Cambridgeshire Campaign for Better Transport

Newsletter 106, August 2010


We apologise to those who abhor puns for using no less than three in our headline!

First, the burning bus. Now that the Government has suspended the A14 scheme (see below) buses are very much a "burning issue", even though, as usual, they have received little coverage in the media. Buses now face a combination of threats.

A: There is the issue of Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG). This may be under threat from the Government's spending review.

BSOG used to be known as Fuel Tax Rebate (FTR). There is a clear rationale for exempting buses from much of the fuel tax levied on other vehicles: buses are part of the solution to our transport problems -- but not if higher costs drive passengers away -- whereas most other motor vehicles are part of the problem. Buses have gained little benefit from the massive government spending on motorways and bypasses (note that express coaches are not eligible for BSOG/FTR except on some shorter sections on which they are registered as local buses); and bus users are restricted in the roads they can use so shouldn't have to pay towards the rest. Furthermore there needs to be an incentive for those who run buses (e.g. on school runs) to register as many as possible of their journeys for public use.

In 2000 the Labour Government announced that any further increases in fuel tax would be rebated to bus operators. Unfortunately soon afterwards came the fuel tax protests which led to the freezing of fuel tax (i.e. its reduction in real terms) making this promise nugatory.

Subsequently Fuel Tax Rebate was renamed Bus Service Operators Grant. This was more than just a change of name, as a reduction in a tax rebate is an increase in tax, whereas a reduction in BSOG is a cut in public spending. The present government has announced that it will prioritise spending cuts over tax increases. This is therefore very worrying.

An MP has put down an Early Day Motion asking Parliament to recognise the importance of BSOG. At the time of writing this has been signed by 71 MPs -- 53 Labour, 16 Lib Dem (including Julian Huppert of Cambridge), 1 Green and 1 Conservative (Gordon Henderson of Sittingbourne & Sheppey). Please ask your MP to sign it (or congratulate him/her on having signed it).

More about this can be seen on the Campaign for Better Transport website, which quotes figures showing that every pound spent on BSOG yields 3-5 pounds worth of benefits, and that loss of BSOG would lead to an immediate 10% fare increase and a similar loss of passenger numbers. One might also add that there would be an extra burden on local authorities who are responsible for reimbursing operators in respect of journeys made by concessionary passholders.

B: Then there is the issue of cuts in local authority revenue support. This is already happening -- Warrington, Leicestershire and North Yorkshire have all axed or are about to axe support for Sunday buses. North Yorkshire has two national parks, at least one of which will also be axing its own support. What's the point of having National Parks if they don't regard the provision of sustainable access as a core function?

These cuts will be intensified by the expected squeeze on local government funding. Bear in mind that local authorities have many statutory duties to which they will have to give priority; sadly, providing buses is not one of them. The leader of Lincolnshire council has said that within 5 years the survival of free travel for pensioners may be irrelevant because there won't be any buses, at least in rural areas, for them to use.

We need to get away from the idea that just because some buses can be run commercially supported buses are a luxury. If buses are to provide for people's needs, as well as being efficient, clean and socially inclusive, politicians should reconcile themselves to the fact that they need to be paid for communally.

This is probably the most serious threat, but it can't be fought solely at local level. For more on this issue, as well as the one above, see the Campaign for Better Transport's report "Smarter Cuts".

C: Concessionary passes. It is easier for a local authority to appreciate the value of supporting a bus service if it is well used. There is no doubt that the introduction of free travel for concessionary passholders has led them to use buses more. Need one complete this syllogism?

There has already been significant erosion from the original scheme in terms of both age requirements and qualifying services (see Newsletters 101 and 104). Those who already have passes, those who are hoping to get them soon, and those who have some time to go should all be fighting any further erosion. Particularly damaging would be a means test -- if one adopts the principle that "if you can afford a car you don't need a bus pass" then people will inevitably switch from buses to cars.

At the same time we need a fairer reimbursement system. The present one has all sorts of anomalies -- for example one can excuse a local authority for its reluctance to support services used mainly by visitors if it also has to pay their fares.

