7 September 2022

Gateway at PEAK trials zero carbon tourist access to the Peak District National Park

A pioneering, zero-carbon transport trial, led by our project the Gateway at PEAK, is currently taking place in the Peak District National Park. It is a collaborative effort between attractions, transport operators, Chesterfield Borough Council and Toyota who are providing the vehicles.

The ambition is to create a zero-carbon tourism transport system to access Britain’s original National Park.

It’s the first time EV and hydrogen vehicles have been trialled together as the project aims to explore alternatives to fossil fuels and gather feedback on customer experience.

The trial route connects eight key locations and attractions including Chesterfield Train Station, Chatsworth, and the Gateway development, which will act as a hub for PEAK Express when it is due to open in 2025. The route is designed so that there’s no more than 20 minutes between each stop, much like the gondola lifts found in international ski resorts.

Currently 85% of park visitors arrive by car and with interest in the great outdoors and the staycation market booming, the numbers are set to increase. Regional stakeholders are also keen for more diverse groups to access the park and to grow the local economy through tourism. However, this must be done in a sustainable way which doesn’t exponentially increase carbon emissions, threaten community wellness and prosperity, or damage the park’s biodiversity.

Once fully operating, PEAK Express at the Gateway alone, aims to remove 500,000 tourism journeys from the National Park, reducing CO2 emissions by 3.6 million kg pa and provide a national exemplar of sustainable visitor economy growth. The long-term ambition is to see multiple hubs located around the Peak District National Park boundary.

Andrew McCloy, Chair of the Peak District National Park Authority, said; “We are delighted to be a stakeholder for this ground-breaking trial. Protecting the National Park for future generations and developing more sustainable ways for people to visit is high on our agenda. The PEAK Gateway site outside the National Park is an excellent location for a transport hub. The Peak Express service is a commitment to net-zero and will connect more of the National Park’s attractions without the need for a car, making them more accessible and spreading out the economic benefits of tourism.”

John Milligan, CEO of Milligan developers of the Gateway added; “The PEAK Resort site has been reclaimed from opencast, rewilded and we are investing in its future. PEAK’s proposition emulates the internationally successful ski resort model, providing a mixed range of hospitality, accommodation, retail, wellness and education facilities all served by a zero-carbon mobility service connected to 1,600 miles of trails and world class attractions in the Peak District National Park.

“Milligan has been developing iconic destinations for over 20 years. Our skills lie in curating the right mix of uses which will serve the community and visitors in a sustainable way bringing long term value. This trial is part of the development’s journey to zero and marks an important milestone for Gateway and the National Park.”

Hydrogen fuel and refuelling stations for the trial are being supplied by the world’s largest hydrogen producer, Air Products. The electric and hydrogen buses will be provided by Toyota where data will be gathered about each technology’s suitability for the varying terrain and refuelling needs. Jon Hunt, alternative fuels manager at Toyota (GB) said; “There is not one simple solution for zero-carbon mobility. That’s why this trial provides us with an exciting opportunity to trial both EV and hydrogen vehicles, assessing which is more suitable to different types of journeys across the park. We will also be looking at optimal ways to provide refuelling and great levels of customer service on board the vehicles.”

Andrew Lavery, Chief Executive of Chatsworth, a key attraction on the route said; “Derbyshire and the Peak District are world-class destinations for domestic and international tourists, and we are thrilled to be part of this trial.  Working with partners we are committed to reducing car journeys and supporting and promoting a more sustainable way of getting to and from the Peak District. There’s also a wonderful connection with hydrogen technology and Chatsworth – Henry Cavendish discovered hydrogen in 1766 and so, this venture is very interesting.”

Cllr Tricia Gilby, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council praised the collaborative efforts of the project team saying that “The value of this partnership is clearly demonstrated when considering significant issues like climate change, which requires collective local commitment and action if we are to make a real difference, and we are delighted to be a key partner in this trial.

“Chesterfield has excellent road and rail connections, making it the ideal base to stay and explore the Peak District from – but we are committed to a net-zero future and this trial is an exciting step forward in how we think about our regional transport links. The trial of PEAK Express at the PEAK Resort, will make it even easier – and cleaner – for visitors to experience the UK’s first national park from neighbouring destinations, like Chesterfield.”

The trial has been running since 5th September and will finish on the 16th. The results will be published at the beginning of November. PEAK Express is planned to be fully operational as part of the Gateway at PEAK Resort, due to open in Spring 2025.

Hydrogen and EVs are put through their paces on the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire.