Transport 2000 Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk
Following the ``year of disasters'' which was the heading of our annual report for 2001, it is difficult to say whether this year has seen us move forwards or backwards.
Arrangements to replace Railtrack by Network Rail are nearly complete -- but no satisfactory basis for rail network improvement has emerged, and schemes such as Thameslink 2000 and the East-West Rail Link seem further away than ever. Meanwhile, the roads programme seems to grind on (even if at a slower rate than the motoring lobby would like).
Minor rail improvements such as the new Cambridge-Norwich service are taking place (though the Anglia Crosslink service formerly run by the same operator has folded) but we don't seem to be any nearer to a timetable planning system which optimises connections.
The Strategic Rail Authority has so far shown no inclination to keep rail fares down, and there is no sign of any retreat from the disastrous decision to reduce the value of Network Railcards. However fuel tax for motorists is being frozen for the third year in a row, and the Government has shown no enthusiasm for road user charges -- which, however, will soon be starting in Central London (which, however, covers only a small proportion of Greater London).
The Government may have abandoned ``predict and provide'' in the case of road planning, though this does not seem to have filtered through to the Highways Agency which actually does the planning; but it has certainly not done so for aviation planning, and one of the key issues of the year has been the Government's consultation on the future of aviation, which suggests that the number of air passengers may go up by a factor of 3 in the next 30 years.
As far as our group is concerned, those members of the Cambridge Area Bus Users Campaign (CAMBUC) who were allowed to transfer free to Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk when CAMBUC became an email group have come to the end of their period in this status. Some of them have remained as members of Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk by sending subscriptions for 2002-3.
Our group grew out of dissatisfaction with bus services around Cambridge, and this is still one of our major concerns. Unfortunately there is still no formal mechanism by which we can articulate this concern, either to commercial operators or to Cambridgeshire County Council. The latter have produced a bus strategy on which they were required to consult, but they seem to be free to ignore it in their day to day decision making -- an example being the withdrawal of area timetable booklets, which is only partly compensated by the improved standard of internet timetabling.
Just before the start of the period covered by this year's report, Stagecoach launched the Citi bus network for Cambridge. This year has seen some fine tuning of this network, with both positive and negative results (e.g. the Meadows Estate now has regular services to Cambridge via the Science Park and Chesterton, evenings included, but has lost its direct service to Cambridge). Cambridge City Council's late night service continues to run on Friday and Saturday nights, or rather Saturday and Sunday mornings, and the City Council is also supporting evening services on other routes, such as the Science Park route mentioned above, but the gap in services from the station to the City Centre, which coincides with the scheduled arrival time of many cross-country trains, still persists.
In the surrounding area the off-peak service between Haverhill and Balsham, formerly connecting with a Stagecoach city service, now runs through to Cambridge as a contracted service. There are also a couple of journeys to Newmarket replacing the former 115. There have also been rumours of withdrawal of the main route through Little Shelford; the next date when this might be implemented is Jan 2003.
The service between Huntingdon and Kimbolton introduced last year has disappeared, and there have been other cuts in West Hunts associated with the final loss of inter-working with buses for children to Spaldwick Primary School. All that's left is the peak services to Huntingdon and the inter-peak shopping trips -- which do now at least serve Huntingdon, making day trips to destinations such as Hamerton Wildlife Park easier. There has been no coordination with Bedfordshire County Council's Rural Bus Challenge ``East Beds Link'' from which area there is potential to open up a much improved service to Cambridge via Gamlingay.
In Peterborough the rural taxibus Rural Bus Challenge scheme has at last come on stream: it aims to provide commuter links to Peterborough city centre from surrounding villages. On Sundays, and some weekdays except in winter, it serves some leisure attractions, and in particular provides the first link to the new Visitor Centre at Flag Fen. New Sunday services to Crowland and Thorney have also been introduced.
However, the news for inter-urban services is worse. At the time of the introduction of the Citi network the X6 (Peterborough-Stansted Airport) was withdrawn, the only replacement being extra local services north of Sawtry. The X9 (Cambridge-Kings Lynn) was also withdrawn north of Littleport. Subsequent withdrawals have included the X8 Cambridge-Wisbech (replaced south of March by extending the X7 from Peterborough, but with fewer buses north of March which still don't go near the station), the X10 Cambridge-Lakenheath (replaced by peak-time route 282 and some extra off-peak services east of Newmarket), and the 747 Peterborough-Leicester (replaced in Peterborough district only by a local service of little use to people based in Peterborough).
