We cannot write a newsletter at this time without mentioning the forthcoming General Election, which gives people an opportunity to articulate their fears and hopes for the future. Below we give some of the ways in which people can do so effectively, plus a summary of the main parties' transport proposals, as taken from the website of the Campaign for Better Transport. Note that it is not our role to highlight whether one party would fulfil our aspirations better than any other -- if you are supporting a particular party and feel that its transport proposals deserve better promotion than they are getting, ask your candidate and/or the national party to highlight the relevant issues.
The ancient Greek philosopher Plato said that for evil to triumph all that is necessary is that good people should do nothing. Our transport system is an excellent illustration of this. Our urban centres fill up with more private vehicles than they can handle, giving off emissions that endanger our very civilisation through climate change, and yet those who prefer to use other means of transport find their essential facilities progressively withdrawn and end up feeling lucky if they keep what they have.
The Campaign for Better Transport was formed to give sustainable transport advocates a voice. However it and its local groups can't do everything. This applies especially at election times, when, for cogent reasons, we are barred from siding with or against any political party.
However, our members are not so constrained. It has been said that it takes as few as 3 people to express an interest in an issue to a candidate before the candidate flags it up as something of importance. Here are some of the things you can do to help ensure that our concerns are not forgotten by the candidates -- as they seem to have been by many of the national parties so far.
1. Attend hustings meetings and put questions about buses to the candidates or their representatives.
2. Write to local papers expressing your concern -- this is especially relevant if you are prevented from attending any hustings meeting in your constituency by lack of transport.
3. Talk to local candidates or their representatives about bus issues, e.g. when they are canvassing you.
4. If you like or dislike the policies of any party and believe that the reasons will appeal to other people in your circle of acquaintances as well as yourself, make your approval or concerns about the relevant policies, and the party that is promoting them, known to these people.
Here are some questions you can ask. We list the questions first and then explain them. Note that it may be necessary to include some of the explanations when you ask the questions.
A: Is there scope for finding more money to support buses by cancelling expensive capital transport projects?
B: Can aging people rely on your party to support the maintenance of the concessionary fares scheme?
C: Do you support Early Day Motion 189 in the 2009-10 parliamentary session?
D: Do you agree that in times of recession it is more rather than less important to maintain options for people to satisfy their mobility needs without a car?
A: At present bus support budgets are under financial pressure everywhere. But while Cambs CC are spending around 4m pounds a year on bus support, the Highways Agency are preparing to upgrade the A14 at a cost of about 1.3 bn pounds. If the A14 scheme is abandoned or even reduced in scale, extra money could be found for buses throughout our region without creating a noticeable dent in the savings. There may even be public transport capital schemes worth sacrificing, though it's now far too late for the Cambs Guided Busway to be one of them.
B: Anyone currently over 58 is likely to be eligible for free travel within the lifetime of the next parliament and may be looking forward to this. Is there a risk that they might find the scheme running away from them as they approach eligibility, or find its scope so reduced that its value will also be reduced? It is important to realise that this is not just a matter of whether they can afford bus fares. If older people have an incentive to travel by bus, that means fewer cars on the roads. It may provide a lifeline for people who are losing their faculties and should not be driving. And the extra patronage from the scheme may help to keep services going.
C: We dealt with this in our last newsletter. We should, however, mention that it is arguable that this country's future economic prosperity depends on finding ways of reducing its appetite for fossil fuels. Indeed, a group of industrial leaders, including Brian Souter of Stagecoach, has recently issued a statement saying exactly that. So the provisions of EDM 189 may help save our economy as well as our environment. Note that only MPs can sign EDMs, and EDM 189 is closed now that Parliament has been dissolved. However if a similar EDM is put forward after the election then any candidate who gets elected will be able to sign it (unless he/she gets a parliamentary job).
D: This is essentially a "distilled" form of the previous question. Can a country in the throes of recession afford to spend vast amounts of money on buying cars, many of them imported, when the task of moving people around can be accomplished at considerably less cost if they could be encouraged to use public transport instead? A bus with, say, 3 passengers may not seem much of a saving, but if there are 100 people making the same journey and 20 of them could be induced to switch to the bus (say through higher parking charges in our cities and towns) the savings would be substantial.
