YORK could learn lessons from the historic Belgian city of Ghent when trying to tackle congestion and reduce pollution and carbon emissions, says the York Bus Forum.

Like York, the Belgian city - founded in 1300 - has a medieval city centre. At 260,000, the population is slightly greater than York's.

Yet unlike York, in 2017 the city bit the bullet - and began rolling out an ambitious 'mobility plan' with the aim of improving the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

Among the schemes implemented were free Park and Ride buses into town, a tram network that connects with the railway station - and a free electric mobility bus for inner city transport.

Coupled with free the Park and Rise buses, there was a parking plan which involved moving long-stay and commuter parking out of the city centre. There is free public transport for children, and even financial incentives to encourage the city's residents to switch to car sharing and car clubs.

"Public spaces have been reclaimed from the car, with new greenery, outdoor eating, and plentiful walking and cycling routes," says Niall McFerran, secretary of the York Bus Forum.

Tomorrow evening, Peter Vansevenant from Ghent's Department of Mobility will be speaking to members of the York Bus Forum by zoom to explain the progress his city has made.

Mr McFerran accepts that York can't do everything that Ghent has done. Ghent already had a tram network, for a start, he concedes. And introducing a free Park and Ride service in York would be 'enormously expensive'.

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A York bus caught up in traffic on Wigginton Road

But there are surely lessons we could learn from the Belgian city about upgrading bus services, introducing traffic management measures, expanding the use of Park & Ride, and providing an electric mobility bus in the city centre, he said.

"There are solutions," he said. "They are not easy solutions, but they are being adopted elsewhere."

Often, the problem in York is one of inertia, he said - of overcoming the objections of those who think we should continue to do things the way we always have.

That is not helped by the political situation in the city - in which control of the council flip-flops from one party to another. "That can mean there is an unwillingness to make long-term plans," he said.

But the bus forum has regular meetings with council groups, as well as other organisations in the city concerned about transport, such York Civic Trust.

And one of its aims is to promote debate. "We want to bring ideas to the people in the city who make decisions," Mr McFerran said. "If we want a better city for the future, we have to make changes."

Tomorrow night's meeting of the York Bus Forum is on zoom from 5.30pm-7pm. It is open to all. If you would like to join, email Graham Collett at vicechair@yorkbusforum.org or Niall McFerran at secretary@yorkbusforum.org