Cambridgeshire Campaign for Better Transport

Newsletter 104, February 2010


Probably the most important activity for transport campaigners in the forthcoming general election is to persuade politicians and voters to take the arguments of the Climate Emergency campaign seriously. These arguments were marshalled by Colin Challen, chair of the parliamentary all party Climate Change group, into early day motion 2057 in last year's parliamentary session and 189 in the current session. Together these have been signed by 66 MPs (at the time of writing), including David Howarth (Cambridge, Lib Dem) who is a member of our group (but who will be standing down at the general election). The party distribution of the signatories is Labour 44; Lib Dem 14; Plaid Cymru and Independent 2 each; and Conservative, Independent Labour, Respect and SDLP 1 each.

The action called for by the EDMs include a number of radical transport measures: the phasing out of domestic flights, a 55mph speed limit on the roads, and large scale investment in public transport. The last is one of a series of measures argued for in a pamphlet "1 Million Climate Jobs NOW!" produced by the Campaign against Climate Change. See page 4 for how to get hold of this pamphlet. We believe it needs the widest publicity, and the issues discussed therein should be publicised among both candidates and voters. CACC are now working on a more detailed report, but this is unlikely to be finished before the election.

The acknowledgments in the pamphlet include Stephen Joseph, director of the Campaign for Better Transport; also John Stewart, trustee and former chair, in his role as a campaigner against Heathrow expansion (who is now on the CACC steering group).

We think that there are two minor problems with the pamphlet; fortunately the same change can help to solve both. The first is that the pamphlet suggests that improvements in public transport and provision for cycling and walking could reduce car traffic by 50%, but we believe that this is unlikely to happen unless the price of motoring is considerably increased. The second is that the pamphlet does not seem to give sufficient weight to the argument that the government needs to reduce its deficit to maintain international confidence. The link between these is that a significant rise in motoring taxes will also reduce our economic deficit. (Readers not interested in general economics may wish to skip to the next page; but we would be interested in any critique which may be offered by readers who are professional economists.)

In general it seems that discussions about the future of our economy are limited to arguments between "expansionists" (inspired by Keynes) and "contractionists" who see the maintenance of international confidence in our economy as the overriding priority. There has been little consideration given to the idea that we ought to expand in some sectors and contract in others. In general, if we compare spending on "people" with spending on "things", the former comes out better for jobs (because some of the "people" will be given jobs and will spend their money partly on other people), better for our economic deficit (because of savings in benefit payments to and tax paid by those brought into work), and better for the environment (because the manufacture and distribution of "things" uses up natural resources and creates pollution). So it seems logical that we should aim to increase spending on people and reduce spending on things. The arguments in the pamphlet would fit well inside such a framework.

It is often said that we are living beyond our means. This statement has several possible meanings and it is important to distinguish between them. The "we" can be either the UK or the world, and the "means" can be either economic or environmental. It is obviously impossible for the world to consume what it has not yet produced, so the world cannot be living beyond its economic means. It is possible for the UK to be doing so, but only if other countries are consuming less than they have produced. The logical way to reset the balance is for us to reduce our consumption of goods, many of which will have come from such under-consuming countries. In other words, to reduce our spending on things.

There can be little doubt, however, that both the UK and the world (all but the poorest countries) are living beyond their environmental means. Here the way to reset the balance is, again, to reduce our consumption of things, but also to move towards more resource-efficient consumption. Here again the recommendations of the pamphlet come into play: it is more resource-efficient to get energy from sources other than non-renewable fossil fuels, to reduce the amount of fuel used to heat our houses, and to travel with many people in one bus or train rather than in their individual cars (plus, possibly, a few in the same bus or train, with most of the seats remaining empty).

It is especially unfortunate that the world is so short of mechanisms to encourage action by individual countries which may not be optimal for that country but are believed optimal for the world. The principal exception to this is the World Trade Organisation, though ironically there are many situations where the free trade that it encourages is not good for the world (when the importing country can't afford it).