Now for the parties' own plans -- as can be seen none of them really answer any of the questions shown above.
Transport Funding: Labour would introduce an Urban Challenge Fund (financed from the Department for Transport budget), a Green Infrastructure Bank at a cost of 2 bn pounds, half from the private sector, and support workplace parking levies. The Tories would introduce a Transport Carbon Reduction Fund from whatever is left of the Transport Innovation Fund (currently 200m pounds). They oppose workplace parking levies but would not block Nottingham's pilot scheme. The Lib Dems would introduce a Future Transport Fund from lorry user charges for green infrastructure and a Rail Expansion Fund of nearly 3 bn pounds from cuts in the roads budget.
Conventional Rail: Labour would electrify the Midland Main Line as well as the S Wales and Liverpool-Manchester routes to which they have already committed. They have also promised 1300 new carriages. Franchises would be open to non-profit groups, and they are committed to Crossrail. Passengers would be guaranteed the cheapest fare. The Tories would reform Network Rail with a smaller supervisory board including a passenger representative. The Office of Rail Regulation would become a passenger champion. Less government involvement in rolling stock and timetabling. Support for S Wales electrification and Crossrail. Lib Dems would establish a Rail Expansion Fund (see above) and reduce fares by 1% in real terms each year. All three would lengthen franchises.
High Speed Rail: Labour want a Y shaped route from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, with a spur from Heathrow. Tories want a reverse S shaped route from London to Leeds via Heathrow. Lib Dems also support high speed but no route preference is shown on the CBT website.
Roads: Labour plan to spend 6 bn pounds widening trunk roads and introducing hard shoulder running on motorways, but have ruled out a major road programme. Tories want targeted road building and making best use of existing roadspace. They have discussed funding schemes through tolls. They are pledged to end funding for fixed speed cameras (but maybe not average speed cameras). They would reconsult on a fuel duty stabiliser. Lib Dems would cancel the road programme and introduce road user charging balanced by tax cuts.
Aviation: Labour support a 3rd runway at Heathrow but no others within 5 years, otherwise as in 2003 White Paper. Aviation emissions to be capped at 2005 levels by 2050. Tories and Lib Dems support regional airport expansion. Tories oppose expansion of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. Lib Dems oppose expansion in SE England and also want a surcharge on domestic flights.
Buses: Labour support Quality Contracts and plan further bus regulation, describing the original bus deregulation as "botched". They want to act against excess profits and increase notice for cancellation of commercial services. They believe in smartcards to integrate buses with other public transport. Tories would scrap Quality Contracts and rely on partnerships between operators and councils. They are also considering lengthening notices for deregistering services. Lib Dems would reregulate buses and give councils more control over services.
Trams: Labour has announced support for extension schemes in Nottingham, Birmingham and Tyne and Wear, and trolleybuses in Leeds. Nothing from the other parties.
Electric cars: Labour would introduce a grant for them and invest in charging stations (the latter is also Tory policy). The Lib Dems want all new cars to be zero carbon by 2040.
Walking and cycling: Labour would continue support for cycling demonstration towns, and fund Cycling England. Greater priority for these modes in local transport plans and more flexibility for 20mph limits over wider areas. Would review cycle safety and triple cycle parking at stations. Tories want more freedom for local initiatives and would review guidance to encourage planners to "think bike". Lib Dems want more cycle parking in new developments and more space on new trains and coaches. Would increase funding for safe routes to schools and smarter choices programmes.
Our Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk bank account is now closed, though at the time of writing the transfer of its funds to our new account has not yet been completed. So any cheques not made payable to "Cambs Campaign for Better Transport" can no longer be accepted.
The membership year 2010-1 will soon be upon us. Members, except those who have already paid for that year, will receive a renewal slip, which as usual will offer 1 or 2 year options. Members who have still not paid for 2009-10 will receive a slip with 2 or 3 year options, but this will be their last chance to keep their membership up to date. The rates are 4 pounds per year ordinary, 3 pounds per year concessionary, 5 pounds per year household or affiliate.
