Cambridgeshire Campaign for Better Transport

Newsletter 101, June 2009


Recently Michael O'Leary of Ryanair was quoted in the Guardian (4 June) as saying that "We would welcome a good, bloody, deep recession in this country for 12-18 would help see off the environmental nonsense".

Like Jeremy Clarkson, he is known for saying things so outrageous that one suspects they go far beyond what he actually thinks. But that doesn't mean that he may not sometimes be right. Not, of course, in welcoming a recession -- some environmentalists may indeed think that because a recession reduces consumption, but we disagree for reasons given here -- but in saying that environmental factors are likely to be downgraded in the near future as a result of the recession. The word "shakeout" can be used for the tendency to squeeze out sectors of the economy that don't make a profit when times are hard.

Let us start with some more definitions of words. An environmentalist is someone who believes that protection of the natural environment is a key factor in human welfare. Not perfect but adequate. What we want is a word for the reverse, i.e. someone who believes that consumption of material goods is the most important factor. How about "consumptionist"? There are of course other factors in human welfare, such as religious outlook and interpersonal relations, but these generally play a lesser role in political thinking (and in any case politicians can do little to improve them), so let's stick with environmentalism and consumptionism.

Most newspaper commentators unite in saying that after the next general election there will have to be major cuts in public spending. The Conservatives seem to be boasting about the severity of forthcoming spending cuts as if this was a badge of its virility, while it is widely suspected that Labour politicians agree that such cuts will be necessary but prefer not to say so at this stage.

Yes, this country is living beyond its means, but there are two ways to bring the economy into balance: to cut public spending and to increase taxes (leading to a cut in private spending). For some reason the latter is rarely mentioned. Yet the majority of our environmental problems stem from excessive private spending (e.g. on cars), and from those sectors of public spending (such as road building) which are intended to support this private spending.

The thinking of our political leaders is basically consumptionist. This means that when the cuts take place consumptionist spending is likely to be given priority. Roads will continue to be built and widened. Local authorities will be under pressure to approve any kind of development however environmentally damaging and discriminatory. (The last word is used to mean that people without cars may have problems accessing the development.) By contrast, spending in areas like public transport will be cut, leading to reduced services (especially in rural areas) and higher fares. Local amenity groups whose raison d'etre is to resist damaging developments are often dependent on public funding, and if they go under who will be there to fight the O'Learys?

We would argue that policies based on a consumptionist outlook are futile even from the consumptionist point of view. Let us divide our economy into internal and external parts (what we buy from ourselves and what we buy from others). Public services mostly belong to the internal economy: yes transport operators have to buy vehicles and fuel, and the NHS has to buy medicines, but the bulk of their costs goes on staff. Consumer goods mostly belong to the external economy: yes some products are made in this country and most are sold by people based here, but the materials and fuel usually come from elsewhere. Cutting the internal economy doesn't help to bring our overall economy into balance; cutting the external economy does. The only way cutting the internal economy works is by throwing people out of work and reducing their consumption. So public spending cuts are as anti-comsumptionist as tax rises.

There is in fact a difference, which may be what politicians have in mind. Throwing people out of work does indeed reduce their consumption, but it doesn't directly affect the majority who keep their jobs. Tax rises affect everyone. So fewer people may be affected by spending cuts than by tax rises.

But think again. People insure their homes even though the vast majority see no return from their money. This is because they prefer not to bear the risk of hardship if anything untoward happens. Taxation is a form of social insurance: everyone pays and the money goes to those who need it most. The better off may resent having to pay for social insurance which they may not need. But if we skimp on public health, they too will suffer from epidemics; if we skimp on public education, they will be unable to get skilled workers; and if we skimp on public transport, they too will be caught up in traffic congestion, and complain when treasured landscapes are swallowed up in sprawl.

A Conservative government may well give local authorities discretion on concessionary fares (this website shows the thinking of some leading figures in that party -- yes it is partisan but there's no reason to believe that the facts aren't correct) while keeping them under such financial pressure that they will be unable to maintain the current system. Members who are 55 or over and live outside Cambridge consttuency are invited to write to their MPs to ask them either to state their position on free travel for pensioners.

The headline article in Newsletter 100 suggested that consumptionism not only jeopardises our welfare but is ultimately incompatible with future economic prosperity. Can we get our politicians to see this before they fight the next general election?

We conclude this article by repeating our comment on the Government's pre-budget report (24 Nov 2008) from the supplement to our last newsletter (sent out to our members prior to the AGM), which illustrates the points we are trying to make.

The pre-budget report was not very inspiring for those hoping for a "green new deal". The reduction in VAT will make motoring cheaper, but rail users will still have to pay the full whack when fares rise in January. More money has been put into road schemes even though public transport schemes are generally thought to be more efficient at creating jobs. We wonder whether the Government's top priority ought not to have been to strengthen local economies: the current economic crisis is probably largely due to the lack of local resilience which means that a problem in one part of the world quickly spreads to the rest of the world. This in addition to the fact that stronger local economies would reduce haulage distances and thereby save oil (and reduce traffic congestion).

Branch News

We apologise yet again for the long delay since our last newsletter. This, again, is due to one off circumstances. To be precise, the motion for our group to cease to be a branch of the Campaign for Better Transport was withdrawn prior to our AGM, and it was agreed there to initiate the process of opening a new bank account under the name "Cambs Campaign for Better Transport". We had expected this process to be complete by the spring. However, for various reasons our account didn't open till this month (June), there was no stage at which the delay before opening our account was sufficient to spur us to produce an interim newsletter.

At the AGM a few changes were made to subscriptions, and we are therefore giving those members who haven't renewed for 2008-9 a final reminder. Such members will be given the choice of renewing for 2 or 3 years (i.e. 2008-10 or 2008-11). If you are in this category and renew, you will get our annual reports with our next newsletter. If you don't renew, you will receive no further communications from us.