(Readers who have skipped resume here, but may wish to refer to the last paragraph above.) Those who were following the climate negotiations at Copenhagen will have seen that very little attention was given to international enforcement mechanisms, and we believe that future climate negotiations will not succeed until this problem is met.

It is also worth noting that recently a group of industry leaders, including Brian Souter of Stagecoach, issued a warning that any world economic recovery may be choked off by oil supply shortages in as little as 5 years. The solution to this is for us to learn to use fuel more efficiently. Unfortunately Stagecoach seem to have adopted a stance of "do as we say, not as we do" because they have just implemented cuts in bus services in many parts of Cambridgeshire which will prevent people from finding alteratives to their cars. See "Cambs Bus News" below.

Finally, let us deal with the problem that polls show that public confidence in the validity of global warming science has diminished recently. Here are some questions and answers dealing with this.

Q: Does this year's cold winter show that global warming is a myth?

A: The cold winter in the UK was a local phenomenon, compensated for by warmer weather elsewhere. In other years similar fluctuations will happen the other way. There were several winters since World War II compared with which this one has been very warm.

Q: Remembering the hardships of those winters, should we therefore welcome global warming?

A: Not if disrupted water supply and crop growth in other countries leads to famines.

Q: Hasn't the proof of human-caused global warming been dealt an irreparable blow by the discovery of flaws in the methodology used to produce certain data?

A: The overwhelming bulk of data remain unquestioned, as does the underlying rationale. It is known that gases such as carbon dioxide have a "heat trapping" effect, it is known that the concentration of such gases has increased in recent years, it is known that average global temperatures have increased. The scientific method implies that we should accept causation as the most probable explanation and the burden of proof should be on those who say otherwise.

Q: But it is worth the risk of disrupting our economy when we aren't absolutely certain?

A: We argued above that because of fuel supply problems action to reduce fossil fuel use would be more likely to help save our economy. However, even if we ignore this, surely it's better to cut back on some kinds of luxury spending (such as cheap flights and mass motoring) rather than risk world famines? To put it another way, the world's encounter with climate change is like someone walking in a minefield -- we don't know where the ``tipping points'' which may cause irreparable damage to the world ecosystem are. If one's told one may be walking in a minefield, one doesn't wait for absolute proof before getting out of the field, surely. Well one might if staying in the field was essential for survival but that's certainly not the case here.

One can get "1 Million Climate Jobs NOW!" in one of the following ways:

1. Order from the website of the Campaign against Climate Change.

2. Send a cheque for 2 pounds, payable to the Campaign against Climate Change, to their office at 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX.

3. Visit Housman's Bookshop, also at 5 Caledonian Road, just round the corner from Kings Cross station (so easy to pop into if one's going to or through London).

Branch News

We are planning to streamline the distribution of our newsletter. Please study the following carefully, and if required contact us by post or email with the appropriate message.

A: All paying members, together with representatives of organisations with which we have a newsletter exchange agreement and of other branches of the Campaign for Better Transport (as shown on page 1), will normally receive newsletters, annual reports and AGM notices in paper form. Annual reports (including the ones sent with this newsletter) will only be sent to those who had been members before or at the AGM and are fully paid up at the time of distribution of the newsletter they come with.

B: Members, and representatives of the types mentioned above, with an email address will normally also receive notification when our newsletters are about to be distributed. This will be the default as from the next newsletter. You may, however, opt to receive our newsletters in electronic as well as paper form. You may also opt to receive our material in electronic form only, except that you will also get it in paper form when we have something to distribute for which electronic form is unsuitable (e.g. our financial reports or renewal slips). Please email us if you prefer one of these options.

C: For those members who have not yet paid for 2009-10, this will be the last chance.} A renewal slip is enclosed -- please send a subscription for either 2009-10 (1 year), 2009-11 (2 years) or 2009-12 (3 years) at the usual rates -- 4 pounds per year ordinary, 3 pounds concessionary, 5 pounds household or affiliate. We have already dropped those members not yet paid for 2008-9.

D: Those members who have paid for 2009-10 but not 2010-11 will not be receiving a renewal slip as their membership is not yet due, but you may choose to renew for 1 year (2010-11) or 2 years (2010-12) at the above rates.

