Example of good practice, but there is room for improvement
Bus services in the Julian Alps Biosphere Area
The Triglav National Park Public Institute organised a round table at the Nature - Health fair, which is taking place at the Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre, entitled Bus Transport in the Triglav National Park: results of good transport practice in summer 2022 and presented the bold long-term goals of the Julian Alps Biosphere Region in the field of sustainable mobility.
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On Friday, 9 September, a roundtable discussion entitled Bus transport in the Triglav National Park: results of good transport practice in the summer of 2022 and ambitious long-term goals of the Julian Alps Biosphere Area (BOJA) in the field of sustainable mobility was held at the Nature - Health fair at the Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre (Ljubljana, Slovenia), organised by the Triglav National Park Public Institution (TNP Public Institution, in the following text regarded as JZ TNP). It was moderated by Majda Odar, Head of the Information and Education Service of the JZ TNP, and the speakers were Dr Tit Potočnik (Director of the JZ TNP), Mag. Jelena Hladnik (Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, Nature Conservation Sector), Aleš Zdešar (Expert Service of JZ TNP), Klemen Langus (Director of Tourism Bohinj and Coordinator of the Julian Alps Community), Blaž Veber (Director of Tourism Kranjska Gora), Miro Kristan (Posoše Development Centre) and mag. Matjaž Vrčko (Ministry of Infrastructure, Directorate for Sustainable Mobility and Transport Policy).
To alleviate the pressure of motor vehicles, making seasonal public transport available to the general public is an effective tool
As pointed out by Majda Odar from JZ TNP, the pressure of motor vehicles on particular parts of the Triglav National Park during the summer seasons is exceptional. The aim of the park manager, in cooperation with stakeholders (municipalities, tourist organisations, development agencies), is to alleviate the pressure of motor vehicles, and the introduction of hard measures such as restricting access to alpine valleys and passes is a lengthy and difficult process. An effective tool to alleviate motor vehicle pressure is to make seasonal public transport available to the general public. An important added value of seasonal public transport, both in summer and winter, is to provide mobility to inhabitants of settlements in the National Park area who, due to their place of residence or other circumstances, are less mobile or not mobile at all. "Taking into account the importance of public transport in the National Park for the optimal management of the National Park and, above all, for the achievement of nature conservation objectives, we are convinced that the need to ensure optimal conditions for the implementation of sustainable mobility is more pressing and urgent than ever before," emphasised Majda Odar.
Dr Tit Potočnik, Director of JZ TNP, spoke about this year's summer tourist season from the point of view of the observations of various departments of JZ TNP and highlighted the main challenges. This year's season is superlative in many respects, for example, accommodation capacities were already largely sold out in the spring. "People's habits are changing, they are less and less spending their holidays at the seaside and are choosing to spend their holidays in the Triglav National Park and its surroundings, where it is not so hot, where they expect more peace and more opportunities for rest and recreation. That is why there were many visitors. Visitors used to get all this when the numbers were not so high, but now there is a lot of pressure," he pointed out. Cooperation between the JZ TNP and local tourist organisations is essential to guide the visit, as well as with ministries and other stakeholders. "The goal, which in the long term will ensure the preservation of nature and a sustainable life for the inhabitants, as well as a pleasant visit to the park, is that over time, as people's habits change, organised public transport will remain the only option for visiting the most popular points of the Triglav National Park," added the Director of JZ TNP.
Good experiences from Bohinj and Posočje
One of the leading destinations in the field of sustainable mobility in Slovenia is Bohinj. The Director of Tourism Bohinj, Klemen Langus, presented the experience of this year's organised public transport in their area. This winter we transported almost 20,000 passengers, in the summer around 55,000, and together with the transport in Posočje, the figures are around 100,000 passengers transported. However, in order to change people's habits, progress needs to be made in infrastructure, among other areas," said Mr Langus.
Posočje is also completing its second season of spatially and temporally frequent services on the coastal side of the Triglav National Park and the BOJA, with added value in the form of services to quite remote but still very popular mountain starting points. As Miro Kristan from the Posočje Development Centre points out, the need to offer public transport to the local population in the villages below Krn, Polog, Mangart, Kobariški Stol, etc., is particularly important here. "The main problem here is that the basic public transport scheme is very weak. If we want to make progress in this area, we need to address this as well. The challenges are also financial," said Kristan, expressing his expectation that the state will also modernise and raise the level of public transport services.
Digitisation of timetables with urgent support from the State
The stakeholders in the Julian Alps Biosphere are convinced that the further development of the digitisation of timetables is impossible without the cooperation and support of the responsible ministry, especially in terms of content and technical aspects. Mag. Matjaž Vrčko from the Directorate for Sustainable Mobility and Transport Policy at the Ministry of Infrastructure explained the historical dimensions of the fragmentation of passenger transport in Slovenia. He said that digitising the timetables of regular public transport lines is a major challenge. He announced that a digital search engine for public transport timetables is expected to be launched next year.
The Nature Conservation Department of the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning and the JZ TNP are devoting significant resources this season to support sustainable mobility. Support for public transport, digitisation of public transport or timetables and support for e-mobility are an important support to the efforts of the local community and destinations in the TNP and BOJA area respectively. In this case, the Nature Conservation Sector is an essential link between the area and the ministries in charge of guiding visitors through sustainable mobility. Mag. Jelena Hladnik, from the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, pointed out that "The Ministry's task is nature conservation, and accordingly, we explicitly want to guide visits in cooperation with local people and sustainable mobility. We support digitisation and the facilitation of friendly public transport. We have identified these as priorities and have allocated more resources to them." However, she added, all these activities need to be backed up by legal frameworks, which is something the Ministry is also working on.
On limiting visits to Alpine valleys
The speakers at the roundtable also discussed the issue of limiting traffic in the Alpine valleys and passes, which is one of the main objectives of the visitor guidance, alongside the establishment of public transport and the digitisation of timetables. Aleš Zdešar, from the expert service of the JZ TNP, explained that this year special attention has been paid to the Vrata valley. One of the most visited valleys in TNP has received an asphalted road. The nature conservation consent foresees the establishment of a proper traffic regime within one year afterwards. "At the moment, we have not yet reached an agreement regarding the installation of the barrier. We are trying to convince the Ministry of Infrastructure that the national road to Vrata should be closed for nature conservation," he added.
Blaž Veber, Director of Tourism Kranjska Gora, described the daily situation on the roads in the municipality, especially in the Vrata valley. "Things are going in the right direction, the situation, which was chaotic, is much better now. However, it is important to think about the trends dictated by the fast pace of life, which is also reflected in the habits of visitors," he said. In conclusion, Dr Tit Potočnik stressed that the TNP area is a place where many interests meet. Nevertheless, he said, it is important to take the time when visiting. This way we can relax mentally and physically, and at the same time preserve nature.
From left to right: Majda Odar (Head of the Information and Education Service of the JZ TNP), Dr Tit Potočnik (Director of the JZ TNP), Klemen Langus (Director of Tourism Bohinj and Coordinator of the Julian Alps Community), mag. Jelena Hladnik (Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, Nature Conservation Sector), Aleš Zdešar (JZ TNP Expert Service), Miro Kristan (Posoški Development Centre), Blaž Veber (Director of Tourism Kranjska Gora), and mag. Matjaž Vrčko (Ministry of Infrastructure, Directorate for Sustainable Mobility and Transport Policy).