Transport 2000 Cambs and W Suffolk

The Future of Buses in Cambridgeshire

(16 Jan 1998)

This is a briefing on the need for a more thoughtful approach than that proposed by the County Council and voted through on 15 Jan by the county's Environment and Transport Committee.

We believe that the cuts are wrong for the following reason:

  1. They were not made after mature consideration of their effects on bus users. Even the ``hit list'' of services likely to be affected only appeared the day before the meeting. We haven't been told how many services would need to be cut to meet the financial targets, and the role of the Suffolk County Council services mentioned is also unclear.
  2. The cuts, which mainly affect rural services, are likely to have severe impact on many users. (By contrast, where evening and Sunday services -- only a minority of the hit list -- are cut, the impact will be less severe but will affect a greater number of users.)
  3. The cuts send quite the wrong message to people in the county about the Council's sincerity in promoting alternatives to the car. We refer in particular to recent media coverage of evidence that traffic fumes are killing about 24,000 people a year (countrywide).
  4. It is wrong to use short term financial problems as an excuse for cuts which are likely to inflict permanent damage, and which will cost far more to reverse. When a bus service has been withdrawn, and the people who depend on it have found alternative modes of transport or moved out, it will cost a lot more to entice them, or those who have replaced them, back to public transport. Yet the Council may be forced into just such a policy by measures such as the Road Traffic Reduction (UK Targets) Bill now before Parliament.

There are a number of reasons why the financial problems are short term: the Goverment has promised to address the Area Cost Adjustment problem next year; it has also promised to end council tax capping within the life of this parliament; it is widely expected that it will give new powers to councils to raise revenue by means such as taxing private non-residential parking and road pricing; and there is scope for getting finance from other sources, such as the Rural Development Commission, the Countryside Commission, rail (and bus) operators and private developers. Indeed if the Alconbury Airfield proposal now before Hunts District Council goes ahead, it will remove the need for part or all of several contracts including some on the hit list.

Here is an alternative strategy which we would be willing to accept. It isn't all we want, but it would avoid the vast majority of the hardship to bus users threatened by the Council's own strategy. Indeed bus users could actually benefit, as from measures designed to increase patronage.

A: The Council would commit itself to avoid cuts that might have a significant adverse effect.

B: The Council would seek ways to reduce its contribution towards loss making buses by measures such as efficiency savings, subject to the constraint in A.

C: The Council would examine the scope for raising finance from other sources. See above for some ideas. Others include charging private hire cars for use of the transponders that enable them to negotiate the bollards at Bridge St, Cambridge where an experimental closure scheme will soon be coming up for a decision on whether to make it permanent. Also, could payments to operators be rephased so as to defer some of the payments for existing services till the next financial year (1999-2000)?

D: If this did not save the required GBP 210,000 the rest of the needed cuts would be applied to the minor road maintenance budget. (Incidentally, if even a tenth of the savings were achieved, bus services would still be taking a greater proportionate share of the budget cuts than road maintenance.)

E: The restoration of the budget cuts would take high priority in future years when the Council was less tightly constrained. Consultation on priorities for future improvements should start as soon as possible.

What would be the impact of the cuts?

This varies, but we can generally divide them into the following headings.

1. Direct hardship.

Cuts will bear particularly severely on people for whom a service provides essential access to work, school or shops. In the case of work journeys, a cut that deprives even one person of the means of getting to work may cause more harm to that person and his/her employer than the cost of maintaining the service, and the Council should in every case check that this isn't happening.

Removal of what we call ``network'' journeys (i.e. specific journeys, especially in the evenings and on Sundays, linking the main population centres) will cause less severe hardship as most travel at such times is for purposes such as social visiting and leisure (though there will be some work journeys). However, many more people will be hit, as network services cater for a much wider variety of journeys, including inter-urban travel.

2. Knock-on effects.

Where hardship exists, longer term knock-on effects will inevitably follow: if people turn to other modes of transport, or move out and are replaced by car users, public transport usage will decline further leading to renewed pressure for support from the Council if further cuts are to be avoided. There is little evidence that such a vicious circle will terminate short of total car dependence.