If you have already paid for 2008-9 but not for 2009-10, then you are entitled to our annual reports whether or not you renew for 2009-10, and will therefore receive them with our next newsletter in any case. If you do not renew now then you'll also get a reminder (please do not use this as an excuse to delay renewal). A further reminder may be sent with our pre-AGM newsletter but we don't guarantee this.

If you receive a renewal slip, it will tell you which of these categories you are in, so please study it carefully. If you don't get a renewal slip, it means that either you have already paid for 2009-10 or you receive this newsletter for reasons other than paid membership of this group.

There were two changes made at the AGM:

1. It was agreed that National Supporters of the Campaign for Better Transport could join at the concessionary rate, i.e. 3 pounds per annum. This was backdated to 2008-9, so those who are on our National Supporter list and who haven't yet paid for that year will be able to renew for 2008-10 for just 6 pounds and for 2008-11 for just 9 pounds. However, this is conditional on them remaining National Supporters.

2. It was agreed that members could receive the Campaign for Better Transport's publication "Impact" for 5 pounds rather than 8 pounds per year. This was not backdated. Members renewing for 2008-10 or 2008-11 will only be asked to pay 5 pounds or 10 pounds respectively, as they will only be receiving issues starting from the latest (Spring 2009). Those who have already paid for "Impact" for 2009-10 will have 3 pounds credited to their account with us.

So amounts due are as follows, depending on whether you renew from 2008 or 2009 and whether you renew to 2010 or 2011 (all numbers relate to pounds).

(a) Ordinary members: 8 2008-10, 12 2008-11, 4 2009-10, 8 2009-11 without "Impact"; 13, 22, 9 or 18 respectively with.

(b) Concessionary members: 6 2008-10, 9 2008-11, 3 2009-10, 6 2009-11 without "Impact"; 11, 19, 8 or 16 respectively with. As stated above, National Supporters will still get "Impact" if they pay the "without" figures.

(c) Households or groups (other than National Supporters): 10 2008-10, 15 2008-11, 5 2009-10, 10 2009-11 without "Impact"; 15, 25, 10 or 20 respectively with.

And, of course, cheques should now be made payable to "Cambs Campaign for Better Transport" (though the old account in the name "Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk" will remain open at least until the end of this year).

If you wish to receive our newsletters in larger type (i.e. each side has 1 page rather than 2 as at present) then please let us know, but this facility is not offered to members paying at the concessionary rate due to the extra copying costs involved.

A few miscellaneous matters to end this section. It was agreed at our AGM that our membership year -- never previously defined -- should start at the end of May. We also decided to close our special bus campaigning account (money we received from CAMBUC -- the Cambridge Bus Users Campaign -- when it was wound up) when we closed our Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk account. This money was also held in this account but treated separately in our financial reports. Most of the bus campaign money has been used to pay our past affiliation to Bus Users UK (and the NFBU as it was called previously). Finally, last November we sent those of our members who had then paid up for 2007-8 a supplement to Newsletter 100. This was not sent to most non-members who normally receive our newsletters. We are therefore repeating those items of continuing relevance in this newsletter.


In December the Highways Agency exhibited its plans for the upgrade of the A14 between Fen Ditton and the A1. In many ways the scheme was even worse than we had feared. Roughly from east to west:

(a) Users of the public right of way between Dry Drayton and Girton will not have a crossing, but will have to follow a new path south of the A14 and then go round three sides of a rectangle to cross the A428, M11 and A14 by existing bridges.

(b) The local road between Girton and Bar Hill will be dual carriageway, with the eastbound carriageway running north of the A14 -- which signals that little will be done to tempt Northstowe people from their cars. It also means that there will still be a long walk between the Crematorium and an eastbound bus stop: people will have to use the vehicle exit to the Dry Drayton-Oakington road and then cross the A14.

(c) The existing bridleway between the east side of Longstanton and Bar Hill, currently terminating just north of the A14, will be linked by a bridge to Bar Hill, but it will be west rather than east of the B1050. The development of Northstowe will bring lots more traffic to the B1050 as well as increasing the role of the bridleway, so why can't cyclists (and walkers) be spared this unnecessary conflict?

(d) The existing A14 between Fen Drayton and Alconbury will become a local road, connected to the B1514 at Huntingdon station. Thus traffic from the east to Huntingdon can avoid Godmanchester, but there are no proposals to prevent them going through. Worse, both south and north of the B1514 new roads are proposed to link the route with Huntingdon's local road network. The existing roads carved up Huntingdon's unique network of commons, and these roads will continue this process.

(e) Another bridleway runs from the A1 to Brampton Wood Nature Reserve. At this point, east of the A1 is an old road linking to Brampton West End. A bridge at this point would cut a mile from the walking route between Brampton Wood and the nearest bus route, as well as making it mostly car-free.

This is on top of the problems we already knew about: the abandonment of the Cambridge-Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study (CHUMMS) recommendation for a public transport priority corridor on the existing A14 between Fen Drayton and Godmanchester, and the redesign of the Girton interchange which will prevent the provision of a slip road to enable traffic from the A428 to the M11 to avoid Madingley Road.

We were originally prepared to support a scaled down version of the scheme in principle, provided the above points were met, because of the potential to improve Huntingdon by removing the viaduct. We regard (d) above as an indication that the opportunity is being wasted.

At the same time the cost rocketed from 192m pounds at the time of CHUMMS to about 1.2 bn pounds now. The Highways Agency claim that the CHUMMS figure was just a ball park estimate, but the scale of the discrepancy and the fact that the Highways Agency were on the CHUMMS steering committee means, in our view, that they were grossly negligent in allowing this figure to go into the CHUMMS final report.

We believe that the following "scalings down" are necessary:

1. Abandon the widening of the Cambridge Northern Bypass (the A14 east of Girton). This would also enable some of the relevant land to be used for the east-west rail link between Cambridge and Bedford (on which more below).

2. Provide a single carriageway local road between Bar Hill and Cambridge, south of the A14 so bus passengers can access the Crematorium.