E: We have also been distributing our newsletters (but not the other materials mentioned above) to people who are not members but who represent organisations which we feel would benefit from being kept in touch with our news. We will continue to do so, but normally this will be by electronic means only. To receive paper as well as electronic newsletters, or paper newsletters plus electronic notifications, please let us know. Note that these options will not normally be available to people living in Cambridgeshire including Peterborough, who will be expected to join if they wish to receive paper newsletters.

F: There are some exceptions to the last sentence above. People without email may continue to receive paper newsletters, but only if you specifically let us know you wish to do so. If you are in this category and do nothing, this will be your last newsletter. We will also continue to send paper newsletters to those who provide us with information which we make use of on a regular basis.

G: If you do not receive either this newsletter or the notification thereof by email, it may be because we don't have your email address. Please let us have it. Note that we may have dropped you from the email list if previous newsletters or notifications thereof have bounced. If you don't get an electronic copy or notification of a newsletter that has appeared on our website, let us know and we will reinstate you on the list at the appropriate email address.

H: The default size for paper newsletters is "reduced", i.e. with 2 pages occupying each side of an A4 sheet. Those who belong to one of the classes mentioned in A above (unless they pay at the concessionary rate), together with those in the class mentioned in the last sentence of F, may opt to receive newsletters in the "full" size, with 1 page occupying each size of an A4 sheet. This involves us in significant extra costs, which is why we do not extend this option to people paying at the concessionary rate.

I: If you are receiving this newsletter on behalf of an organisation but are not the appropriate person to do so, please pass it on to whoever is and let us know so that future issues can be sent to that person.

J: If you aren't sure what category you are in, either ask the Coordinator or send a message which will cover several cases.

K: We no longer receive issues of Impact, the magazine of the Campaign for Better Transport, to distribute to members. If you have been receiving it in the past, we hope that you will continue to receive copies for as long as the subscription you paid to us lasts. To be added to their mailing list contact them directly at the address given on page 1 -- there is no longer a minimum donation required.

As stated above, members paid up for 2009-10 will receive our activities and financial reports with this newsletter.

We receive copies of the magazine of Bus Users UK because of our affiliation thereto. As several members of our committee are also individual members, we are pleased to nominate the first member who claims this privilege as our representative to receive the magazine on our behalf. Please contact the Coordinator if you wish to take advantage of this.

Errors in last newsletter

We apologise for some errors in our last newsletter.

Blame the County Council for our false announcement of the guided busway opening -- the postponment was announced after we'd distributed the newsletter. There is still no opening date announced. See "Cambs Bus News" below for more on this issue.

As a result of the above, most of the bus changes for the Cambridge and Huntingdon areas mentioned in the newsletter were postponed. The only routes for which the timetables were changed then and have not been changed since (see below) are the Citi 4 (withdrawn on Sunday evenings) and the 18 (minor timing changes). In particular, the Citi 2 and 7 are still running every 10 minutes (and half hourly on the Duxford loop), and users of these routes will probably be hoping that the opening will be delayed as long as possible.

We were wrong in saying that the rally in London on 5 Dec 2009 was not the annual Climate Change march. There was a rally on 12 Dec attended by UK campaigners, but this was in Copenhagen where the climate summit was held.

We have not yet closed down our old bank account, because of problems in complying with the procedure laid down by the Alliance and Leicester bank.

The route between Banbury and Shipston on Stour which was replaced by Stagecoach in Warwickshire's 50A was numbered 480, not 488.

The new Sunday service referred to in the reference to routes 88/X88 between Northampton and Oxford runs between Northampton and Towcester only. It is still a major improvement as Towcester is far too large to be isolated on Sundays.

In our AGM notice, there were two items numbered 12 -- the second should have been numbered 13. This was a typo, not superstition!

Cambridge 2020 -- the Nightmare Scenario

Recently an election hustings meeting was held in Cambridge, organised by the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. The Coordinator took the opportunity to distribute among the panel and audience copies of the following (with the above heading):

This outlines some of the declines in Cambridge's quality of life I expect to follow from a continuation of current policies. Please note that I am excluding the effects of:

(a) Collapse of the world economy due to climate change, peak oil and/or other resource constraints -- I believe this is very likely to happen the way things are going.

