A year of disasters: It seems as if in this past year much of our campaigning has been aimed at reacting to a continuous chain of disasters.
We start with the fuel crisis of September 2000: though this is before the period covered this report, its ramifications have extended into this period. This crisis led to a temporary reduction in traffic -- but public transport was not well placed to take advantage of this because it was itself affected by the fuel shortages. Our own local services mostly managed to run full timetables, but had the crisis not ended when it did a curfew would have been likely.
While motorists were affected by the crisis, according to reports in the media they were willing to put up with it in return for the lower fuel taxes which they eventually got. Meanwhile public transport users not only got nothing out of the crisis, but lost out because of the Government's commitment that the tax they didn't raise would be hypothecated for transport. In theory highways spending might equally be affected, but there is no sign that this has happened.
The next crisis was the Hatfield rail disaster which led to the crippling of the rail network and the discrediting of Railtrack. It was a long time before the East Coast Main Line which many of us depend on was back to normal. We suspect that (for example in the CHUMMS report which we shall come to later) decision makers may be reluctant to pursue rail schemes because they do not trust Railtrack to deliver. Meanwhile the Government has resolutely refused to acknowledge the failure of the privatisation process -- despite further failures of the rail system, where engineering work planned for the Christmas/New Year period badly overran; nor has the Great Heck disaster, which was due to a road crash, led to any move towards a level playing field between rail and road with respect to safety matters.
The next crisis was flooding in many areas which cut off whole regions, especially for public transport users who have less flexibility in switching routes. The flooding was widely seen as a sign of climate change due (partly) to excessive car dependence, and when it struck there was still time for the Government to cancel the fuel tax cuts and divert resources towards more sustainable transport modes, but it didn't. Nor is there any sign that it is to spend money on reopening rail routes which would reduce the vulnerability of the system, so this disruption may happen again any time.
Despite this crisis the Government's 10 year plan and Local Transport Plan settlements show that roads are still getting the lion's share of public spending. This means that the Government has abandoned its commitment to traffic reduction.
The next crisis was the foot & mouth epidemic. It is difficult to assess at this stage what effect the curtailment of access to the countryside will have on the future of rural public transport, but it is far from certain that none of the rural access which has temporarily been suspended due to the epidemic will disappear forever for those without cars. The handling of the epidemic, including the pretence that the countryside was open when it patently wasn't, will not endear the Government to those for whom sustainable access to the countryside is an important part of their quality of life.
Then there was the general election campaign. With the foot & mouth epidemic still going on, this provided a golden opportunity for a sustainable rural policy to form part of the agenda. Instead, both the Government and the main opposition parties buried this issue together with other transport and environmental issues, except for an attempt by one party to court the motorist vote by promising further fuel tax cuts, which fortunately failed.
More recent developments have been on the planning front. The report of the Cambridge-Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study (CHUMMS), now accepted by all relevant parties, is still far too road oriented for our liking, and its recommendations (leaving aside the proposals for road user charging) will exacerbate congestion in the Cambridge area. Furthermore the St Ives line corridor, which should be part of the east-west rail link, is to be sacrificed for a guided busway which will is unlikely to provide significant improvements on existing buses.
The extent to which the system is still biased towards road building can be seen from the fact that even the ``priority to public transport'' pre-consultation option for the London-South Midlands Multi-Modal Study does not propose any orbital rail improvements beyond the east-west rail link (without the St Ives line). Meanwhile the Government in approving Heathrow Terminal 5 has missed the opportunity to require the British Airports Authority to make hefty contributions to the area's public transport network (e.g. Crossrail and Central Railway), which bodes ill for the prospect of getting private finance for major public transport improvements generally.
The Cambridge Area Bus Users Campaign (CAMBUC) has now been reconstructed as an email group, with those of its members without access to email transferred to T2000 C&WS. (This has significantly increased our membership, though many of its members -- both with and without email -- were already in our group.) Before reconstruction its main activity was in the Waterbeach area, to try to get the former 109 route to Ely reinstated so that people don't have to make their own way to the A10. Cambs CC sponsored a replacement service which still continues, but in terms of the facilities it offers it is far inferior to the old 109. One key issue is the time penalty faced by buses in turning right to leave and rejoin the A10, which needs to be tackled by changes in the road layout.