3. To enable a public transport corridor along part of the existing A14 (and to reduce noise in Fenstanton) general traffic should be directed via new east facing slip roads at the A14/A1198 junction. West of this point the route should be reduced to dual 2 lane.

4. Return the section of the existing A14 between the B1514 and the Spittals Interchange to grass.

It should be added that we remain undecided as to whether the scheme would be worth the cost even with all the above changes.

The Highways Agency said that they expected to issue draft orders for the road (leading to a chance for formal objections) in the first part of this year, but this hasn't yet happened. Maybe rising costs have given the Government cold feet -- recently The Times published an article suggesting that it and other road schemes were now in doubt.

Another possibility is that the Highways Agency may be unable to reconcile the scheme (estimated on their own figures to add over 30,000 tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere per year) with the Climate Change Act, which empowers the Climate Change Commission to set mandatory targets for emissions in all relevant sectors of the economy including transport.

What other options are there? For people, there is strong demand management in the Cambridge area (on which more below). For freight, there is upgrade of rail links such as Felixstowe to Nuneaton. Some progress on this is already scheduled, but it is worth bearing in mind that a fully signalled double track route can carry at least 1 train every 5 minutes, that's 288 every day. Even taking into account passenger trains and other freight trains, and constraints at junctions, that would give the route enough capacity to take everything on offer.

If draft orders for the scheme are published, then we hope to issue a newsletter which will advise members how to object within the time allowed.

Bus Users UK

We have long been affiliated to the national representative body for bus users. Here is a report from its AGM on 25 Apr in Llandudno by member John Smith.

The meeting was attended by some 40 members and bus company representatives from all parts of the UK. A large number of other members took the trouble to send their apologies.

Since the previous AGM, the Government has announced that the remit of Passenger Focus, the official railway passengers' watchdog, will be extended from 2010 to become the official watchdog for bus passengers in England and Wales. This work will be fully funded by the Government. Up to now, there has been no Government funding for such work in England -- BUUK has undertaken the work on a voluntary basis supported by members' donations, financial help from the major bus companies and a small, but growing amount of income from carrying out 'mystery shopper' surveys for bus companies. The Welsh and Scottish Governments have been fully funding BWW's work in their countries for some while now.

The appearance on the scene of Passenger Focus has created great uncertainty over the future role of BUUK in England. Passenger Focus has stated that its main mode of operation in the bus field will be to undertake research, including a large scale annual bus passenger satisfaction survey. However, it has not announced whether it will take over the running of local bus surgeries or whether it will look to BUUK to continue to organise these. Neither has it announced whether it will take over the running of the Bus Appeals Body that is currently managed by BUUK and the Confederation of Passenger Transport.

If BUUK is to continue to be a significant player in promoting and protecting the interests of bus passengers in England, new financial arrangements must be worked out very soon. Last year, there was a decline in personal membership, offset to some extent by an increase in affiliated group membership and a small increase in local authority membership. However, the bulk of the funding in recent years has come from 'no strings attached' associate membership fees from the major bus companies. With the uncertainties outlined above and the credit squeeze, First Bus has indicated that it is likely to withdraw its financial support and conceivably this may prompt the other major operators to reconsider their positions. Expenses were higher last year than previously as more professional support was required to respond to various government consultations and to interface with Passenger Focus.

BUUK members and affiliated groups are being asked to encourage not only their friends and acquaintances to join but also their local authorities. This would be a start but, if BUUK is to continue running the local bus surgeries and/or the Bus Appeals body, there would seem to me to be no real alternative but to seek funding from Passenger Focus for effectively carrying out this work on behalf of that body.

Transport Innovation Fund

This is a government scheme to encourage local councils to experiment with demand management measures such as road user charging. Councils that sign up can get a "dowry" to fund major increases in both capital and revenue spending on transport schemes.

Our Chair gave a presentation to the committee considering the idea and has produced a report, but this report is not yet ready to be released.

We generally support the idea but have some misgivings as to the County Council's detailed proposals. But independently of this we feel that more needs to be done to enlist public support for the scheme. In Manchester a referendum on a congestion charging proposal was overwhelmingly defeated -- and then the Government authorised some of the "goodies" that had been billed as dependent on the scheme anyway.

We are therefore suggesting that Cambs County Council should tell the Government that if they are to sell the scheme they need more "goodies", and of a kind that would be unlikely to be delivered otherwise. The "goodies" that are most likely to appeal to local residents are, we think, rail development schemes, such as the following:

(a) A new interchange station at Addenbrookes with direct bus links from many areas. We strongly opposed the building of the "Addenbrookes Access Road", but now it is under way it can be used to bring buses from corridors such as the B1046 to a new station. The guided buses could also serve the station. Result: better access to the hospital by both bus and rail, and routes for London passengers that avoid negotiating the congested road system leading to the present station. What more could one ask for?

We add that this would be in addition to the proposed new station north of Cambridge -- it is unlikely this would be attractive to people living south of the city, and in any case we don't want more traffic on the A14. We also support the proposal for extra platforms at Cambridge's existing station -- in fact they are probably needed to make an Addenbrookes station because of the difficulty of mixing slow and fast trains in Cambridge station.

(b) A hefty contribution to new lines east and west of Cambridge. The former could run to Haverhill (and eventually Sudbury). Haverhill is one of the country's largest towns without a rail station, and as such figured in a recent report by the Association of Train Operating Companies (as did Wisbech, for which reopening was, reasonably, given higher priority because most of the track is still there). The latter could run to Cambourne and St Neots, forming part of the east-west rail link to Bedford and Oxford (on which more below). We suspect that the easiest route for such a link would follow the old line from Chesterton Junction to the A14 then run close to the A14 and A428 towards St Neots -- but widening this section of the A14 would make the scheme that much more difficult. Between Milton Road and the A14 the guided busway could be moved to an alternative route closer to the Science Park.

(c) New local stations on many lines around Cambridge, which would provide a good alternative to driving for a great variety of journeys around the region.