(b) Collapse of the UK economy, because the decline of the sectors that underpin it combined with cuts targeted at our internal economy rather than the resource-intensive patterns of consumption, where cuts would actually help to bring our economy into balance.

These would threaten people's quality of life too; but this might be offset by mitigation of the trends suggested below if less wealth led to fewer cars, and a renaissance of alternative modes of travel, especially buses. Our group believes that this is what we should aim for as a matter of choice, to avoid the "nightmare scenario" -- which will become a real nightmare for many people if our society decides to afford the cars but not the buses.

Assuming little change to either our general economic situation or the policy background, then, I would expect the dominant trend to be the migration of shops, jobs and facilities out of the city centre to the city's suburban areas and new and expanding villages outside the city. This will go hand in hand with:

A: Increased congestion in the city throughout the day as more people switch from cycling and public transport to driving -- stimulated by the avoidance of city centre parking problems and the fact that buses are likely to remain focused on the central area.

B: Decline of the bus network including park & ride, because of congestion and the decay of the central area, the focus of bus provision.

C: The abandonment of the university's ban on car ownership by students -- which will cease to be tenable as the university concentrates on its off-centre developments.

Shops in the city centre will increasingly aim for the tourist market rather than provide for the needs of local residents. Sainsbury's Sidney St shop, which is vital importance to many local residents, will threaten to pull out. Eventually a compromise will be found, moving it to a new site close to the Park St car park, with the city council offering special deals for car shoppers. Other shopping interests will seek similar deals letting more cars and congestion into the city centre.

The high frequency network of Citi bus routes, and relatively good links from most necklace villages, will no longer be viable due to reduced patronage and increased congestion. The County Council will continue to squeeze funding for non-commercial services, even as money continues to be lavished on the prestige projects that will build on the completion of the guided busway and A14 upgrade, so there will be a mass withdrawal of evening and Sunday buses.

The growth in rail patronage in recent years will be reversed by people's increasing difficulties people in gaining access to the rail network, due to congestion and the decline in bus services, and by the decreased attractiveness of the city centre as a destination. When it takes longer to get from people's homes to Cambridge station than from there to London fast trains will lose their appeal. Day tripping to London will be particularly affected by peak restrictions on return from London, combined with the dearth of buses from the station and city centre after these restrictions have ended.

Walking and cycling in the city centre will become less pleasant as traffic increases and as the University and Colleges continue to close off walking routes that enable people to avoid the main traffic routes.

Rail News

There is quite a lot to say this time, including news from London.

1. The go ahead has been given for the construction of a new island platform at Cambridge station. This will, we believe, solve any capacity problems that might otherwise prevent the provision of a Cambridge local rail service on top of the existing, faster, services to London -- however there are no plans to open any new stations to take advantage of this, except for the long mooted Chesterton Parkway for which capacity problems at Cambridge were not a relevant factor anyway.

2. The go ahead has also been given for measures to improve capacity on the Felixstowe to Ely route, covering the "Bacon Factory Curve" enabling the avoidance of reversal at Ipswich plus extra capacity on the single line stretch between Soham and Ely. The latter may facilitate the reopening of Soham station to passengers. It had been speculated that this might be "fast tracked" to be in operation at the time of the Olympics, during which no freight will be allowed on the alternative route via Stratford, but it now seems as if the work won't be ready till 2014.

3. The full domestic high speed service has started on the route from St Pancras via Stratford to Kent. People making period return journeys from Cambridge to London can sample the new service to Gravesend for as little as 1-05 by buying a period return to Gravesend (taking care to avoid the "not valid via HS1" qualification, which saves just 35p) rather than to London (this is with a railcard discount -- there are no restrictions on who can use a Network Railcard). The outward journey to Gravesend has to be made on the starting date, but one can return as far as London the same day and continue to Cambridge later, as long as the journey is completed within a month. The quickest route between Kings Cross and St Pancras is through the new northern ticket hall -- especially if one's First Capital Connect train is using the suburban area (platforms 9-11). Alternatively, use the West Anglia line to Tottenham, change for Stratford (there may be through trains on a Sunday) and walk to the end of platform 11 to catch a special bus to Stratford International where one can pick up the train to Gravesend. This bus offers views of the Olympic site. However, it is expected to be withdrawn around Easter when access to Stratford International will be by the new Docklands Light Railway extension. Note there is no public access to Stratford International other than by the above means.

