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
We believe that the cuts are wrong for the following reason:
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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).
- 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When a bus service has been withdrawn, and the people who depend on it have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
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
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
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:
- (a) Tighter timings would reduce the cost of operating a particular journey or
enable more journeys to be offered (thus attracting more passengers) for the
same cost. Faster journeys would also be attractive to passengers. What is more,
lax timings tempt drivers to run early -- I have myself experienced 15 minute
early arrivals at Cambridge on buses from Royston (route 146) and Huntingdon
(route 151) -- which means that people from intermediate points may miss the
bus, or may have to arrive early to ensure catching it.
- (b) Contracts could be amalgamated to improve vehicle utilisation, or one route
could be diverted to cover another. We give several examples below.
- (c) Duplicate services can be eliminated. Again, we give examples below.
- (d) School and positioning workings can be opened up to passengers to give
virtually every village a service 5 days a week during school term at marginal
cost, which could well be covered by the extra fares collected. This also offers
scope for reducing operating costs by up to 35 percent, as one round trip from the
relevant town would, during school term, provide both morning and afternoon
- (e) Extra patronage can be generated by improving connections. We are
particularly keen to develop a county-wide ``seamless journey'' network from
local communities to places such as London. Ideally, a single ticket should
cover the bus journey to the railhead as well as the onward train journey; the
bus back home in the evening should be timed to make a smart connection with an
incoming train; and if a community is served by different railheads, the ticket
should be interavailable between them. We believe that this proposal would not
only increase patronage but could attract finance for expansion from the
county's rail operators (mainly WAGN) who would stand to attract people who
cannot now make day trips by rail because they can't get back from the station
in the evening.
- (f) There is considerable scope for improving marketing generally, including new
ticket offers (such as that proposed in the last paragraph). We believe that the
Council should, perhaps through the Travelwise campaign, support an initiative
to make people more aware of where they can go by public transport and how they
can find their way through the maze of information and ticketing problems. This
would mainly benefit network services, but there is also scope for attracting
new patronage on rural routes from visitors to the countryside.
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
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
- (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
- (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
- (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
- (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
- (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,
- 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
- (Net, Suffolk/E, D). Thetford-Newmarket. Through ticketing and
marketing to/from Cambridge by route CBX11 could generate considerable new
- (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
- (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
- (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.