Guided Bus Stops: The County Council consulted last year on changes to bus stops in Cambridge's central area when the guided busway opens. The plans are still on the Council's website -- from ours click on (Cambridgeshire County Council) "bus timetable" then on "news items". We are very disturbed by the proposals, as it seems that the guided buses will be following Cambridge's coaches in spurning the city's heart -- the Emmanuel Road stop is a significant walk away from the market and other stops for Milton Road services are still further. What's more, although the Emmanuel Road stop is very convenient for many people, other bus services that currently use it will be removed to other stops which are likely to be less convenient, especially for those who change buses there.

The scheme seems to have been drawn up under the principle that guided buses cannot share stops with conventional buses. We know from other parts of the country that have guided buses (Ipswich and West Yorkshire) that this isn't so. We therefore called for the guided buses to serve Bradwells Court northbound and Emmanuel Street southbound -- in line with what we had expected. There may be long term problems if the number of buses serving the city doubles (as the Council envisages), but we suggest this can be dealt with later.

The above is an edited version of what appeared in our newsletter supplement last year. Since then the stop on Parkside for the northbound Citi 2 has been removed for the same reason -- another blow to passengers interchanging between National Express coaches and local buses.

We have included a request for better bus stop management in our response to the County Council's Transport Innovation Fund bid (see above).

Sustainable Communities Act

This empowers local councils in consultation with community representatives to develop proposals which would improve their area. Our Chair attended meetings on the SCA convened by Cambridge City Council.

An initial shortlist of 12 ideas was whittled down to 4 (with some amendments). Many of the 12 were relevant to our objectives, such as giving the council powers to favour local suppliers and to decide about traffic planning, including a partial ban on single occupancy cars, road pricing and integrated public transport.

The ideas discussed at the meetings related to reducing packaging, transport in Cambridge, affordable housing in Cambridge, and sustainability. Of these the second is the most relevant to our aims. The panel generally agreed that the city often had a different perspective on transport (for example, cycling was much more important in the city), but that coordination over a wider area was needed. It was also strongly believed that buses need to be regulated. (This might mitigate the problems of bus stop management referred to above -- ed.)

Perhaps predictably, the County Council has rejected outright the idea that their handling of buses in Cambridge is inadequate or that services need to be regulated. They say that the proposals "will not improve overall accessibility and risk creating worsened transport opportunities for the wider Cambridgeshire public". Does this mean that people from outside Cambridge would find it harder to flood Cambridge with their cars, thus diminishing the incentive for the County Council to provide decent bus services for the villages.

East-West Rail

With this newsletter is enclosed a leaflet produced by Railfuture in support of its campaign to restore trains between Cambridge and Oxford. We urge members to study the leaflet and take appropriate action.

An important report has been published by the East-West Consortium, which consists of local authorities along the line of route, including, in our area, Cambs and Suffolk County Councils, Cambridge City Council, and Forest Heath District Council. The report, which studies proposals to link Milton Keynes with Cambridge, can be seen on Rail Future's website by clicking on "Central Section".

The report studied three basic options, with some variations: run north from Bedford via Corby and Manton to join the East Coast Main Line at Peterborough; link Bedford with Hitchin; and link Luton with Stevenage. Either of the last two could be combined with a route linking Stevenage with Stansted Airport via Ware and Harlow.

The report concluded that the first of these options would be too circuitous to fulfil the objectives of the east-west link. We agree with this. But we are not convinced that the other options are direct enough to provide satisfactory competition with the roads. Our two preferred options are:

(a) From Bedford follow the A421 to St Neots then the A428 via Cambourne to Cambridge.

(b) From Milton Keynes via Ridgmont and Flitwick to Hitchin (which could also be combined with the Stansted Airport link -- in fact the Coordinator put this very option to the Stansted Airport public inquiry long before this group was formed!).

The Luton/Stevenage option is an imaginative one which has received wide support and well deserves further consideration. But it would be difficult to build a railway between these two towns. If this obstacle can be overcome, it would seem sensible to run the link westwards from Luton via Dunstable to Leighton Buzzard -- but the latest news is that a contract has been awarded for the plan to convert part of this route to a guided busway.

The report was restricted in scope, not covering issues like passenger flows other than on the east-west corridor, freight, traffic reduction and options for bus links. We would like to see a "people's forum" set up to discuss the issue, perhaps with a workshop like one held earlier this year to discuss the Luton Northern By-pass proposals (unfortunately arranged too early to enable the Consortium to introduce their very relevant Luton/Stevenage route).

New websites

We mention first "Nahverkehr" (German for local transport) which provides links to transport websites for every country in Europe (including Russia, Turkey, the Faeroes and Iceland). And not only local transport is covered. There is a link to this site from ours.

And see which aims to promote travel to leisure destinations without a car. The site is still in its infancy so I am sure that ideas for improvements will be welcomed.

See for an independently produced downloadable bus timetable for the Saffron Walden area, together with a critique of the "official" alternative produced by Essex County Council -- which, however, one will still need if travelling to other parts of the county.

Rail News

There are quite a few items this time.

1. Someone stranded by the Channel Tunnel fire last autumn received a hefty refund after complaining to London Travelwatch. This is worth remembering in case anything like this happens again. The protocol is to write to the relevant transport operator (in this case Eurostar) first and then to the relevant consumer authority if dissatisfied. London Travelwatch covers buses in London, but its remit for trains goes further out and includes Eurostar. Passenger Focus cover trains in the rest of the country and will soon cover buses as well.

2. Recently big increases were imposed on the prices of railcards. Worse, minimum fares on tickets bought with railcards were increased. In the case of Network Railcards the increase was from 10 pounds to 13 pounds (though there is no minimum at weekends). With fares rising generally we had hoped that the minimum might be frozen until the rail industry decided it was more trouble than it was worth.

3. At weekends a day return from Peterborough to York or Leeds costs 29-50. No advance booking required. This opens up new opportunities for days out in Yorkshire -- though Cambridge people have to pay quite a bit extra to get to Peterborough to take advantage of this.

