Cambridgeshire Campaign for Better Transport

Newsletter 102, August 2009


The above phrase was coined by the late economist J. K. Galbraith to criticise the double standards adopted by the US system with regard to private and public spending, whereby the former is seen as a manifestation of economic prosperity and the latter as a drain on resources. This is also true, though to a lesser extent, of the UK: we are better in that the overall level of public spending is higher, but worse in that our local government has fewer tax raising powers which it can use to meet local needs.

The Thatcher era was a disaster for the UK in this respect -- spending by local government in particular was firmly discouraged by means such as capping and the replacement of rates by the poll tax (and, later, the council tax which though better than the poll tax was worse than the rates). Revenue support for bus services was in particular jeopardy, leading to the massive cuts of the early 1980s, never fully restored.

Now it seems that the political establishment is talking us into accepting further cuts -- an across the board cut of 10% (exempting certain services, but not transport) is often mentioned. This is intended to rebalance our economy, whose problems are ultimately due to a propensity to spend more than we earn.

In the headline article of our last newsletter we gave reasons why we thought that it would be more appropriate to cut private spending. We won't repeat them here. Let us just recommend that readers have a look at the ideas of the Green New Deal Group and bear in mind that public transport support -- both revenue and capital spending -- is a "green service" (as referred to in their core principle no 3), because a combination of high quality and well used public transport, non-motorised travel for shorter journeys, and cars as a fallback transport option when others fail, will use far less energy and cause far less pollution than the present system of fragmented and poorly used public transport, non-motorised travel discouraged by giving priority to cars, and cars as the default option.

We should never forget that revenue support for buses (excluding the cost of school transport and concessionary passes) is very low compared with capital spending on road schemes, and even on public transport schemes. For the annualised cost of the Cambs Guided Busway we could have had a really good county-wide bus network.

Branch news

This newsletter is short, not surprisingly given that it follows soon after the last. There has been one main news item, but it is an important one. We have also taken the opportunity to update our information about summer days out, as well as (for members and people associated with the Campaign for Better Transport only) our activities and financial reports, both of which have been updated.

We enclose renewal forms for those who have paid to 2008-9. We expect to issue a further reminder before striking these people off the membership list but please do not use this as an excuse to delay renewal. If for any reason you do not wish to receive further newsletters please let us know.

Please note that the Coordinator's office telephone will be changing from 01223 339795 to 01223 764243 by 22 Aug at the latest.

Transport Innovation Fund and A14

The report of the Cambridgeshire Transport Commission was launched at a public meeting in Cambridge on Tue 21 July. The main recommendations are as follows:

1. The County Council proceed with a full Transport Innovation Fund bid, including its proposals for congestion charging, on the grounds that this is the only plausible way of getting funding for infrastructure improvements vitally needed to cope with the likely scale of future development in the area.

2. The County Council state that congestion charging would be unacceptable without major investment -- not only the proposals in the TIF bid but also the A14 upgrade and the new station at Chesterton. In view of this congestion charging would not be expected to start before 2017.

3. The County Council should emphasise the benefits that will accrue to travellers in the Cambridge area as a result of the TIF proposals, as a counterweight to the disbenefits that will be incurred by those who find themselves having to pay the congestion charge.

Regarding the A14, we were told that the Highways Agency had submitted evidence to the Commission saying that they expected to put forward draft orders for the upgrade (the stage when formal objections become due) in the autumn. But this was before the Times article about the reconsideration of certain road schemes which we mentioned in our last newsletter, so it may well have been superseded.

We certainly hope so. As we see it, what's the point of creating more capacity for car traffic between Huntingdon and Cambridge if this traffic is to be restrained when it reaches the Cambridge boundary. If the answer is that the bulk of new employment is expected to be outside Cambridge at locations which can accommodate more cars, we say that this is an unacceptable policy as it discriminates against sustainable travellers.

If the draft orders do come, we hope to produce a newsletter promptly to encourage members and others to object and to guide them as to how best to do so.

Back to the congestion charge, to which our attitude is unchanged: we would like to see this used as a lever to get higher levels of public transport spending, both on investment (mainly rail network development) and revenue support (though, as we said in our headline article, its spending needs are relatively modest). We support the principle of the congestion charge but have several reservations about the detail as currently proposed.

Out and about

Here are some updates and new items which we hope you will find of use in planning some summer days out.

Norfolk: Routes 21, 56, 192 (most), 338 (section beyond Garboldisham), 376 and 377 have been withdrawn in favour of a demand responsive Flexibus covering the area between Thetford, Attleborough and Diss -- though as we write some of these services are still shown on Traveline East Anglia.