Members will be receiving with this newsletter the report of Martin Thorne, our Deputy Coordinator and Light Rail representative, to our AGM, as well as a draft constitution which, perhaps with some amendments, we plan to submit for approval to the 2010 AGM.
In connection with our streamlining of newsletter distribution, those who receive paper newsletters will see a couple of handwritten code letters this time. We also hope to email code letters to people who receive newsletters or notifications by email. The first code letter, drawn from the beginning of the alphabet, denotes the membership status; the second, drawn from the end, denotes what people will normally receive. Note that we reserve the right to deviate from our normal practice with any newsletter, and also to change people's codes without notice, except that paid up members will always be shown as such and can expect to receive all newsletters and reports.
The complete set of codes is as follows: A = affiliate or household member, B = ordinary member, C = concessionary (senior, disabled, student, unemployed, Campaign for Better Transport supporter), D = mutual affiliate (no payment required -- this category also includes Campaign for Better Transport national or local group contacts), E = helper (provider of information), F = other contact or member not paid up for 2009-10. Then Q for those receiving printed and emailed newsletters plus reports etc., R = printed newsletters, emailed notifications and reports etc., S = printed newsletters and reports etc., T = printed and emailed newsletters, U = printed newsletters and emailed notifications, V = printed newsletters, W = emailed newsletters, plus reports etc. and printed newsletters to go with them, X = emailed newsletters, Y = emailed notifications, and Z = no service. If you feel that your code letters are inappropriate or want to change them please let the Coordinator know, sending a subscription if necessary (the guidelines were given in Newsletter 104).
This year Cambs County Council and other local transport authorities have been consulting on their third Local Transport Plan. This outlines their plans for a 5 year period. Some areas of spending attract central government grant, but unfortunately the one of greatest importance to many of us -- revenue support for bus services -- is not one of them (at least in the sense that a local authority wishing to spend money on improving services cannot expect a grant towards the cost of doing so). Nevertheless we have highlighted this issue in our response to the LTP, saying that there's no point in having all sorts of capital spending schemes to improve buses -- and we are glad that this issue has been given top billing in the consultation leaflet -- if the Council is not prepared to reserve the money to ensure that these buses can in fact operate.
We have suggested the following minimum standards for buses in villages. Note that the reason for higher standards in the Cambridge area is, of course, the congestion in the city. Each of the standards is supposed to include the ones coming after (e.g. large villages in the Cambridge area should expect their last bus to connect with a specific train).
Large villages in the Cambridge area: Half hourly daytime (starting before the morning peak), hourly evenings and Sundays, 2 hourly Sunday evenings.
Other large and medium villages: Hourly daytime starting before the morning peak (2 hourly for medium villages outside the Cambridge area), post peak railhead link Mon-Fri, last bus to connect with a specific train, late evening bus Fri/Sat, Sunday shopping service plus evening bus for weekenders to get home.
Small but not remote villages: 2 hourly daytime.
Tiny and remote villages: Services for work and school plus shopping journeys at least 2 days per week.
Where possible services should be "double ended", serving trip generators such as railheads at both ends, to attract use on all sections of the route. Any major new developments should entail support to bring services up to standard.
We have also commented on the complete lack of service on certain corridors that are busy with road traffic: specifically the A141 between Huntingdon and Chatteris, and above all the A14 west of Huntingdon.
Which brings us to our next topic. The Highways Agency has announced a pre-inquiry meeting for Mon 24 May starting at 10.00 in Burgess Hall, St Ives. This is expected to be followed by a public inquiry in July. The purpose of the pre-inquiry meeting is not to discuss the issues but merely to set guidance as to the conduct of the inquiry. It is not necessary to attend the pre-inquiry meeting to present your objection at the inquiry, but it does afford an opportunity to meet other objectors.
In preparation for the pre-inquiry meeting and the inquiry, an objectors' meeting is planned for the morning of Sat 8 May in the Memorial Hall in Brampton village, accessible from Huntingdon or St Neots by bus 65 or 66. It will start at 10.00 and should be over by lunchtime. People who failed to send objections will still be welcome if they wish to help with the campaign.