We conclude this section by saying that irrespective of the details of these threats the principle should be clear -- bus passengers have far fewer choices than motorists and should not be targeted for further cuts. We used a biblical pun to head this section, so let's use a biblical parable to end it -- II Samuel 12 verses 1-4.

Next, car wars. In his first speech the Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, announced that he was ending "Labour's war on the motorist". What war? Official figures are that between 1997 and 2009 the cost of motoring fell by 14% while rail and bus fares increased by 24% and 13% respectively.

There are, perhaps, two ways in which Labour might be said to have declared war. One is the London congestion charge -- though this covers only a tiny part of London, and will be reduced furher when the Conservative mayor of London has his way. (That is if he can bridge the resulting revenue shortfall -- let's hope he doesn't do this by reducing services or increasing fares for bus and tube users, i.e. "declaring war on the non-motorist".)

The other is the rollout of speed cameras. Mr Hammond has announced that the Government will no longer fund speed cameras for local authorities -- even though many of them produce more revenue (which accrues solely to the Government) than they cost. Evidently the Government's desire to trim the budget deficit comes second to its desire to support the freedom of motorists to drive as fast as they like. Unlike the metaphorical "war" referred to by the Government, this "war" results in real deaths and injuries. Effectively, the Government is "surrendering" to those motorists (by no means all of them) who have "declared war on society". But whereas in real wars surrenders are normally followed by ceasefires, this surrender will almost certainly result in an increase in casualties, which last year fell to their lowest level within living memory.

Of course, wielding the axe on rural buses should also count as "declaring war on the non-motorist" -- it's a far greater threat to their liberties than anything Labour ever inflicted in motorists!

Many people rant at the activities of the "health & safety police" in curtailing people's freedom of action. The writer of this Newsletter does so himself -- partly because draconian rules to guard against far fetched dangers contrast with the lack of concern with the real dangers we face on the roads, which as far as many pedestrians and cyclists are concerned have been imposed on them without their consent. Yet for some reason legislation for road safety has a unique ability to arouse venom, with motorists vehemently asserting their supposed freedom to drive as they see fit. Would it be accurate to say that "a car is a device for turning (some) human beings into fiends" -- albeit temporarily?

Now, the Effluent Society. This, of course, is a pun on the title of the best known book, "The Affluent Society", of the late economist J. K. Galbraith. This book, written in 1958, introduced to our language the phrase "Private Affluence and Public Squalor" (which we used as the headline for Newsletter 102).

In a literal sense, most of our public transport is far from squalid, nor is it likely to become so (though there are exceptions). If this were the problem, the situation would be better than it actually is. Most people would prefer the option of using public transport, even if it is squalid, to no transport at all. Yet that is what is likely to be foisted on us -- see "The Burning Bus" above.

We have changed the first letter of the word "affluent" to highlight the concept that many forms of private affluence have negative spillover effects on the wider society. Motoring and aviation are excellent examples of this. Cars make the roads unpleasant, and often unsafe and/or unhealthy, for cyclists and pedestrians. They create traffic jams which slow down our buses slow and make them unreliable, especially at peak times. The wall to wall parking on our residential streets makes it difficult for essential visitors (e.g. those whom we need to do work on our houses) to gain access. And of course there's always climate change. Climate change is the principal side effect of aviation apart from noise (which may not seem much of a problem in Cambridgeshire, but it certainly is in many parts of London).

In Newsletter 101 we gave reasons for our belief that public services, including public transport, should be protected at the expense of private consumption. Using taxes on motoring and aviation, and to some extent other indulgences, to help bridge the budget deficit would be a win on all sides -- protected public services, less pollution, and a stronger economy (as public services are generally better at keeping money within the local economy than consumer goods).

The Coordinator remembers several years ago attending a talk in Cambridge addressed by Galbraith and organised by the local Lib Dems (or one of their predecessor parties), who claimed to share his values. Why are they now repudiating them by supporting an economic programme based on "private affluence and public squalor"?

What can you do? Apart from writing to your MP as suggested above, bring transport issues, especially buses, to the attention of your local councillors and to the committees of any local environmental organisations, residents' associations, political party branches etc. to which you belong.