There have been quite a number of bus changes. The Jetlink network of services to London's airport system has changed considerably. The abolition of day returns has led to huge fare increases for day trips (e.g. a trip from Cambridge to the Chilterns has gone up from GBP 10 to GBP 16).
A new link from Stansted Airport to Cambridge, Huntingdon and Peterborough started but has subsequently been withdrawn. We believe partly because it has not served enough stops, and would have liked to see it diverted to serve Sawston, Cambourne, Papworth and Alconbury. Another service has started between Bury and Stansted via Haverhill and Saffron Walden, and we have been told that there is to be a service from Stevenage soon.
A new supported service has been introduced between Huntingdon and Kimbolton. Unfortunately it is not coordinated with services supported by neighbouring local authorities. Similarly, it seems difficult to get our council to support changes in the Gamlingay area to complement a planned new Rural Bus Challenge in the area (now due to start in January, we have been told).
Peterborough City Council has reduced its administrative spending on public transport. While it promised that services would not be affected, the link to the important archaeological museum at Flag Fen has disappeared just as a new visitor centre was to be opened even further from the city bus network. However, the Council has published a new timetable which shows all rural and hospital services within the district. It promised better rural services in the autumn; there have been some improvements but they were mostly minor. The threatened withdrawal of Arriva 747 to Leicester was averted at the eleventh hour; we have suggested that proposed changes in the area next spring be used as an opportunity to restore through services to Nottingham.
Cambridgeshire County Council started by reintroducing its series of area booklets, as well as publishing a 2001 map, but gave up before getting round to the booklet covering the western part of the county. It has also been slow to update its internet timetables, and continues to use a not very user friendly format.
We have campaigned on the A428 corridor, with proposals for a connectional network. There is continuing evidence of inconvenience caused by the failure of the route to go anywhere near the rail stations at Cambridge and St Neots. And even though the route is in theory a rail-link service, it seems to be impossible to buy through bus/rail tickets starting at Cambridge.
Cambridge City Council introduced its new supported late night service in the Christmas period, but these haven't been integrated with the daytime services and there is still a gap in services from the station to the City Centre which coincides with the scheduled arrival time of many cross-country trains.
On 12 Nov Stagecoach introduced its new ``Citi'' network which has brought some improvements. However some areas have suffered, for example there are now no evening services to Teversham and the direct service between Cambridge, Fulbourn and Haverhill is now peak-time only. Beestons have not responded positively to our suggestion that this gives them an opportunity to provide a through service between Cambridge and Ipswich -- they are currently the main operator east of Haverhill, though they don't run through buses between there and Ipswich. On 26 Nov the Trumpington Park & Ride site opened. This is served not only by the ``dedicated'' service but also by one of the ``Citi'' routes and by National Express Shuttle and Airlinks services (in the case of the former, leading to a severely reduced service for Sawston etc.).
The effects of the Hatfield disaster as described above have been slowly abating. Anglia won Rail Passenger Partnership funding for a new Cambridge-Norwich service to start 2002 (unfortunately this won't do much to improve the service for the smaller stations on the corridor) and minor improvements on the line through Bury, but funding was refused for reopening the line between Bicester and Bletchley which would also form part of the east-west rail link.
Unfortunately the prospects for what we regard as the prime potential benefit to our county -- the link between Cambridge and Bedford via St Ives, Huntingdon and St Neots, with interchange with Inter-City at Huntingdon -- have taken a nosedive as the reopening of the St Ives line was rejected by CHUMMS (see above) with the route earmarked for a guided busway. We shall be campaigning strongly to at least keep the rail option open by selecting an alternative (and, we believe, better) route for the guided busway.