There have, however, been some improvements on the X4 (Peterborough-Northampton) and X11 (Cambridge-Bury), though the weekday evening service on the latter has been lost; also a new Herts CC route between Stevenage and Stansted Airport, albeit by a circuitous route via Hitchin and Baldock, and improvements to the Kings Lynn-Spalding service, which combines with demand responsive connecting services to form part of Lincs CC's ``Interconnect'' network.
On the rural front, there have been limited Rural Bus Challenge improvements for some villages off the A14 corridor between Cambridge and Huntingdon and also south of Newmarket. There has also emerged a little publicised network of four weekly shopping services that, for some reason, have to be booked in advance.
On the A428 corridor, Cambourne is now ``taking off''. Route 130 has been diverted via Lower Cambourne to meet the A1198 north of Caxton by means of a road which will eventually form part of a Caxton by-pass. When this was done we were told that further improvements would be forthcoming soon, but they have not yet materialised. Further west, the X5 continues to provide an express link to Oxford, but there has been no progress regarding interchange facilities at Cambridge, Cambourne or St Neots, or at Bedford for Northampton. Our longer term campaign for the last may have to be amended in the light of changes in the rail network west of Northampton following the West Coast Main Line upgrade (which is also expected to affect through trains between Cambridge and Birmingham).
We have already mentioned the replacement of Railtrack by Network Rail, the loss of some Network Railcard discounts, the new Cambridge-Norwich service, and the lack of progress on network enhancement schemes.
We are continuing to campaign with other organisations to maintain the St Ives line for future use as a main line railway, providing a strategic link from East Anglia to the East Coast Main Line and westward. There have been changes in the competing guided bus proposals for the corridor which make this scheme less likely to appeal to the Government -- the developer for the Longstanton new town which it would serve is expecting the whole cost to be borne out of public funds; Railtrack has rejected the proposal to run a guided busway parallel to the main line railway, without which the scheme cannot offer a fast link to anywhere beyond Cambridge City Centre; and it is now planned to use conventional guided buses rather than ``trams on tyres'', reducing the likelihood of the scheme offering a significant improvement in the travelling environment.
We contributed to the consultation on the proposed Greater Anglia Franchise which would replace the existing Great Eastern and Anglia franchises plus the West Anglia network covering the remaining services out of Liverpool St. Our main contention is that any operator should be required to cooperate with other organisations in securing a wide range of network enhancements -- preventing a recurrence of the situation where the scheme to provide a new station near Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge was scuppered because WAGN were unwilling to stop its trains there. Unfortunately the Rail Passengers Committee didn't buy our argument.
We have identified a tendency for the Highways Agency to go for dual carriageways even when they do not seem to be necessary on traffic grounds. This is the case for the A421 Great Barford By-pass and the A47 Thorney By-pass, and in both cases the dualling forms our main grounds for objecting. The public inquiry for the Great Barford By-pass is expected to start in Jan 2003. Other schemes, already under way, where (to judge from roadworks) dualling is planned, are the A6 Clapham and Rushden by-passes, and the A10 Wadesmill by-pass -- even though both these roads are being detrunked. This tendency also applies nationally, including controversial schemes such as the A303 in Wiltshire and Somerset and the A66 in Cumbria.
The scheme to dual the A428 between Caxton Gibbet and Cambridge is in a different category in that there is more traffic in the morning peak than the road can cope with, but this actually makes our objection even stronger, as the effect of the dualling will be to divert the congestion to other areas where it will be more damaging. This scheme does not at the time of writing appear on the Highways Agency website, but plans are expected to be published at any time. Work has already started on dualling the section of the route through Cambourne, which is being funded by the developer; this has led to the loss of public rights of way crossing the A428, which the developer will not be required to restore after completion of the works even though a bridge at this point is needed to provide a link to express bus services on the A428. The effect of the A428 dualling will be intensified by the proposed Papworth by-pass, which will surely turn the corridor into an ``overspill A14''.
Our area is covered by two current multi-modal studies: the London to South Midlands, and the Peterborough to Norwich. We have not contributed to the latter, but we have to the former, which is now at the stage of considering the reaction to its draft strategy. This draft strategy involved a lot of road building and widening (including a damaging Luton Northern By-pass), but there are also some rail improvements (the East-West Rail Link and restoration of the Bedford-Northampton line).