What can the Government do? Here are some ideas which would not involve large scale public spending.

It can start by changing the incentives.

Introducing smartcard readers on buses would enable the cost of concessionary fares to be attributed to the local authority where the user lives, thus eliminating the disincentive to local authorities to provide for visitors. A smartcard system would also reduce boarding delays, and it has been suggested that for that reason major operators were all geared up to start introducing them but have held off because they were hoping to be paid to do so. This is of course increasingly unlikely, but operators are also increasingly unlikely to fork out for themselves when the very future of buses is so uncertain. This impasse must be sorted out quickly. Perhaps local authorities could share payment for smartcard readers with operators on the basis that they would no longer be responsible for reimbursement for those journeys made by passengers living in other local authority areas.

There is plenty of scope for improving services, particularly in remoter areas, by opening up non-passenger workings, such as school buses and positioning journeys (including those associated with school buses). The Bus Services Operator Grant should be highlighted as an incentive for operators to do so.

Local carbon budgets have been suggested by Friends of the Earth. These would reward or penalise local authorities according to the greenhouse gas emissions emanating from their area, and in particular give them an incentive to reduce traffic. This however might not be enough by itself to get them to support rural buses -- after all a bus carrying 5 people and 40 cars carrying 60 people generate more emissions than just the cars. It would be a different story, however, if some of the motorists started to use the buses.

Parking levies should be studied. There are at least three main types -- for workplace parking, residents' parking and customer parking.

Workplace parking levies were an option given to local authorities by the last government. A scheme is planned for Nottingham. Their main benefit is to reduce peak time congestion.

Residents' parking is charged for by many local authorities. For example in many parts of Cambridge local residents are charged for street parking permits (note that recently responsibility for this was shifted from Cambridge City Council to Cambs County Council). However the rate is very low: for example a resident's permit costs 41 or 50 pounds per year (depending on the area of Cambridge one lives in), whereas a visitor's permit costs 260 pounds per year (based on a 5 day week). Higher rates for residents' parking would encourage people to switch to car clubs such as Streetcar, which operates in Cambridge, releasing massive amounts of urban space to the community. It is galling that much of the countryside sacrificed for development in recent decades has been lost not to housing but to car parking (while we still have a housing problem).

Customer parking levies, if imposed on supermarkets, would help to revitalise our traditional town centres and local shops, and, as with a workplace parking levy, they would give businesses an incentive to locate where they could easily be reached without a car.

Also worth considering is a "good neighbour" airport levy. Based on the noise, climate change and traffic impacts of the relevant airport, it could help to finance reasonably priced integrated transport in the areas around major airports. Together with the revenue from the existing Dartford Crossing toll one could imagine this revitalising public transport in the whole of the Home Counties. As for London itself, its public transport is much less in danger, but by reducing the need for Government support for schemes such as Crossrail an airport levy could release money for use in areas where the lack of public transport is a problem.

Finally, the Local Transport Plan scheme can be reformed so that funding for local transport is made conditional on the relevant local authority supporting adequate bus services. If such a test had been applied to the Cambs Guided Bus, the whole county could have benefited, instead of vast amounts being spent on a single corridor while the rest of the county languishes. However one must add the qualification that this move would bring little benefit when there is likely to be very little funding available for local transport schemes anyway.

Branch News

With this issue we enclose renewal slips for those members who need to renew. Please renew as soon as possible, especially as it was agreed at our AGM that our financial year will end in mid September.

On these renewal slips we have put the appropriate code letters. Other recipients will get their code letters on the envelopes or with the emailed newsletter. We repeat the complete set of code letters:

A = affiliate or household member, B = ordinary member, C = concessionary (senior, disabled, student, unemployed, CBT national supporter), D = mutual affiliate (no payment required, this category also includes CBT national or local contacts), E = helper (provider of information), F = other contact. Then Q = 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, Z = no service.

Note that "reports etc." includes renewal slips, so members of class W who need to renew will receive this newsletter in both printed and emailed form. If you feel that your code letters are inappropriate or wish to change them then please let the Coordinator know -- sending a subscription if necessary (see Newsletter 104 for guidelines).