Recently the High Court ruled that the Government could not proceed with its plans to expand Heathrow Airport without further justification to show that these plans were consistent with the Climate Change Act, which sets legally binding targets for future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It may be possible to force the Government to re-examine the A14 proposals on similar grounds -- the scheme will (according to the Highways Agency's own figures, which are liable to be an underestimate) generate an extra 132,000 tonnes of CO2 as against a "do minimum" policy, and the traffic projections on which it is based may turn out to be inconsistent with the targets of the Climate Change Act.
The Coordinator was interviewed by the Cambridge community radio station (now, alas, no longer in operation). The interview was broadcast on the morning of Mon 22 Feb.
The Ramblers Association, one of the former national affiliates of Transport 2000, has recently started a "don't do a Beeching on the footpaths" campaign, fearing that local government faced with spending cuts will focus on public footpaths as a soft option. (Why is it that when we have a crisis it's the most benign modes of transport that are always under threat?)
We believe that the use of footpaths for purposes other than recreation deserves particular attention. For example people could use them for everyday journeys between villages, or from villages to main bus routes or stations. They are not always suitable for such a role at present, but in many cases they could be upgraded and would then solve many of the isolation problems of people in these villages.
In the 1980s a Private Members' Bill was passed enabling the experimental (re)opening of railways. Taking up the Beeching theme, could something similar be done for footpaths? To be worthwhile this would have to be possible without the consent of the landowner; however the local transport authority would have to prove a need for the path, select a suitable route (routes over private gardens, for example, would not be suitable), compensate the landowner and be responsible for any costs imposed by the existence of the path. The money could come out of the green infrastructure fund, proposed under different names by all three main parties (see above). The path would not become a right of way, though it might later after due procedures had been complied with.
There were quite a few changes over the Easter weekend. Here is a summary. Services are operated by Stagecoach unless otherwise indicated. Note that in Newsletter 104 we expressed a fear that the Easter round of changes might bring significant cuts on top of those imposed in Februrary. We are glad to report that this hasn't happened.
Citi 1,2: As reported in Newsletter 103 -- it's now the C1 that uses Queen Edith's Way and the C2 that uses Wulfstan Way. However the frequency reduction on the C2 isn't happening -- it's probably postponed till the guided busway opens.
Citi 4: The Orchard Park section is transferred to a route B evenings and Sundays.
Citi 5,6: As reported in Newsletter 103, the C5 is extended to St Ives replacing daytime journeys on route 15. The evening services are increased to hourly on a route combining Oakington and Bar Hill (as the 15 used to). Sunday services are also combined resulting in a reduction to hourly on Huntingdon Road -- plus hourly Whippet buses, apart from the gaps, which however run at almost the same times.
Citi 7: As with the C2 the frequency reduction isn't happening now, but the other changes reported in Newsletter 103 are. Pampisford gets a half hourly service, Duxford and Whittlesford are down to hourly, and the extra peak journeys to Saffron Walden are withdrawn so that it retains the normal hourly pattern. The splitting of the Duxford loop on the C7 means that passengers now have a faster but less frequent service, but if the service had run as a loop alternately in each direction they could have had the best of both worlds. However this option was probably foreclosed by the turning restrictions to/from the A505 imposed by the Council some years ago (to which we objected at the time). The last southbound Sunday bus on route C7 is half an hour later -- which means that it's now after the last 132.
X7: Leaves Cambridge at 18.15 and runs via Bridge St.
9,X9,10,10A,11,12,26,27: Timetable changes with the aim of improving reliability and fitting in with passenger requirements. Incidentally the last bus from Bury to Cambridge is at 18.20 (we expressed doubt about the existence of this journey, then timed at 18.10, in our last newsletter). On route 9 the last bus in each direction is 10 minutes later.
13,X13: Two journeys (15.45 and 16.15 from Cambridge) become 13s, serving Abington, Linton village and Horseheath.
15: As reported above, the daytime journeys are replaced by route C5. The school journeys renumbered 91 and 95. The evening service retains the number 15 but no longer serves St Ives, so there are now no evening buses between Fenstanton and St Ives. (The 55 passes close but doesn't stop and is to be replaced by a guided busway service when that opens.)
24: Extra journey on this Peterborough area service leaving Lynch Wood at 08.58.
32: Rerouted in Peterborough.