4. For those who can get to London easily, London Midland have some very good offers. There are heavy restrictions on Mondays to Fridays, but none at weekends other than the requirement to use London Midland trains. Here are some trips that can be made:

(a) Visit the Midland Transport Museum about 30 minutes walk from Wythall station on the line between Birmingham and Stratford. This specialises in buses that used to run in the Midlands. See its website for opening times, together with timetables of heritage buses operating on certain days.

(b) Visit Shugborough Hall (National Trust), between Rugeley and Stafford. The bus from Rugeley to Stafford (825) passes the main entrance to the Shugborough estate -- and one can also catch the 841/2 from Stafford to Great Haywood at the other end. Or if you're feeling energetic walk along the canal from Rugeley or Stafford to Great Haywood. There is a link from our website to the National Trust which will give opening times.

(c) Visit the Anderton Lift. Ask for a ticket to Liverpool South Parkway but alight intermediately at Hartford (after making sure your train stops there!). Catch bus 82 to Northwich (hourly), then bus 46 (2 hourly) to Anderton, or bus 4 (every 20 minutes) to Runcorn Road then short walk. Check the website for opening times and boat trips.

(d) Visit Speke Hall and do the National Trust Beatles Tour. The latter should be booked in advance through the National Trust website. Go to Liverpool South Parkway and catch a local bus to Speke, a short walk from the Hall. Allow as much time as possible to see all the attractions of the estate. Then join the minibus tour to the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. When the driver returns to Speke ask to be let off at the station.

5. New stations have been opened by East Midlands Trains at Corby and East Midlands Parkway. Unfortunately bus links have not been adequately developed: the former is now on the X4 route between Peterborough and Milton Keynes, but not served by buses to Rutland. And the latter is only linked to East Midlands Airport (apart from Megabus Plus services to towns such as Scunthorpe and Castleford) -- not even a service to the big residential estate at Clifton. A potentially useful bus service from the airport to Ashby de la Zouch and Burton on Trent, passing close to the National Trust's Calke Abbey and Staunton Harold Church, was withdrawn after only 2 months of winter operation.

6. New bus/rail day ranger tickets have appeared covering Cornwall (10 pounds covering all trains and all buses operated by the two main operators, First (which has taken over Truronian) and Western Greyhound); and the former county of Avon (price varies with zones selected, but the most useful is likely to be the 9-60 ticket that just misses out the Weston super Mare area).

7. The Anglia Plus Day Ranger seemed a great bargain when it was introduced, but now at 13-50 it doesn't seem quite such good value. For Cambridge people a particular frustration is that on Mondays to Fridays they can't be used till 08.45, in particular not on the 08.43 Cambridge to Ipswich. The 09.43 arrives at Ipswich just after a train leaves for Lowestoft, with no further train for 2 hours. However, those who want a day out in East Suffolk and need to pay 3-30 for a Stagecoach Dayrider to Cambridge station can get round this by paying 1-70 extra for a Dayrider Plys and getting the 07.45 to Newmarket. (The 08.15 is a bit tight to make the connection at Newmarket, so it's best to leave earlier, though there's little to do during the wait.)

Concessionary bus passes

On 1 Apr changes to the regime were introduced by the Government, with the local authorities able to exclude the following categories of service:

A: Routes where more than half the seats can be booked. This was intended to exclude express coaches that are registered as local services, so forget what we said in Newsletter 99. Whippet printed its seaside coach leaflet before the changes were announced, and said that pensioners could travel free -- but is this still true?

B: Services aimed at visitors or offering amenities other than travel. This was intended to cover heritage bus routes and open top tours, but may also be held to cover rural leisure routes (and has by Isle of Wight Council) and park & ride buses.

C: Services operating for less than 6 weeks. This is targeted at services for special events.

D: Rail replacement buses. These are non-registered so we weren't aware that they were ever eligible. Has anyone succeeded in claiming free travel on them? (By that we don't mean travelling free because nobody bothers to check one's ticket!)

A proposal to add less than weekly services to the above was dropped. The main concerns are that demand responsive services, and many community bus routes, can be covered by A, and that coach routes and rural leisure services sometimes also provide for essential local needs.

The Government is now consulting on proposals to change the reimbursement regime for concessionary fares -- closing date 21 July.

Changes are urgently needed as the present system often gives an incentive to local authorities to cut services so as to save on reimbursement. Within the terms of the consultation document, we would propose to move the basic reimbursement scheme to national level to begin with, but with transfer to regional level as soon as the required administrative structures were in place. Discretionary reimbursement would continue to be handled by local authorities, but the Government should offer a share of the costs to encourage local authorities to broaden the base. (For example, the exclusion of journeys before 09.30 makes sense when they are liable to overcrowding, but not when there is plenty of space.) The Government should also say that where operators have smartcard readers reimbursement would come from where the passenger lives, not where he/she boards the bus, and encourage local authorities to make a contribution to local operators for the cost of such smartcard readers (which will generally reduce their liability for reimbursement).

As we said earlier, though, the whole scheme may well disintegrate within the next few years. If you're over 59, make use of it while you can!


Royal Mail has withdrawn almost all its postbuses -- vehicles that carry passengers as well as delivering or collecting mail. To be precise, there are just 22 routes throughout Britain (17 in Scotland), down from more than 10 times that number a few years ago.

Postbuses were originally proposed as a means of making better use of resources by allowing passengers to travel on vehicles that had to be on the road anyway. As such they seem to be the epitome of sustainability. Has anything happened to change this?

A look through the website of the Hexham Courant, a local newspaper in Northumberland, reveals some disturbing figures. In 2006 the postbus between Hexham and Kielder was saved by a payment of 1000 pounds from Northumberland County Council. Yet in 2009 it was quoted as having cost over 10 pounds for each of its over 600 passengers per annum -- a total of over 7000 pounds. What has caused the cost to rocket so quickly? Creative (or should it be called destructive?) accounting?