We also contributed to the London Orbital Multi-Modal Study, which is relevant to our area as many of the coach services on the M25 are routes linking Cambridge with London's airport network. This has now issued a final report, which seems to downplay the proposals for coach links in the draft consultation stage (which we believe might work if they are properly developed), but continues to call for area-wide road charging (which we support) and limited widening (which we oppose).
We also sent in an objection to the A14 Thrapston-Brampton grade separation scheme, but this was largely over matters of detail as we generally support the proposals. A much more imaginative attitude has been taken to the rights of way network than in the Great Barford By-pass scheme. Some local road schemes which are being pursued include the Fordham By-pass (which we have not objected to), the A605 improvement (which we are highly sceptical about), and the A1073 Peterborough-Spalding scheme (ditto).
The work which started on the M11 Stansted link shortly before we compiled our last annual report has now finished. The tailbacks as a result of the roadworks were not as serious as we feared. Is this because through traffic has been finding routes other than the M11 and A14 -- possibly even going by rail -- in which case are to we expect major traffic increases on these routes now that the works have finished?
Consultation has finished on the Route Management Strategy for the A1. It seems that schemes to benefit non-motorised users and buses, which were our main motivation for participating in the study, have been relegated to a separate study which has not yet reported.
We have taken part in two of the sessions in the Cambridgeshire Structure Plan Examination in Public, where we have been trying to push sustainable transport policies. It appears that many of the other participants agree with us that road user charges are essential if the area is not to be overwhelmed with traffic.
The Alconbury distribution centre scheme is still awaiting a report from the Public Inquiry -- and the inclusion of the site as one of the proposals in the Government's aviation strategy means that this report is likely to see considerable further delays. The Ramsey Western Development, which we regarded as a related scheme in that both should involve a new rail station north of Huntingdon (which would also be required to serve a passenger airport at Alconbury), has been withdrawn.
Following the defeat of the proposal for a motorway service station at Duxford, we have switched our aspirations for a multi-modal interchange to the site of the Wellcome Genome Campus at Hinxton which is also well placed to play this role and where we have pushed for it as a condition of expansion. The expansion of the site has now been given the go-ahead.
We also pushed for the Centre Parcs Holiday Complex -- whose owners have sought planning permission not only to restore the site to its state before last year's fire but to expand it -- to be served by the National Express coaches that run on the A11 close to the site. Unfortunately due to a misunderstanding we failed to get our objection in on time. Coaches that run on the A11 close to the site.
The Cambridge Grand Arcade and Cattle Market schemes are awaiting implementation, and we have contributed to consultation on a planning brief for the area west of the rail station. We support proposals for a bus station and new cycle routes. However we are calling for the proposed multi-storey car park to be replaced by a pedestrian link to the proposed Cattle Market car park, and for the housing that is proposed for the site to be built on a car-free basis and linked to hire car facilities shared with rail passengers. We would also like to see nearby office development relocated to the site which should be developed on a ``highly accessible'' basis, with minimal car parking, and linked to development of the local rail network -- including the proposed new island platform at Cambridge station, access to which could be combined with the pedestrian link to the Cattle Market mentioned above.
We learnt of a proposal by the Inland Waterways Association that a new waterway should be built to link the Wash with Peterborough and Corby for 2-3000 tonne barges. We have tried to push this idea through the London-South Midlands Multi-Modal Study and the Cambridgeshire Structure Plan, but not very successfully because the IWA has not yet got around to publishing its scheme.
We have continued to participate in email groups such as the Cambridgeshire Sustainable Transport Forum, the regional group STEER, the Transport Working Group of Peterborough Environment City Trust and the Bedfordshire Rural Transport Partnership. We have also participated in the London-South Midlands Multi-Modal Study and the regional Highways Environmental Forum. We have also continued to send our newsletters to local group coordinators and local representatives in the surrounding region.
We pay affiliation fees to the following organisations: STEER, the Cambridge-Sudbury Rail Renewal Association, and the National Federation of Bus Users. The following organisations pay affiliation fees to us: Cambridge Trades Council, Cambridgshire ACRE, and Kentford Parish Council. We exchange newsletters with the following organisations: Transport 2000 Notts, Transport 2000 Suffolk, Norwich & Norfolk Transport Action Group, the Icknield Way Association, the Peterborough-Norwich Rail User Group, and the Bedfordshire Railway & Transport Association.
(7 Dec 2002)