Milton Keynes: The Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership has negotiated a deal with Bletchley Park whereby visitors who arrive by rail, with tickets from Bedford and intermediate stations on the Bletchley line, can gain admittance at the concessionary rate (8 pounds rather than 10 pounds). The site is large and worth a whole day -- and if you've still not finished, your ticket is valid for repeat visits for a whole year. We believe that this offer makes it cheaper for Cambridge people to go by train from Bedford -- at least if they can get a railcard discount -- rather than stay on the X5 bus to Milton Keynes. Remember that trains on the Marston Vale line don't run on Sundays. On Sun Aug 16, incidentally, there will be a gathering of Vauxhall OB buses on the site to celebrate the 70th anniversary of this model.

Oxfordshire: A Sunday service has been introduced on route 233, linking Chipping Norton, Kingham station, Burford and Witney. It is possible to do a circular tour incorporating this route from Cambridge, starting on the 08.10 bus to Oxford.

Nottinghamshire: The 2009 National Waterways Festival will be held at Ratcliff on Soar, as usual on the three days of the August bank holiday weekend (29-31 Aug). The site is within walking distance of the new station at East Midlands Parkway, which is linked by train to Bedford, Leicester and Nottingham.

Dorset and Devon: South-West Trains have introduced a special offer for weekends in August (excepting the Bank Holiday weekend) whereby any day return journey using their trains only can be made for just 10 pounds (on Saturday or Sunday). Stations on the Isle of Wight, north-west of Salisbury on the line towards Bristol, and west of Honiton are excluded. Here are some of the things that can be done with this.

Dorset County Council has, unfortunately, chosen this very period to remove bus timetables from its website -- and we've been told they won't come back till the autumn. However it is worth pointing out the shared taxi services that can take walkers to the Jurassic Coast. These run from Swanage to Durlston, Corfe Castle to Kimmeridge,} and (Sundays and holidays only) Wool to Lulworth, the last two twice a day. On weekdays (including Saturdays) Lulworth is served by route 103 -- see Traveline South-West for a skeleton timetable. The taxis and 103 must be booked in advance -- see details.

The telephone booking line for the 103 is 0845 6024547 (08.30-17.30) -- we believe that those walking from Kimmeridge can return from Lulworth to Wool on the bus scheduled to leave Dorchester at 17.15. The Lulworth Ranges, through which this walk passes, are open every day between 25 July and 31 Aug (and most weekends throughout the year, though the shared taxis are till 6 Sept only).

It is possible to do the following day trip from Cambridge on a Sunday: leave on the 05.55 coach to London, alight at the Embankment, walk to Waterloo, buy a return to Honiton plus another ticket from there to Exeter (3-75 with railcard discount), catch the 08.15 train to Exeter Central, then walk to the bus station, where one can buy a Dartmoor Sunday Rover (6-50) on the 12.40 X38 to Plymouth, returning on the 15.17 train to Gunnislake, 16.20 187 to Okehampton station, then use the special train service to Exeter leaving 18.02, then 19.20 from Exeter St Davids or 19.23 from Exeter Central to Waterloo, which one should reach in good time to catch the last coach back to Cambridge (23.40 from Embankment).

In our last newsletter we referred to the new ferry between Stoke Gabriel and Dartmouth. Well this now runs most days of the week, at times which depend on the tide. See River Link pages for details of this and other boat trips, including access to Agatha Christie's Greenway House. Stagecoach Explorer tickets are valid on River Link buses -- the 25 to Stoke Gabriel (which doesn't run on Sundays) and open top 100 between Paignton and Totnes. On Fridays Stoke Gabriel also has a community bus from Totnes.

There are of course many other worthwhile trips in this area, both for day trippers and stayers.

Pembrokeshire: The Bloomfield Bus will be doing a round trip on Sundays till 27 Sept, leaving Narberth Spring Gardens at 11.32, 13.32 and 15.32. Book in advance at 01834 860293. The route is the same as that shown in the 2008 timetable which is on the Pembrokeshire Greenways website (from our site there are links to Barry Doe, then Welsh Counties, then Pembrokeshire Greenways). This site also shows this year's timetable for the Havenlink boat which links Lawrenny -- on the Bloomfield route -- with jetties further down the Cleddau. This runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but timetables are subject to tides. One way connections at Lawrenny, where the boat arrives 12.15 and leaves 13.15 (with buses serving the quay at 12.17, 14.17 and 16.17) are available on all Sundays till the end of the season except 23 Aug, 6 Sept and 20 Sept.

Applecross: In our last newsletter we referred to new journey opportunities for round trips on the Applecross peninsula, one of the most spectacular roads in the UK, saying that there was conflicting information between Traveline Scotland and Stagecoach in the Highlands, the latter referenced from the Highland Council website. Well they're both wrong! There is however a much better service available which can be seen on, with a taxibus (T22) leaving Achnasheen after the arrival of the 12.16 train from Inverness and returning in time for the 15.20 from Strathcarron. (There is also a balancing trip the other way round but it's only accessible by train if one starts very early from Kyle.) Book in advance at 01520 722205.