In many cases the postbuses have been replaced by conventional services. But some routes have had no replacement at all -- e.g. the Kent routes shown on the Campaign for Better Transport's website which the Coordinator drew to CBT's attention. At least there are no public services -- there may be special services such as dial a rides only open to certain people. Kielder -- a key location in the Northumberland National Park -- is now only accessible by school bus or community bus (neither of which is shown on Traveline). Even where such replacement has been provided, it still means that 2 vehicles are used where 1 ran before. There would have to be a significant increase in usage to justify the extra resource costs.

We similarly believe that the potential for using school buses -- and corresponding positioning workings -- is greatly underexploited. There are many cases (e.g. the West Hunts network till 1998) where school journeys underpin the whole rural network. There are also many cases where they run and are open to the public but not shown in publicly available timetables, so people can't use them because they don't know when they run.

Cambs bus news

We start with the annual round of cuts imposed by Cambs CC in January. The threatened services were Whippet 2 (Cambridge-Toft circular, off peak journeys); Stagecoach 10 (Cambridge-Newmarket via Burwell, evenings and Sundays); Stagecoach X14 (Huntingdon-Science Park, peaks); Stagecoach 35 (rail feeder to Huntingdon station); Freedom Travel 46/7 (Linton-Newmarket, some journeys); A&P 115-7 (Ely area); Whippet 196 (Cambridge-Waterbeach via Horningsea); Freedom Travel 213 (Ely-Bury); and Fowlers WHF (Wisbech area, 1 journey).

Of these only the 115-7 remained intact. The 10 continues to run on Sundays but the evening service now runs as a diversion of route 12, not serving all the intermediate places. The 196 is intact on Mon-Fri but withdrawn on Saturdays. All the rest have disappeared completely.

The X14 has been under threat for some time, stunting its development because who would entrust their daily journey to work to such a service? The fact that next year there will be a frequent guided bus doesn't help them in the meantime. Meanwhile the jobs may well have been taken by car commuters from other areas, perpetuating congestion on the A14 and undermining the future viability of the guided bus.

People travelling for work are also targeted by some of the cuts to the 35, 46/7 and WHF routes. The 213 provided a day trip to a popular market but it was largely duplicated by a dial a ride non-public service which may have undermined its viability.

Here are some other news items.

(a) The Myalls Sunday service on route 104 is finally withdrawn. Cambs CC withdrew support for it when Stagecoach introduced a Sunday service on route Citi 7, even though the latter has no evening service. So now anyone living in Cottenham or Histon and wishing to go away for the weekend has to return home ridiculously early.

(b) X5 bus stops in Cambridge have been revised. Drummer St is no longer served -- to the inconvenience of those visiting the city centre or wishing to change to many other routes. Why can't they use stop D3 in Drummer Street, currently only served by half hourly Whippet 114? There is a set down by the Grafton Centre but no pick up -- the nearest is on Victoria Avenue (the Emmanuel Road stop not being available due to preparation for guided bus operation). The Churchill Court stop is replaced by one near Wilberforce Road. Also, new coaches have been introduced on this route -- it is hoped that now the toilets will be more reliable.

(c) Stagecoach 18/A now runs only between Cambridge and Cambourne except at peak times. The section between Cambourne and St Neots is transferred to Citi 4 with the service upgraded to hourly and calling at St Neots station. However it no longer serves Papworth which now has a very substandard service. (Though we believe it would be better served by a Cambridge-Cambourne-Huntingdon route.) The Cambourne-Gamlingay-St Neots network is now provided by Whippet (which means the end of off peak through services to Cambridge).

(d) Whippet has an improved network of seaside services running on various days of the week. Inland attractions such as Bressingham, Framlingham and Felbrigg Hall are also included. Their leaflet states that pensioners can travel free, but is this still true (see above)?

(e) There have been other Stagecoach changes affecting routes 32 (which will now serve Wimblington), evening journeys on routes 15, 35, 45 and 55, and some Citi routes. These bring some benefits, e.g. Citi 2 is half hourly on Sundays, and the last buses between Cambridge and Huntingdon, in both directions, are later.

(f) Cambridge's northern park & ride site has been moved from Cowley Road to Milton.

(g) There are now evening and Sunday buses between Peterborough and Spalding. The Sunday service is particularly welcome because there are no Sunday trains on this line.

(h) National Express coaches: The London and airport services no longer use the Madingley Road stop in Cambridge. This means that Cambridge's entire long distance network -- both coach and rail -- is skewed to the southern side of the city. Nor do the latter use Trumpington Maris Lane, though this has been restored to the former at peak times (only). Also withdrawn is the stop at Canary Wharf -- which makes better sense because it imposed a significant time penalty and is within easy reach of the Bow Church stop on the normal route. Evening journeys from Cambridge to London now leave earlier. Our report in the newsletter supplement that the London service would no longer be operated by Burtons turned out to be based on a misunderstanding. There has also been a reduction in National Express's coach services between Peterborough and London.

(i) Route 445 from Barley to Saffron Walden has been renumbered 444. Some more recently added off peak journeys which do not touch Cambridgeshire have, however, kept the number 445.

(j) There have been improvements to Delaine's buses between Peterborough and Bourne, especially on Sundays when it now runs hourly during shopping hours.

Now three items that are relevant to Cambridgeshire but also to the wider region.

(k) We said in Newsletter 100 that Stagecoach did not offer 4 week unlimited travel tickets for Southern Britain. This was corrected in the supplement. One way of buying them is to go to the Stagecoach in Bedford website, click on "tickets and offers" then "Save time in line buy your ticket online" then "click here to buy online now" then choose "Bedfordshire" as location and you will find South of England Megarider Gold tickets for 4, 13 and 52 weeks at 90, 270 and 950 pounds respectively. The tickets are misnamed as the stated boundaries extend into Wales. We believe that these are valid on the X5, but not on routes serving London such as the Oxford Tube. Incidentally the reciprocal agreement with First allowing use of the other operator's tickets on Stagecoach X4 and First X1 has ceased.