In September we presented our evidence to the public inquiry for the proposed Alconbury multi-modal distribution centre. As well as pushing for a greater commitment towards rail as expressed by improved links to the site from the Channel Tunnel and Haven Ports, we made representations on the proposed Quality Bus network, which represents our main hope for progress in getting an integrated network for the sub-region.
As stated above, public transport interests seem helpless to secure a fair share of transport spending which is now going on highways, both nationally and locally. First in line is the A428, where we are continuing to try to draw attention to the deleterious consequences of dualling the route between Cambridge and Caxton Gibbet. Plans for a Great Barford By-pass (just outside our area, but likely to impact on it) will also appear soon; as happens so often the need for a by-pass is being used as an excuse to upgrade the route to dual carriageway regardless of the impact on the rest of the road network.
The CHUMMS scheme includes not only the guided busway mentioned above, but also a new dual 3 lane route between east of Cambridge and west of the A1, with the western section being off-line. We see some potential advantages in parts of this scheme, but other parts we shall be resisting, because of either traffic generation or environmental impact. We have drawn attention to the many unsatisfactory features in both the remit of the study and its conduct.
Other road schemes in the pipeline include the A47 Thorney By-pass (where we plan to campaign against dualling and for a bus-friendly layout), the Fordham By-pass (where the County Council listened to pleas to preserve a potential future rail connection), the A605 improvement (which we are highly sceptical about), the A1073 Peterborough to Spalding scheme (ditto), and the Papworth by-pass (which we will oppose on the grounds that it will lead to the A1198 and A428 becoming a ``relief A14'' if the A428 is dualled).
Further afield work has just started on the M11 Stansted link road, leading to tailbacks which affect coach passengers as well as motorists.
We have attended several meetings in connection with Route Management Strategies for the A1 and A428, where we have pushed the need to reduce the severance caused by these routes to non-motorised users and bus services. We have also been represented at meetings for the London-S Midlands Multi-Modal Study.
We have already mentioned the Alconbury scheme. The Ramsey Western Development, which we regard as closely linked, seems to be stalled.
The proposed Motorway Service Area at Duxford was turned down following a public inquiry at which we gave evidence. While we oppose the scheme, we are also concerned to ensure that the site can be used for a multi-modal transport interchange, and to try to secure changes to the County Council's ``Duxford Safety Scheme'' which threatens to disrupt bus route 103 between Cambridge and Duxford, and which was put on hold pending the inquiry.
The last link in Peterborough's Millennium Green Wheel, a cycle route orbiting the city, has now opened -- though some parts were later closed due to the foot & mouth crisis (and have now reopened). This route provides the best sustainable access to the Flag Fen Museum referred to above, but it's too long a walk to be attractive to non-cyclists.
The Cambridge Grand Arcade and Cattle Market schemes have been approved. We are concerned that late changes to the latter mean that there will be wasteful duplication of car parking between this site and the nearby rail station. We have taken part in workshops on the future of various parts of the historic centre, where we have pushed the need for more bus capacity.
We have also commented on the guided busway proposals which are planned to link Cambridge City Centre with Trumpington and Addenbrookes. We are not convinced that they will be a move in the direction of sustainability (especially as they are targeted at park & ride passengers), and we hope that if it goes ahead then it will be fully evaluated before any final decision is made on converting the St Ives line to a guided busway.
As part of our response to CHUMMS we have joined with other groups in the region in emphasising that any new settlement must be on the main line rail network. This is primarily aimed at scuppering the idea of using the Oakington/Longstanton site serviced by a guided busway on the St Ives corridor, which will provide a link to the centre of Cambridge but not to most other likely destinations (e.g. London and Stansted Airport).
We have continued to participate in CSTF, the regional group STEER, the Transport Working Group of Peterborough Environment City Trust and the Bedfordshire Rural Transport Partnership. We have also participated in multi-modal studies (CHUMMS and London-South Midland) and route management studies (A1 and A428/A421), and hope to attend meetings of the regional Highways Environmental Forum. We have also continued to send our newsletters to local group coordinators and local representatives in the surrounding region.