4. The Circle Line has been amended with trains now running from Hammersmith via Edgware Road to Aldgate and then round the south side back to Edgware Road. This means that if you are returning from west of London all tube trains from Paddington to Kings Cross or Liverpool St will use the Hammersmith & City line platforms. To reach or return from places further west or south, the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines from Kings Cross (or Finsbury Park, or the Victoria Line from Tottenham Hale), or the Central Line from Liverpool St, provide alternative routes.

5. The North London Line between Gospel Oak, Highbury and Stratford is closed till the beginning of June for improvement works. Journeys that would normally be made via this route can be made via Zone 1 without extra cost provided they start and finish outside this zone -- if you're using an Oystercard you can contact their administration for a refund if necessary. There are also some bus replacements for trains between Tottenham Hale and Stratford. The line between Gospel Oak and Barking remains open, but unfortunately does not offer very good interchange, though passengers going east can use the Victoria Line from Finsbury Park or Tottenham Hale to Blackhorse Road or walk from Seven Sisters to South Tottenham. Bus 101 links Woodgrange Park with North Woolwich for those wishing to cross to South London.

6. During the summer the East London Line will reopen as part of the London Overground, including the new extensions to Dalston, Crystal Palace and West Croydon. The first will use the trackbed of the former line to Broad Street, and the service will later extend along this route to Highbury to connect with the North London Line, Great Northern route and Victoria Line. The Crystal Palace and West Croydon routes will replace part of existing services from London Bridge via New Cross where the route will be joined, and later the old route will be restored between Surrey Quays and Peckham with a service to Clapham Junction, after which the Overground network will include a complete circuit round Central London.

7. Following track improvement works there is now a regular hourly service between Waterloo and Exeter. Note that Network Railcards are valid throughout this route. Note also that fares to Pinhoe, which is within the Exeter urban area, are considerably less than those to Exeter Central or St Davids, though unfortunately not all trains stop at Pinhoe.

A14 News

The Campaign for Better Transport told us that 451 people sent objections to the A14 upgrade from their site. Unfortunately a pro-motoring group invited its members to use the information on the site to send messages of support for the road -- we don't know how many people did this. As expected, the Highways Agency has announced that a public inquiry will be held into their proposals. No date has yet been set.

It has also been announced that Northstowe will be built to ecotown standards (see Cambridge Evening News 1 Dec 2009). This should strengthen the case for those objecting to the ``dual local road'' proposals between Girton and Bar Hill. (Note that we also objected to this because it would not solve the access problems of eastbound bus passengers to/from the Crematorium.)

Cambs Bus News

Quite a lot this time, and, as previously indicated, almost all bad news. Further changes to the Stagecoach network (as well as to timetables for the Norfolk Green routes that have replaced some of it) are expected at Easter -- we have no details but hope they won't be as bad. There are several likely explanations for the situation.

(a) The Council's wish to save money to make allowances for overspending on the guided busway. According to the Cambridge Evening News (23 Feb 2010) the Council has had to borrow 41m pounds this year and 10.2m pounds next year to get the system open. It hopes to claw most of it back from the contractor, but even if it does we may still be stuck with interest and legal costs.

(b) The end of support for Stagecoach's "Kickstart" services. This is a scheme intended to support improved services until they become commercial, but if they don't succeed in doing so they will then be cut back.

(c) The after effects of the takeover of Cavalier by Stagecoach. It quite often happens that such takeovers result in initial improvements which are later reversed. Some services are now worse than ever.