(l) The Traveline East Anglia website has been upgraded. It now essentially covers 4 regions (London, South-East (minus Hampshire), East of England and East Midlands) and the timetable search facility offers 3 options (search by route number, operator or place served). It is also possible to get a map of a route. This covers almost everything we would like to see. (It would be nice if the map was superimposed on an Ordnance Survey map.)

(m) Not directly to do with transport, but members may be interested in a scheme called Invitation to View which organises small parties for private visits to historic houses, most of them not normally open to the public. Most of them are in Suffolk, but there are many in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Essex. Most visits are on weekdays so buses are likely to be running. Suffolk County Council has an advertisement on the back page of the leaflet telling readers of their online timetable web pages, but we think it would have been more useful if they had arranged for details of relevant buses to be given with the descriptions of the houses!

Stagecoach have announced another shakeup starting 2 Aug. There are route and/or timetable changes to Peterborough's Citi 1 and 5, also 23 (Peterborough-Oundle via Kings Cliffe), 24 (which runs from Peterborough to Thrapston, but which will absorb journeys now numbered 24A), 30/31 (Peterborough-Huntingdon changing at Ramsey) and 37 (Peterborough-Spalding). Here are some other changes -- most of these routes will also have some timing changes.

H1 (Addenbrookes-Trumpington P&R): Taken over from Burtons and reduced to every 20 minutes.

Citi 7 (Peterborough area, Yaxley-Eye): Some evening journeys extent to Thorney.

X9/39 (Cambridge-Wisbech-Long Sutton): All journeys north of Wisbech will be 39s. Last departure from Long Sutton will be much earlier.

13 (Cambridge-Haverhill): Some evening journeys diverted via Cambridge station, connecting off fast trains from London (including journeys where off peak tickets are valid).

15/45/66: 45 (Cambridge-Huntingdon via Fenstanton) is being withdrawn with no replacement for Cambridge/Bar Hill-Fenstanton journeys except evenings (though Whippet have a service). Fenstanton will also lose its through service to Huntingdon. Extra fast journeys on 15 (Cambridge-St Ives, normally via Willingham) provide evening replacement east of St Ives, while 66 (St Neots-Huntingdon) is extended to St Ives to cover the rest of the route.

21 (St Ives-Somersham): 3 journeys extent to Chatteris.

25 (Peterborough-Lutton-Oundle): Currently 1 journey out and 2 back, one of the latter will be withdrawn.

29/32/34/35: The Huntingdon area 35, which links St Ives and March via Chatteris and Manea, is withdrawn except between Warboys and Chatteris and occasional extensions. No buses Chatteris-Manea, St Ives-Warboys covered by a new hourly 29 to Ramsey. 32 (Peterborough-March-Chatteris/Ramsey) will be withdrawn except Peterborough-Whittlesey and occasional extensions. A new 34 between March and Benwick or Manea will replace the rest of 35 and part of 32.

33 (Peterborough-March): Most short workings to Coates are withdrawn.

35/38/390: The Saturday journeys between Peterborough and the Gedney Hill area on Peterborough's route 35 will be replaced by a single return journey on new route 38 on Tuesdays and Fridays running via Thorney. 38 will also be used as a renumbering of 390, this currently linking Wisbech and Peterborough via Throckenholt on Wednesdays.

36 (Peterborough-Wisbech): Reduced service especially on Saturdays. 1 journey each way will be diverted via Murrow between Guyhirn and Wisbech St Mary.

Around and about...: As usual we give a roundup of changes to bus services and ideas for leisure trips in the rest of Britain, starting with the counties closest to our area and working outwards. Leisure buses continue in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire & the Peaks and Shropshire, but we are unaware of significant changes since last year.

Essex: Bus links between Saffron Walden and Audley End station have been improved, especially in the early evenings. But it is still impossible to leave Saffron Walden after 18.57 (to Audley End) or 19.31 (to Stansted Airport via Thaxted).

Herts: The Chiltern Rambler route 327 is again doing 3 round trips every Sunday and bank holiday from Hemel Hempstead, until the end of September. The 343 from St Albans is also being extended from Dunstable to Whipsnade Zoo. Both these routes serve the Dunstable Downs escarpment and visitor centre. However the 904 taxibus to Shaw's house is not running this year. Would it be better to serve this on weekdays by diverting existing route 44/5?

Herts CC's latest public transport update leaflet includes details of National Gardens Scheme openings. However they are all on Sundays and few gardens are on Sunday bus routes. The next two are Braughing Village Trail (12.00-17.00) on 5 July, use 700 from Stevenage, Hitchin, Baldock, Bishops Stortford or Stansted Airport to Puckeridge; and North Mymms Park (14.30-17.00) on 12 July, walk from Brookmans Park (mostly by footpath) or Welham Green (by road).

Suffolk: Bus changes in the Orford area are imminent. A new bus from Woodbridge at 08.55 (school in termtime, otherwise bus station) and Melton station at 09.02 will connect with RSPB trips to Havergate Island and National Trust special events at Orfordness. However, there is now no scheduled return bus after 16.41. A new demand responsive service may be able to provide a later return (ring 0845 6041802), also replacing the 72 to the ferry at Bawdsey, the other side of which has 5 connecting journeys on route 163/173 to Felixstowe (4 continuing to Woodbridge).

One can't get reliably from Cambridgeshire to Melton for 09.02 without starting in the small hours and travelling via Stansted Airport. But there is now a lot more accommodation within reach of Orford.

Norfolk: There are considerable improvements in North Norfolk. Norfolk Green now run buses (route 35) every hour from Kings Lynn fast to Hunstanton linking with the Coasthopper to Wells, Sheringham and Cromer. Also improved is the route to Cromer via Fakenham (X6/X8), now running hourly. On the coast, the departure points for Blakeney Point and Scolt Head Island are Morston and Burnham Overy Staithe respectively (though the former is still served from Blakeney -- and one can also walk from Cley).