There are also shorter term knock-on effects: a round trip from one's home will normally use at least two buses, and if one of these (let's call it A) is cut then the result will undermine the viability of the others. For this reason we feel that the ``subsidy per passenger journey'' figure would be more meaningful if the revenue from the whole of every journey including a ride on bus A is taken into account.

In some cases, as the Council acknowledges, the withdrawal of support for bus A may lead to cuts to others with which it is interworked, or which are used by passengers on bus A. If this is likely to be the case, then the ``passenger'' figures should be increased to cover those on all journeys which may be withdrawn.

3. Environmental.

The cuts will mean that some people can only meet their travel needs by car. Having acquired cars they will use them for the rest of their travel, thereby exacerbating traffic congestion and pollution. Furthermore, people deprived of evening buses will have to drive to work if there is any chance that they may need to work late -- largely impacting on peak time traffic.

Is there scope for efficiency savings?

Here are some options:

We now go through the list of contracts. These are shown in numerical order. We also add the recently withdrawn contract for an evening service between Huntingdon and Sawtry, and a proposal to fill the gap at Fen Drayton resulting from changes to the Cambus network in September 1997.


For each contract we show the following:

The contract number (as shown in the ``hit list''), and service number if different, preceded by a two-letter code for the operator as shown in the County Council's 1997-8 bus map. The hit list shows two contracts UCX3 and one contract 120, but we have separated them into three and two respectively. We have also included proposals for contracts for Huntingdon-Sawtry and Fen Drayton, which we have called MY151 and CB155. This is all shown in bold type, and we also use bold type elsewhere when we wish to refer to these contracts.

The type of the service, i.e. the role or roles that it fulfils. This can be Work, Edu(cational), Shop or Net(work). A few of the contracts don't fit into any of these categories.

A code for the district(s) served by the relevant contract. We show both origins and destinations, as the loss of a service can harm both. The codes are as follows: C = Cambridge City, E = East Cambs, F = Fenland, H = Hunts and S = S Cambs. Under this heading we also put ``Suffolk'' for the Suffolk CC contracts, but otherwise we do not refer to counties other than Cambridgeshire, or districts within them (including Peterborough City).

A code for the status of the service, i.e. an indication of what action we propose (sometimes there are two options). D = develop to improve patronage, M = maintain in present form, R = try to reduce costs, W = withdrawal will not cause too many problems, ? = insufficient information. Note the following breakdown of the 41 contracts: 5-11D, 7-12M, 16-22R, 2-3W, 2?. The large number of R's shows the scope for savings by cost reduction (which could be increased by considering services not in the hit list).

Note: some of our proposals may turn out not to be feasible, but we are confident that enough are feasible to justify their full examination. And while we believe all our proposals would avoid significant hardship, we aren't guaranteeing this and would wish to abandon any proposal that did.

We believe that interavailability of tickets between different operators -- especially between daytime and evening services -- is highly important. We welcome the recent adoption of this initiative on contract MY151 and believe that if better publicised this could significantly increase the usage of this service. The idea is applicable to several of the contracts listed, and we do not intend to make specific reference to each case.