For Whippet 19 (Ely local), Whippet 22 (St Ives-Ramsey), Norfolk Green 46 (March-Wisbech-Kings Lynn), Norfolk Green 55 (Wisbech-Long Sutton), Norfolk Green 56 (Wisbech-March), Ely & Soham Dial a Ride 204 (Isleham-Newmarket), W&M 390 (Wisbech-Peterborough) and Stagecoach 465 (St Neots-Buckden Roundabout) see Stagecoach routes 9/X9, 29, 36, 39, 9/X9, 10-12, 38 and 65-67 respectively.

Whippet 1A/5 (Cambridge-Huntingdon): Timing changes.

Saffords C2 (Hatley-St Neots): At some stage this became a conventional bus service without need for prebooking. Meanwhile companion routes C1, C3 and C4 have been withdrawn.

Whippet 2 (Cambridge-Highfields): Morning peak journey withdrawn and replaced by an extension of Stagecoach 14 to Highfields (which also operates in the evening).

Stagecoach X7 (March-Cottenham-Cambridge): Saturday service withdrawn. There are also some timing changes.

Stagecoach 9/X9 (Cambridge-Ely-Chatteris-March-Wisbech): During the daytime the 9 is withdrawn and replaced by a diversion of the X9. The March-Wisbech section is taken over by Norfolk Green as route 56, though through ticketing is still offered across March. Norfolk Green also run route 46 between these termini. There may be further timetable changes to the 56 at Easter. The Sunday service is considerably reduced, with just 1 journey each way between Cambridge and Ely (aimed at shoppers in Cambridge), and 2 journeys between Ely and March. Travel from March to Cambridge is possible, but passengers from Ely to Peterborough have to wait in March for a connection.

Stagecoach 9A (Ely local): Withdrawn with partial replacement by Whippet 19.

Stagecoach 10-12 (Cambridge-Burwell/Newmarket/Bury/Ely): The Burwell service is reduced to hourly. The last bus from Bury to Cambridge now leaves as early as 17.10 (there is conflicting information about whether the 18.10 runs through to Cambridge or terminates at Newmarket). Evening and Sunday services now use a single route Cambridge-Soham via Quy Church, Bottisham High St, Newmarket, Burwell and Fordham in that order, which means no services to Lode (for Anglesey Abbey) or the Swaffhams, though Sunday services to some destinations are improved. There is no longer a half hourly service on the Cambridge to Newmarket stretch -- instead buses on routes 10-12 serve Cambridge every 20 minutes. The rationale for this is obscure given that the 10 serves a completely different corridor from the 11 and 12. Also, the peak service to Isleham is replaced by Ely & Soham Dial a Ride route 204.

Stagecoach 14 (Cambridge-Highfields): See Whippet 2.

Stagecoach/Whippet 21 (St Ives-Ramsey/Chatteris): A complicated service pattern with timing changes. This now provides the only link between Chatteris and Huntingdonshire except for a peak journey on route 35 (qv).

Stagecoach 29 (St Ives-Ramsey): Replaced by Whippet 22 at reduced frequency.

Stagecoach 30 (Huntingdon-Ramsey): Most evening buses withdrawn, Hinchingbrooke Hospital short workings transferred to 46.

Stagecoach 31-33 (Ramsey/March-Peterborough): Timing changes, with some journeys numbered 33 instead of 32.

Stagecoach/Norfolk Green 34 (March-Benwick/Manea): Now run by Norfolk Green rather than Stagecoach. There may be timetable changes at Easter.

Stagecoach 35 (Huntingdon-March): Short workings between Chatteris and Warboys (connecting for Huntingdon) are withdrawn, leaving only a single peak journey each way.

Stagecoach 36 (Wisbech-Peterborough): Reduced to 4-5 journeys, with only 1 running east of Thorney, depriving villages of direct link to Peterborough and also axing link between Eye and Wisbech. The Wisbech shopping facility offered by the diversion of one journey via Murrow is transferred to an extra journey on Norfolk Green 46.

Stagecoach 38 (Peterborough-Wisbech/Sutton St Edmund): The Wednesday service to Wisbech resumes its old operator (W&M) and number (390). The Tuesday and Friday services to Sutton St Edmund are withdrawn.