Sussex: The Brighton area, on which is centred England's latest National Park, is said to have the country's best used leisure services, serving the Devil's Dyke, Stanmer Park and Ditchling Beacon every Saturday and Sunday in summer (with the first also running during the week in high season, and some winter services too). Brighton also has frequent buses along the coast to Eastbourne, some via Beachy Head. At weekends these interchange with the Rambler Bus provided by the Cuckmere Community Bus (though they no longer do the service that used to run to Michelham Priory, except as part of their midweek community bus network).

Leicestershire: It seems that the only rural open top tour still running is the National Forest tour from Ashby de la Zouch. No details are yet available for 2009.

North York Moors: The western route via Hawnby introduced last year was very successful and is running again this year. The full network runs on Sundays between April and October plus every day during the summer school holidays (27 July to 5 Sept). Try a day trip on Saturday using the cheap fare to York (from which the Moorsbus feeder leaves at 09.15). On Sundays in July and August, plus bank holiday Monday, there's also a Heritage Bus route.

Yorkshire Dales: Most of the following run every Sunday and Bank Holiday till 18 Oct. Ingleborough Pony 832/3, introduced mid-season last year, links Ribblehead, Ingleton, Clapham, Settle and Hawes. Eastern Dalesman 820 uses a different route from its analogue last year, via the B6451 between Otley and Pateley Bridge where it links for Upper Nidderdale and Brimham Rocks before continuing to Leyburn (for the Wensleydale Railway) and Richmond. Cravenlink provides a scenic link between Skipton and Wharfedale via Eastby, also serving the heritage railway at Embsay, and also provides the main link from the south to Malham, which is also linked at weekends to Settle. (Saturday operation is to end Sept plus 24/31 Oct.) A weekday travel opportunity is the Wensleydale tour bus which links the dale with Ripon and Garsdale. There are also Sunday services from Ripon to Fountains Abbey and from Hawes and Leyburn to Swaledale. Most of the places mentioned can be visited on weekdays by regular services.

Lancashire: Bowland Transit provides a link between Clitheroe, Slaidburn, Settle and Horton in Ribblesdale 6 days a week. There's also the summer Thursday service to Garstang, which is also served by the Super 8 minibus. The Pendle Witch Hopper links Nelson with Clitheroe 6 days a week, and also runs on summer Sundays as part of a circular route returning via Nick o' Pendle. Unfortunately the link to Martin Mere Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust has been withdrawn.

Cumbria: There is the usual network in the Lake District, but don't forget the North Pennines: Cumbria Classic Coaches run on summer Tuesdays from Kirkby Stephen to Hawes and Ribblehead, and on Wednesdays to Barnard Castle (in summer using the B6276 to Teesdale); 564 links Kirkby Stephen town and station with Sedbergh and Kendal (Mon-Sat); 352 runs Fri to Mon (daily outside termtime) from Newcastle via Barnard Castle, Kirkby Stephen town and station, Tebay and Lancaster to Blackpool; the 571 does monthly trips from Kirkby Stephen to Barnard Castle (1st Thur, booking required); 888 (Newcastle-Keswick via Alston, daily in summer); and the Roman Wall bus AD122 from Newcastle to Carlisle.

Devon: The Dartmoor Sunday Rover covers a wide network of ordinary and special buses plus trains from Exeter and Plymouth to Okehampton, Barnstaple and Gunnislake. River Link boats from Dartmouth (ferry from Kingswear) run to Totnes or Dittisham (ferry Wed-Sun to Agatha Christie's estate at Greenway (National Trust) whence one can walk to Churston), and may run to Stoke Gabriel on Mon/Tue. Steam trains and buses link Kingswear, Churston and Paignton; there are also buses from Paignton to Stoke Gabriel and Totnes, and from Dartmouth to Totnes.

Cornwall: In May the coastal route between The Lizard, Helford and Helston was axed. However all other sections of the coast are served except Gorran Haven to Portloe. In particular there are regular services between Looe, Polperro and Polruan (for Fowey), and between Bude, Hartland and Bideford (via Morwenstow and Clovelly).

Brecon Beacons: The Beacons Bus Sunday network continues, though last year's service to the Big Pit World Heritage Site is not repeated. Try the Offa's Dyke Flyer between Hay on Wye and Llanfihangel Crucorney.

Snowdonia: The Snowdon Sherpa network was threatened but will now run daily till 6 Sept. The scenic X2 between Welshpool and Llandudno, which just skirts the National Park, will again run on Mondays plus certain Saturdays.

Pembrokeshire: This county has a very good coastal network which runs all year (only some days of the week in winter). The Havenlink boat service links Dale and Angle with Lawrenny on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; a community bus may provide links from Lawrenny to Narberth on Fridays. (Last year there was a Sunday service but we believe it is not being repeated.)

Scotland: The Trossachs Trundler does a circular route from Callander and Aberfoyle to the Trossachs daily till 11 Oct. Unfortunately there is now no transport between the other end of Loch Katrine, Stronachlachar, and Inversnaid on Loch Lomond (this was formerly served by postbus). Further north the Heatherhopper links Inverness and Speyside with Deeside and Tayside.

This year is the first full season of a summer passenger ferry that links Tayvallich in Argyll (bus 425 from Lochgilphead) to Craighouse, the largest community in Jura. Onward connections to Islay are available. Lochgilphead is on the coach route between Glasgow and Campbeltown, and also has buses to Oban. Argyll has many other useful bus/ferry links.

The road to Applecross, north of Kyle of Lochalsh, is reputed to be spectacular. According to Highland Council publicity it is served between school runs on Fridays by service 705 from Gairloch to Lochcarron and back. This, however, is not shown on Traveline, which instead refers to another service on Fridays in termtime, from Plockton school to Applecross and back to Lochcarron, with onward connections back to Kyle. The latter is shown in the Highland timetable with a different operator and running from Plockton to Applecross and on to Toscaig, with no return journey (at least not in service). We hope to have more information about these services in our next newsletter.

Incidentally, so many former postbus routes in the remoter parts of the Highlands are now served on schooldays only that we recommend postponing a visit to the area to 18 Aug, when schools in the Highlands reopen (Scottish school terms are generally different from those in England).

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