Future events: it is expected that our AGM will be on Sat 11 Dec. Confirmation and full details will come with our autumn newsletter. One item on the agenda will be the agreement of our constitution -- the proposed text will be circulated with the autumn newsletter, probably with a question on which members can vote, namely whether the date of our financial year should be specified in the constitution. As stated above, it was agreed at our last AGM that our financial year should end in mid September, but it will be easier to change this in future if the date is not enshrined in our constitution. Is this what we want?

General transport news

It is convenient to assemble all our news items that are mainly about issues other than rail and bus.

A14 and other roads: The coalition government's spending cuts have had a positive side: work on the A14 and many other road schemes has been suspended pending the Government's spending review. Let's hope we can ditch the A14 scheme altogether -- at least until it has mutated into a more sustainable form. Before one gets out the champagne, one should remember that New Labour when they got into government introduced a moratorium on new road schemes, but later they produced a "targeted programme of improvements" which covered almost every motorway and trunk road in the country.

Aviation, volcanoes and ferries: Readers will remember that in April a volcano in Iceland spewed dust into the atmosphere over much of Europe, much of whose airspace was closed because of safety fears. This led to many people investigating surface travel options.

Well what happens once can happen again. So shouldn't we be trying to restore a transport system which makes it easy for people to transfer from train to boat and vice versa?

In recent years, the opposite has been happening. Ferries have moved from rail served Dover Western Docks to non rail served Dover Eastern Docks. The rail links to ferry terminals at Folkestone and Weymouth -- and Calais and Boulogne -- have closed. Ostend, well served by rail, no longer has ferries.

It's still going on. It is expected that soon ships will leave the rail linked terminal at Stranraer for non rail linked Cairnryan. Across the Irish Sea, the line between the ferry terminal at Rosslare and Waterford was planned for closure. It was given a stay of execution at the last moment but it is still under threat.

Another outrage is the discriminatory attitude adopted by many ferry operators serving the UK towards foot passengers. Note that according to Thomas Cook's European timetable every discriminatory ferry route serves at least one UK port. Some of the offending routes don't accept foot passengers at all, others only do so on certain sailings. What have UK citizens done to deserve this treatment? Surely if cars can drive onto and off a ferry foot passengers can walk onto and off it? On many ferries that do have a gangway for foot passengers they can end up using the car deck when the gangway fails. This discrimination also affects Eurotunnel. The effects of this discrimination were exposed when it was reported that passengers trying to return home from France were forced to buy bicycles they didn't want because the ferries had spaces available for cyclists but not for foot passengers. Were the French owned ferries trying to benefit French cycle shops at the expense of English passengers? If so it's surely the type of national preference which it's the EU's function to eliminate -- so why aren't they doing so?

Post Office: Recently Royal Mail announced that they are phasing out the use of bicycles by postmen (and women). Yet another manifestation of how the "commercial freedom" that was supposed to revivify the Post Office has been at the expense of public welfare, this time in terms of sustainable transport.

Here is a suggested modus operandi for handling letters.

1. Early in the morning letters are distributed by van from sorting offices to local post offices. In the more rural areas, instead of vans passenger carrying postbuses are used. Their prime function will be to pick up passengers in the villages and take them to the town where the sorting office is, but they will also be able to take passengers out to and between the villages.

2. Later, letters are picked up from local post offices and taken by bike to people's homes and offices -- except for isolated premises which would be served directly by the postal van or postbus.

3. People who want access to their letters before leaving their homes for work can pick them up at their local post office.

4. Undeliverable letters, including those which need a signature which there's nobody around to give, are returned not to the sorting office but to the local post office.

5. In the afternoon letters are collected from mailboxes and post offices by van or postbus. The postbuses will offer return transport for most of the passengers who travel on the morning run, but they can also of course carry passengers on single journeys (e.g. walkers) or people travelling the other way on buses run primarily for market day shoppers, schoolchildren or workers, on associated positioning journeys, or on demand responsive buses.

As well as improving rural transport and making local post offices more viable, this would avoid people having to waste hours awaiting the mail delivery when they are expecting an urgent letter -- or they might drive to work so they can drive home and back in their lunch hour, generating up to 4 extra car trips. Isn't this a win-win situation?

