment.

Its members want to see a significant shift in travel from private cars to public transport.

Co-ordinator Gillian Kelly said "If there isn't government support, what there could be would be some kind of eco levy on traffic coming into the Lakes. Then the money could be ring-fenced to subsidise good public transport.

"People would change their habits. People would take public transport. They might even enjoy it."