(Work, CHS, M). Extension of late afternoon journeys beyond Papworth. This looks like an essential work service. One could terminate journeys at Fenstanton, with connection to St Ives by other buses, but would this yield any significant saving?
(Edu, CHS, M). Extension to Long Road 6th Form College. This looks like an essential educational service.
(Shop, H, R). Saturday buses from Graveley area to Huntingdon. If there's a school bus to Huntingdon, we believe significant savings can be secured by opening it up and using it as part of the shopping facility (on a different day). Or amalgamate the contract with SF406 (to which the ``school'' proposal also applies) to secure a through service between St Neots via the villages to Huntingdon, again on a different day.
UCX3a (morning):
(Work/Net, CHS, D). Early morning bus from Bedford and St Neots to Cambridge, (we believe) interworked with the 07.50 ex Cambridge on commercial route UCX5 (Cambridge-Oxford), which also serves significant ``work'' and ``network'' requirements and may be in jeopardy if the contract is withdrawn. We would like to see the X5 retimed to 07.40 (which may entail a minor change to the X3 contract), to make a more reliable connection with UCX2 to Northampton at Bedford and, on schooldays, with UCX7 to Huntingdon at Croxton or Eynesbury (for the reason for the latter see KY400). Increase patronage on the X5 by advertising the existing through ticketing with the X2.
UCX3b (evening):
(Net, CHS, D). Evening journeys between Bedford/St Neots and Cambridge. This is interworked with UCX51 from Cambridge to St Ives and Huntingdon, which is almost certain to disappear if the contract is withdrawn; the Council should have mentioned this as the X51 is sometimes popular. There is scope for improving patronage on the 21.15 Bedford-Cambridge by advertising the existing connection and through ticketing with UCX5 from Oxford, and by improving connections from Northampton, railhead for the West Midlands.
UCX3c (Sunday):
(Net, CHS, R). Sunday journeys between Bedford/St Neots and Cambridge. A previous Cambs CC briefing for this contract said that if the tender was withdrawn the commercial journeys would probably disappear too -- surely the Council should have mentioned this? However, we would actually support a cost reduction measure to replace the Cambridge-Bedford section of this route by a diversion of alternate journeys on commercial route UCX5 to cover the X3 route between Wyboston and Hardwick -- this could be accommodated within the existing X5 schedule -- because this would give potential to improve connections with other rural routes at Bedford. Though we would like to see an agreement to make Sunday Rover tickets valid on both X3 and X5 journeys between Cambridge and Bedford, which would considerably improve the utility of such connections.
(Shop, HS, W). Friday diversion of St Ives shopping service via Knapwell. We accept that there are alternative shopping facilities in Cambridge.
(Edu, CS, M/W). Extension of 16.00 ex Cambridge to Gt Chishill. This looks like an essential journey for people attending school or college in Cambridge, but if such use does not exist (and on Saturdays and school holidays) we would not object to the withdrawal of this service, provided the positioning working beyond Fowlmere to wherever the bus would go (e.g. back to Cambridge for the 17.45 departure) is opened up for people returning from the area. See also CB32.
(Shop, CS, M/D). 14.20 Cambridge-Fowlmere. The options are either to maintain this journey and advertise the corresponding positioning working from Fowlmere, or to extend the 12.35 ex Cambridge (route CB31) to Gt Chishill and back to Cambridge replacing the 13.20 from Fowlmere. The latter would create morning and afternoon shopping facilities from the Gt Chishill area to Cambridge, and also offers opportunities to absorb Herts CC contracts.
(Work?, H, ?). Morning journey from Oxmoor to Huntingdon. Without more information we can't comment.
(Net, H, M/R). Evening buses Huntingdon-St Ives. This contract could be covered by diversions on the relevant section of evening buses on routes UCX51 (see UCX3b) and MY151, though we wouldn't support this if it led to the withdrawal of earlier commercial journeys, or the loss of the connections off trains (or substitute buses) which currently arrive Huntingdon between 22.22 and 22.31.
(Work?, H, ?). Diversion of one journey via Lt Paxton. Without more information we can't comment.
(Work, H, R). Godmanchester commuter rail link. We support the proposal to secure the facility by diverting another service, assuming that good rail connections are maintained.