Stagecoach 39 (Wisbech-Long Sutton): Taken over by Norfolk Green as route 55 with loss of first and last journeys. There may be further timetable changes at Easter. Norfolk Green also runs route 50 between these termini.

Stagecoach 45 (Huntingdon-St Ives): 2 morning westbound and 4 evening eastbound journeys aimed at London commuters and replacing part 65-66 (qv).

Stagecoach 46 (Huntingdon-Peterborough): Extends to/from Hinchingbrooke Hospital in lieu of 30 (qv). Early morning journeys from Peterborough and most evening journeys are withdrawn, though there is now a new 19.50 Peterborough to Huntingdon -- which unfortunately just misses a connection to Cambridge, though passengers for St Ives can use the 45 (qv).

Stagecoach 51 (Huntingdon-St Ives via Hemingfords, evenings): Withdrawn, isolating Godmanchester as well as the Hemingfords.

Stagecoach 65-67 (St Neots-Huntingdon-St Ives): Journeys to St Ives renumbered 45, with 65-66 now terminating at Huntingdon Tesco. Service between Brampton and St Neots halved so that each route runs 2 hourly. Journeys on route 67, formerly 465, are retimed to provide an hourly service for part of the day south of Buckden Roundabout. Evening buses south of Huntingdon withdrawn.

There have also been changes to National Express coaches. The 717 from Cambridge has been cut back to run to Stansted where it offers a combined hourly service with the 797. The 787 and 797 continue to offer joint hourly services to Heathrow and Gatwick, and the 727 and 797 between Stansted and Gatwick. There have been a number of timing changes on many services in our area, with more planned for 22 Mar, but the overall pattern of service seems to be unchanged. There may, however, be further changes after 5 June.

Other Bus News

Users of Norfolk Green's new routes 34, 55 and 56 may be interested to know that this operator's services are flourishing in its W Norfolk heartland, with the latest improvement being the introduction of an all year Sunday service between Southery/Ten Mile Bank and Kings Lynn. This service may be useful for Fen Rivers Way walkers. Unfortunately even if Stagecoach have further revamps it will probably take a long time for Norfolk Green's network to expand as far as Cambridge, Huntingdon or Peterborough! Norfolk Green has an Explorer ticket priced 7 pounds which offers unlimited travel on its network and that of Konectbus in the centre of Norfolk -- this together with rail from Cambridge to Kings Lynn offers good value days out in Norfolk. For a weekend trip (and many routes have reasonable Sunday services) the Network Railcard discount makes the journey cheaper than a rail return to Norwich.

Elsewhere, we have only 2 bus changes to report: one is the loss of the Jupiter Sunday service between Luton and Bedford, leaving only the Saturn route via the A6. The Jupiter route largely follows the railway, but its loss isolates several substantial communities (including Ampthill and Toddington) that don't have stations.

The other is the addition of a new corridor to Lincolnshire's Interconnect network: the 96/A between Spilsby, Alford and Mablethorpe. This provides an hourly service alternating between two routes. Investigate the opportunities for combining this service with the 15-60 off peak return from Cambridge to Sleaford and the rather complicated Call Connect network (prebooking required on 0845 234 3344) to plan a day trip to Mablethorpe on a Saturday.

Last but not least, the Government's pre-budget report in November announced the raising of the female pension age, and, with it, the qualifying age for concessionary bus passes. As things currently stand (and we suspect there may be further changes after the election, depending on the result) the qualifying age is set to rise 1 month every 2 months. Those born before 6/4/50 will still qualify on their 60th birthday while those born after 5/4/55 will have to wait till their 65th birthday. Otherwise visit the state pension age calculator, calling yourself female and entering your actual date of birth, to find when you qualify. Disabled people will continue to be eligible for concessionary passes whatever their age.

Action Line

1. Renew your memebership for 2009-10, and preferably beyond, if you have not already done so; and, whether you are a member or not, let us know if you want anything other than the "default" options shown in the "Branch News" section.

2. Get a copy of "1 Million Climate Jobs NOW!" and use it in the forthcoming election campaign.