Norfolk Green 34 and 56: Amalgamated to provide a route from Manea and Benwick via March to Wisbech.
37: Last bus in each direction withdrawn. This will extend to this route the unenviable situation where passengers are prevented from using the cheapest rail fares for day trips to London because the service stops before the first post-peak train arrives at the railhead. The train service between Peterborough and Spalding isn't any help either. Could the bus have been saved by making rail tickets valid on it? The fare for a Network Railcard holder is 26-50 by splitting one's ticket at Huntingdon, as opposed to 29-50 spltting at Peterborough and 31-80 for a through ticket allowing travel on Inter-City trains (this now being the cheapest available option).
Norfolk Green 46: New Sunday service between March and Kings Lynn via Wisbech. There are advertised connections with Stagecoach's Ely service (with an additional change required at Chatteris).
Norfolk Green 50 and 55: Amalgamated to provide a single route between Wisbech and Long Sutton, which means that there are now fewer buses between these towns.
Norfolk Green 60: Later return from Three Holes to Wisbech.
Also Whippet has restarted its programme of day trips, which still offer free travel for passholders after 09.30, and for everyone else day return fares if prebooked. The main change is that Haverhill is no longer served.
And the Lincs CC's Call Connect demand responsive service based at Stamford has been extended to cover many villages within Peterborough City Council's area. The existing "Local Link" services covering this area are to be withdrawn in May.
Suffolk: The Saturday service between Haverhill and Sudbury has been cut back so that no journeys run west of Clare.
Norfolk: Norfolk Green have introduced extra Coasthopper journeys from 24 May which serve Sedgeford, Docking, Holt and Kelling Heath Holiday Park reception. The first two villages badly need extra buses -- but so do many other villages in the area which haven't benefited. However even as planned this section of route will improve access to the Peddars Way National Trail. (There are also minor changes to many other Norfolk Green routes.)
Herts: It looks as if the long standing Chiltern Rambler summer Sunday service won't be running this year.
Notts: Neither will the Sherwood Forester network.
Dorset: The Kimmeridge Taxilink service will be reintroduced for this year's summer holidays. There will also be a bus between Durlston Country Park, Swanage, Wareham, Lulworth and Weymouth.
N York Moors: The Moorsbus network is simplified this year, with several sections of route withdrawn, but most of the main links, including the western route between Osmotherley and Helmsley introduced in 2008, remain. The last now runs through to/from Northallerton and makes reasonable connections with the first Grand Central train from London (or, for passengers travelling from Cambs, York). There are two new sections of route -- the M5 now runs to Scarborough instead of West Ayton, and a vintage service starting at Whitby will run to Danby Beacon on Sundays during the summer school holidays. A possible itinerary for Sundays incorporating the best of the area (but check for engineering work and summer timetable changes) would start from Cambridge at 08.10 by X5 to St Neots near the station (ask for Dayrider Plus), 09.12 train to Peterborough, 09.49 train to York (use cheap weekend day ticket from Peterborough), 11.18 Grand Central train to Northallerton (tickets can be bought on this train without penalty), M9 bus to Helmsley at 12.30, M3 to Danby at 14.00, M4/M2 back to Helmsley at 15.30, M15 to York at 17.30, 19.03 train to Peterborough, 20.45 train to St Neots, then 22.03 or (if you're lucky) 21.13 bus back to Cambridge. Or alight from the M3 at Hutton le Hole, then change to the M6 to the Blakey Inn via Rosedale at 15.40, returning by M3 to Helmsley soon afterwards (the Blakey Inn isn't a timing point for the M3).
Yorkshire Dales: Added this year is a Sunday service between Grassington and Pateley Bridge; taken away is most of the Ingleborough Pony service in the Ribblehead area. New is a route on Tuesdays and Saturdays during the summer school holidays between Pateley Bridge (with connections from Harrogate) and the Scar House reservoir, from which a mostly downhill walk runs to Kettlewell in Wharfedale. There are also significant changes to the weekday service on the Ripon Roweller routes, including a change of operator.
Yorkshire Wolds: A new summer Sunday service has been announced starting 22 May between Driffield and Malton. No route details are known at the time of writing.