(Work, H, R). Stukeley Meadows commuter rail link. Could this facility be secured by diverting one or more journeys on VT351 (Peterborough-Huntingdon)?
(Edu, E, M). Diversion of 16.00 ex Newmarket via Reach. This looks as if it is required for educational purposes, in which case it should be kept.
(Net, E, M). 08.13 Sats Soham to Ely. This journey should be kept, though this is not a priority.
(Work, CS, M). 18.15 Cambridge to Morden. Several years ago the Council wrote to me that the withdrawal of this journey would create very severe hardship. Has the situation changed?
(--, CS, R). Saturday evening service from Longstowe to Cambridge and back. As Myall's have to run buses between their Bassingbourn garage and Cambridge for their tendered services 93 and 151, the marginal cost of running a service on this corridor is low, though another route may be cheaper (see also CB146b). If the contract disappears, contract prices for the 93 and/or 151 may rise.
(Shop, E, R/D). Welney-Ely market bus. This route is unsatisfactory at present. Our options are: divert the school bus via Welney and use it as part of the shopping facility; secure the operation of a Christchurch-Ely service (connecting with TW360 to/from Wisbech) by the Croft Carrier community bus; run a through Wisbech-Ely service as part of the 360 contract; or run a postbus on this route (see CB127), possibly also replacing the tendered routes to Ely from Upware (GY117) and Blackhorse Drove (NL129). All options should include a visitor facility to Welney Wildfowl Trust, going out on the early afternoon working from Ely and returning on the school bus from Gold Hill, which would extend to Littleport, Ely or wherever it now goes ``light''.
(Shop, E, R). Little Ouse and Soham Great Fen market bus. We welcome its replacement by a postbus, and hope this can be interworked with LY128 (on the same day).
(Shop, E, R). Wardy Hill market bus. See CB127 above.
(--, S, R). Extension of peak workings from the Camps and Bartlow to run on Saturdays. We propose diverting the first and last journeys on Essex CC contract service HD59 (Haverhill-Audley End) via the Linton area to connect with the 07.58 to Cambridge and 17.49 return arrival (CB113). It shouldn't be too hard to maintain rail connections at Audley End with the increased train frequency expected shortly.
CB146a (Wednesday):
(Shop, S, M/R). Market day diversion via Abington Pigotts. We suggest that the option be examined of transferring this facility to (commercial) service MY15, which would then run from Litlington (connecting with the first arrival from Cambridge/Royston) to Abington Pigotts, Shingay, Wendy, Croydon, Arrington (for Wimpole Hall), Wimpole, Orwell, Meldreth, Whaddon, Bassingbourn, Royston.
CB146b (Evenings):
(Net, CS, D/R). Royston-Cambridge evening buses plus short workings. The first and last journeys could be provided by Myall's positioning workings (see MY120). If necessary the Barton Road and A10 corridors could be served on different days. The intermediate and last journeys could be adapted to connect with trains from London at railheads such as Foxton.
(Net, CHS, R). Cambridge-Huntingdon evening service. (Note: this contract isn't in the hit list, but we mention it because we wish to use it to replace a recently lost contract on route VT351 between Huntingdon and Sawtry.) We suggest adapting the MY151 contract by extending the (retimed) 19.00 ex Cambridge and the corresponding return working to Sawtry, connecting with the 20.23 train arrival at Huntingdon, and the 20.15 Peterborough-Sawtry and 20.46 return buses. Other journeys on this contract should connect with the 17.35 UCX1 from Peterborough and train or replacement bus arrivals at Huntingdon between 22.22 and 22.31 (see also PR73/4). This could be achieved within existing schedules (retarded about 15 minutes) by tightening up timings on the 151 contract between Cambridge and Huntingdon with some omission of little used diversions where alternatives exist.
(Net, CHS, D). Fen Drayton bus service. (Note: we propose this new contract to replace the Boxworth End-St Ives section of former route CB155 withdrawn in September 1997.) Divert commercial workings on CB73/4 or WH1A/5 (Cambridge-Huntingdon) via Boxworth End and Fen Drayton every 2 hours, at times connecting at Boxworth End with CB156 for passengers between St Ives and Swavesey Market or Over. This could give Fen Drayton an hourly service to Cambridge, alternately direct and by changing at Fenstanton.