Not related to transport, but we would like to draw attention to the inconvenience that can be suffered by recipients of recorded delivery or registered post letters -- if it is felt that these services are required then the consignee should be consulted first.

The pre-inquiry meeting for the A14 was on a Monday. On the preceding Saturday, the Coordinator had had delivered a card announcing that a registered letter, which turned out to be from the Highways Agency, had been returned to the sorting office because nobody was available to sign it. (Incidentally, on a previous occasion, the Coordinator had received such a card -- not from the Highways Agency -- even though he was in the house at the time.) As a result, we didn't receive the Highways Agency's rebuttal of our objections to the A14 scheme in time to discuss it with other participants at the pre-inquiry meeting.

The suspension of the inquiry reduced the significance of this, but the Coordinator still had to waste about an hour and a half on the round trip to Cambridge sorting office -- which many years ago moved to a part of town not visited for other purposes -- to pick up and sign for the letter.

Olympics: The Olympic Delivery Authority has announced that special lanes on many roads in London will be reserved for Olympic traffic -- including cars carrying representatives of sponsors -- at the expense of London's general traffic. The list of roads affected includes the Embankment, which may have a devastating effect on the timekeeping of National Express coaches between London and Cambridge (and other places in East Anglia). On other roads we suspect that the Olympic lanes will take over bus lanes, leaving local buses to get held up behind queues of cars.

Bicycle Hire: Following many other cities round the world London has introduced a public bicycle scheme. At the time of writing this is not yet in full operation and can only be used by those who have registered in advance. If any readers try the scheme we would like to have a report. Is there scope for a similar (but of course smaller) scheme in Cambridge -- or in rural areas?

Rail News We start with the National Rail Timetable. The summer issue is probably the worst ever, due to teething problems with the timetable compilation system. Many trains are omitted, including the London-Cambridge fast service. No connections are shown. The book has been increased in size (and weight!) by about 50% because the system does not provide for abbreviation of services that run at regular intervals. Mileages are not shown -- and this can be important in view of the principle that the shortest route for a journey is always a permitted route. The national timetable database shows a more correct version, but there is no way of discovering exactly what changes need to be made to the printed timetable.

Note that these problems apply equally to the TSO and Middleton versions, which are compiled from the same database. (We regard the Middleton version as much better because it is considerably lighter and can therefore be carried on journeys -- or at least previous versions could.)

We hope that the problems will be rectified in time for the winter issue.

The first stage of the East London Line extension, mentioned in Newsletter 104, opened fully in May. Trains now run every 5 minutes daily on the core section between Dalston Junction and Surrey Quays, with trains continuing every 15 minutes to each of New Cross, West Croydon and Crystal Palace. Further extensions to Highbury and Clapham Junction are expected in the next couple of years. Unfortunately any journey to, from or through Shoreditch station requires a ticket valid in Zone 1, which negates the purpose of an orbital route in allowing passengers to avoid the central zone. It also breaks an undertaking made by Transport for London which led to the withdrawal of an objection to the closure of the route for conversion, so is probably illegal.

Those entering London via Liverpool St may find it easier to walk to Shoreditch to pick up an East London Line train, rather than catch a Hammersmith & City line train to Whitechapel. Unfortunately this option may not be available to passengers with "via London" through rail tickets. Highbury will be useful to passengers entering London via Finsbury Park (on trains that stop there).

The DLR Stratford International extension is now expected to open this autumn. Until then access to high speed trains at Stratford is only by the special bus that runs from the end of Platform 11 (within Stratford station, officially called Stratford Regional). From this bus one can get a good view of the Olympic works. The DLR extension will also take over the former North London Line section to Canning Town, serving several new stations in addition to the main interchanges at Stratford International and Regional, West Ham and Canning Town.

National Express East Anglia has made several easements in the validity of off peak and Anglia Plus tickets -- in particular tickets are now valid on the trains leaving Cambridge at 08.43 and Ely at 08.30 for Ipswich. See the full list of easements, clicking on "Anglia Plus 1 Day Pass" then "Read more..." then "Validity". The same conditions apply to other Anglia Plus tickets and to off peak fares.