(Shop, E, M/D). Saturday service Haverhill-Newmarket. If this service is withdrawn, a replacement for some villages could be provided by adapting routes CB45 (tendered) and CB160 (commercial) to connect at a suitable point to link Haverhill and Newmarket. Can Suffolk CC help to fund the current service?
(Net, Suffolk/E, D). Thetford-Newmarket. Through ticketing and marketing to/from Cambridge by route CBX11 could generate considerable new patronage.
(Shop, Suffolk/E, R). West Row/Freckenham-Newmarket shopping service. Replace by diversion of EC200.
(Shop, Suffolk/E, R). Tuddenham-Newmarket shopping service. Replace by diversion of EC200.
(Shop, E, M). Ely-Bury market service. We regard this as an essential shopping facility.
(Net, F, R/D). Sunday service linking Peterborough, Wisbech and March. The western section should be replaced by Norfolk CC tendered route ECX94 (Peterborough-Norwich): divert selected journeys to maintain a service to villages on the 337 route, and (at least in summer) add an earlier through service from Peterborough to Kings Lynn, connecting with the Norfolk Coastliner. We'd like to see the Wisbech-March section of this route incorporated into a new ``Cambs Spine Route'' between Wisbech and St Neots Tesco, via March, Chatteris, Somersham, St Ives, Huntingdon and St Neots town centre and station, connecting with trains and UCX3/X5 to/from Cambridge and Bedford at St Neots. (See UCX3c.) Our proposals for recasting the Sunday bus network in the Cambridge and Ely areas, including Suffolk CC route NL156, would provide a connection at Chatteris for Cambridge and Ipswich.
CM338 (route 337):
(Net, F, R/D). Evening service linking Peterborough, Wisbech and March. As with SA337 we believe the western section should be incorporated in ECX94 (commercial on weekdays) with one extra round trip. The March-Wisbech section should be retimed to offer other links between Wisbech and the rail network.
(Shop, Suffolk/E, M). Exning-Bury market service. We regard this as an essential shopping facility.
(Shop, F, R). Benwick-March/Wisbech shopping service. This could be replaced by a diversions of VT355 via Benwick and EM380 via Guyhirn. Both these are commercial. To minimise duplication with other services, the emphasis should be to provide market day (Wednesdsay) facilities from each end to March.
(Shop, F, W). Christchurch to March market service. This is covered by the Croft Carrier community bus.
(--, H, R). Littlehey Prison visitor bus. Our revised proposals for KY400 would incorporate this contract.
(Many, H, D). West Hunts Network. The replacement timetable I've seen does not fulfil the requirements stated as it omits many villages. It has been criticised by the existing operator as demonstrating a lack of understanding of how the existing service works. Our alternative strategy is based on the existing timetable but incorporating a number of improvements: it covers contracts WH399 and GT416; it uses connections to increase choice of destinations (CC71 to Kettering and beyond, AH to Peterbrough (Wed) and Oundle (Thur), KY to Northampton (Wed); some journeys serving villages in Beds and Northants, and we hope these county councils may be willing to contribute; it provides extra afternoon shopping facilities, from which people would return on the school workings including AH807; and we envisage a major promotion for visitors to the area (especially from Cambridge, using routes UCX3/X7 (see UCX3a) and PR73/4 to get to Buckden and Huntingdon respectively) to Hamerton Wildlife Park, Grafham Water, Brampton Wood Nature Reserve, Steeple Gidding historic church and other attractions. We hope that the Rural Development Commission and.or Countryside Commission would be willing to contribute towards the cost of a service relaunched along these lines.
(Shop, H, R). Shopping bus from Graveley area to St Neots. See WH3.
(Shop, H, R). Market day service from Sawtry via Gt Gidding to St Neots. Our proposals for KY400 would incorporate this contract. If this contract remains ``free standing'' it should be retimed to connect at Sawtry with VT351 to/from Huntingdon and Peterborough, allowing visits to Hamerton Wildlife Park.
(Shop, H, R). Market day service from villages north of Huntingdon to St Ives. Replace by diversion of FC427 (Ramsey-St Ives). Passengers between Warboys and St Ives (and vice versa) could change at Old Hurst between VT330/1 and this route.

Disclaimer: While we believe that all the factual information given in this briefing is correct, we do not guarantee this, and would be grateful for information about any mis-statements.

Simon Norton, Coordinator; Transport 2000 Cambs and W Suffolk, 16 Jan 1998.