The operator also has a discount for visitors to the Paradise Wildlife Park near Broxbourne at least till the end of this year. To take advantage of this one must buy an admission ticket with one's ticket to Broxbourne. On reaching Broxbourne go to the ticket office who will arrange for the park to provide transport.

Milton Road: Finally, CAST.IRON, the organisation that campaigned for the link between Cambridge and St Ives to be by rail rather than guided bus, has now come up with a suggestion for an interchange station at Milton Road. This would be much easier and cheaper to deliver than the proposed station at Chesterton Sidings, and it would offer much better opportunities for interchange with the guided bus and with Citi and rural bus routes.

Our local authorities appear to have rejected options for major upgrades to our local rail network (except for the station at Chesterton Sidings), but surely they are the best way to create the nucleus of a public transport network that can provide a satisfactory alternative to driving by avoiding the centres of congestion?

Bus changes

We now follow with our usual enumeration of important recent and forthcoming bus changes around the country. As usual we start with Cambs, where in fact not much has happened since our Newsletter 105, and fan outwards.

Cambs: Cambridge's Citi 5 and 6 routes to Bar Hill and Oakington, which on Sundays were combined in the last lot of changes, have now been separated again. Prolonged roadworks on Hills Road have led to the diversion of the Uni 4 to/from Madingley Road -- this time journeys towards Addenbrookes are going via Long Road but journeys in the other direction are going via Lensfield Road, leaving Brooklands Avenue with no buses at all. On the positive side rail users bound for Madingley Road have a shorter walk to pick up this service, which they can now do at the Centennial Hotel stop on Hills Road. The best place to alight when trying to reach the station is the Bateman Street stop on Trumpington Road.

Changes in Peterborough include a new route for its own Citi 5 in Dogsthorpe. The Lincs CC Stamford Call Connect network that was previously extended to cover many villages within the Peterborough City Council area (and in Northants) -- see Newsletter 105 -- now extends to Rutland as well. A pity it doesn't also cover Corby, connecting with its train service to/from London.

Elsewhere in the county changes there are some minor changes. Norfolk Green 50 between Wisbech and Long Sutton has lost a journey. Stagecoach 9 to/from Ely now uses a new route through Littleport. There have been many changes to peak time journeys on routes X7 and X9 (Cambridge-March).

Suffolk: Several cuts will take place at the end of August. Route 225 between Haverhill and Newmarket is withdrawn; so is the 730/1 between Bildeston and Manningtree, though part is covered by other services; the 461/4 between Stowmarket and Bildeston is severely cut; there is some improvement to the 462 between Stowmarket and Hadleigh but not enough to compensate. The 333 between Brandon and Bury is renumbered 193 and will no longer serve West Stow except for a school journey (nor is this village served by other routes). The 755 between Colchester and Hadleigh is rerouted and will no longer serve Polstead. Some detours are eliminated from the Haverhill-Bury service, at the expense of some villages. Finally, a market day service -- the 376 -- is restored between Hadleigh and Bury.

Some new demand responsive facilities will replace some of the losses -- in particular there will be one serving the Newmarket/Haverhill/Bury triangle. These facilities will be "open", i.e. with no published timetable, making it difficult to assess now easy it is for the public to plan journeys that involve them.

There are also some new or reintroduced seasonal services. Ipswich Buses will be providing open top tours till 30 Aug: Ipswich on Tuesdays and Fridays (route 30, which includes a trip over the Orwell Bridge), Woodbridge on Thursdays and Saturdays (route 8C, which serves Sutton Hoo), and Felixstowe on Wednesdays and Sundays, also August Bank Holiday (route 248, which links the ferries at Landguard Fort and Felixstowe Ferry). Sutton Hoo and Felixstowe Ferry have alternative services but not the other places mentioned. And on Saturdays to Wednesdays till 26 Sept the Dedham Vale Hopper, operated by a local community bus, will provide an hourly service from Manningtree to Flatford Mill and other attractions in the Stour Valley. This route has funding for 3 years. Note that the cheapest way from Cambridge to Manningtree for Network Railcard holders is by use of the Stansted to Colchester bus link on which through tickets are available.

Norfolk: Next month Norfolk Green is to cede the Fakenham to Holt service (part of its X6) to Sanders (as route 9). This will result in a deterioration of service on the direct route between Kings Lynn and Cromer, though connections will be provided and the Coasthopper via Hunstanton and Wells will not be affected. Buses will now run through from Kings Lynn to Norwich via Fakenham.

In May Sanders 46 (Holt-Blakeney-Fakenham) was cut so that it only runs into Fakenham on market days. The Snorings lost their service altogether (though Little Snoring is still served on the main road).

Soon afterwards Konectbus, which incidentally is now owned by the Go Ahead group, introduced an improved service between Watton and Norwich, with alternate buses going via Wicklewood and Wymondham, a link that had been lost some time before.

Herts: Notwithstanding what we said in our Newsletter 105, the Chiltern Rambler 327 is running this year, but on a completely revised timetable, and operated by a local community bus. As before it will start at Hemel Hempstead but it will run to Luton then do a couple of round trips to Tring before returning to Hemel Hempstead. Most of the places of interest in the Chilterns, including Whipsnade Zoo and Dunstable Downs, will continue to be served. Sundays till the end of September.

Bucks: Chiltern Railways has introduced a taxibus between Aylesbury Vale Parkway and Waddesdon Manor, on Wednesdays to Sundays till the end of August. However the easiest way from Cambridge to Aylesbury Vale Parkway on weekdays involves taking the X5 to Bicester and then using the (albeit not very frequent) 16 which goes past Waddesdon village anyway!

Oxon: Major improvements to the Swindon to Oxford bus service, which now runs half hourly on weekdays and hourly on Sundays. X5 Dayrider Gold tickets, formerly (and still informally) known as X5 Explorers, are valid on this service permitting cheap travel from Cambridge, though not X5 Megarider Gold (weekly) tickets.

Leics: Many cuts are planned for this county -- which won't surprise those who have read our headline article. However all we have to date is a further reduction in the frequency of the 7 that links Nuneaton with Ashby de la Zouch via Twycross Zoo -- down to 4 journeys per day. Journey time will be longer because more villages are to be served.

Also the link bus between East Midlands Parkway station and East Midlands Airport has been withdrawn. Passengers are offered the option of getting taxis at a reduced rate if they prebook but it's probably better to get a bus from a more distant station -- buses run from Nottingham, Leicester, Loughborough and Derby, though only in Nottingham and Derby does the bus serve the station, and in the case of Nottingham the service is more expensive than an alternative route that doesn't serve the station. Nottingham and Leicester are likely to be the best railheads for passengers from East Anglia.

Now East Midlands Parkway has no buses at all apart from Stagecoach's Megabus Plus routes to some northern towns and cities. The opportunity has been missed to use it as a railhead for nearby communities by extending existing bus routes that currently terminate at East Midlands Airport. It would also be useful if the route between Ashby and East Midlands Airport via Melbourne, which was cut within months of its introduction and before it had a chance to carry summer visitors to Calke Abbey, was reintroduced and extended not only to the station but also to Tamworth via Twycross Zoo (replacing inter alia the northern part of route 7, see above).

Warwickshire: Improvements to the Stagecoach in Warwickshire network are imminent with services from Leamington via Southam to Daventry and Banbury starting in September. We believe that each of these will be 2 hourly. This will, we hope, improve access to places of interest such as the National Trust's Farnborough Hall, which the Banbury route is likely to pass close to. Banbury can be reached easily by taking an X5 to Bicester then a train, and both X5 Dayrider and Megarider Gold tickets (see above) are valid on Stagecoach in Warwickshire services.

Also Stagecoach's Rugby to Daventry service will be rerouted to incorporate another existing route to Kilsby (and reduce duplication with another operator); timetable changes for the Northampton-Rugby service are expected; and there will be a new hourly service from Long Itchington to Leamington not via Southam.

Hants: There is now an hourly service 6 days a week, Fleet Buzz 82, between Reading and Farnborough via Eversley, a village which at one time had only 1 bus a week (the 145 to Wokingham and Winnersh, also operated by Fleet Buzz, which still runs every Tuesday).

West Midlands: Bus 82 between Coventry and Solihull has changed operator from National Express to Central Connect, and, more important, no longer serves Balsall Common. This large village has a substitute service to Coventry (81) and an alternative route to Solihull (S2) but the section between Berkswell station and Meriden is no longer served.

Worcs: Bridgnorth-Kidderminster route Whittle 125 has been extended to Stourbridge on Mondays to Fridays giving a service on the direct road between this town and Kidderminster. This road is also served at weekends (but not bank holidays) by Hansons 252 which continues to Merry Hill shopping centre.

Sunday only route First 44B has extended to Ledbury replacing part of the Malvern Hills Hopper route, which no longer runs.

Yorkshire: To correct Newsletter 105, buses on Hutchinsons 133 will run from Driffield to Malton on Saturdays but only to Wharram Percy on Sundays, in both cases till the end of September.

A new "Red Squirrel" bus will run on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Hawes to Snaizeholme. Snaizeholme is the home of a nature reserve which houses red squirrels, and a walks leaflet is available from the driver. This journey can actually be done in a day from the Cambridge area on Saturdays -- connect with the 12.17 train arrival at Garsdale and the 17.27 return. For those doing a day trip, the cheapest way is to buy separate tickets from your home station to Peterborough, from Peterborough to Leeds and from Leeds to Garsdale. Prebooking essential on 01969 666210.

Don't forget the Scar House Reservoir and Danby Beacon services mentioned in Newsletter 105, which only run till the end of August.

Dorset: There is an alternative red squirrel haven at Brownsea Island, which can be reached by ferry from Poole. After your visit try the Purbeck circular tour -- route 44 to Swanage then 50 (likely to be open top) to Bournemouth via the Sandbanks Ferry.

To amplify what was said in the Newsletter 105, during the summer Discover Dorset D1 will run a half hourly with gaps service between Swanage and Durlston Country Park daily till 26 Sept, X43 joint between First and Wilts & Dorset will link Swanage and Weymouth via Lulworth Cove 4 times daily till 5 Sept, and Kimmeridge will be served by a twice daily shared taxi from Corfe Castle daily till 26 Sept (it is otherwise only served by Thursday route 275 between Swanage and Wareham). The taxi must be prebooked on 01929 480507. There will also be a 2-3 times daily shared taxi between Wareham and Bere Regis, bookable on 0845 2410117. Further details of all these services are on the Dorset CC website.

A local operator, Shaftesbury & District, operates a variety of weekly day out services from Shaftesbury and Gillingham, many of which use highly scenic routes. Destinations, with route numbers in brackets, include Poole (37), Salisbury (39 and 400), Dorchester (40), Bournemouth (38) and Bath (80); during the summer school holidays Weymouth (45) and Swanage (35) are also served (on Mondays and Thursdays respectively). For full timetables see the operator'swebsite -- and it may be worth checking the departure point with the operator on 01747 854359 if you are just doing the return journey.

Cardiff: Two competing operators now run waterbus services in Cardiff Bay, serving Penarth marina. An experimental town circular bus P1 links Penarth marina with other parts of the town and also Cosmeston Country Park.

Brecon Beacons: The usual Beacons Bus Sunday network is operating with a longer season, till 3 Oct.

Pembrokeshire: The Havenlink boat service has been cut back and no longer serves the upper part of the Daugleddau estuary, but it still links Milford Haven, Dale and Angle on Aug 20-22 and Sept 3-5 (and runs upstream from Milford Haven on some other dates). The Preseli Community Bus now provides two linking services between Fishguard and Crymych, the latter having buses to/from Cardigan and Narberth for onward connections. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays till the end of September. Meanwhile, don't forget the excellent, and mostly year round, network of coastal buses.

Argyll and Lomond: Timetables of exceptional quality are produced by Argyll & Bute Council, and are downloadable, though without a colour printer one can't get the best out of them. Note in particular the ferry between Tayvallich and Jura -- this is an experimental route that may not continue after this season.

New this year are boat trips linking the communities around Loch Lomond.

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