Cambridgeshire Campaign for Better Transport

Newsletter 109, August 2011


Remember the old sixpence? After our currency was decimalised just over 40 years ago it became 2.5p. It wouldn't buy all that much even then; a short hop bus ride perhaps. Oh, and admission for 2 people to Kew Gardens, one of the few things whose price went down after decimalisation (to 1p per person).

Admission to Kew now costs 13-90 per person. Though the increase is way above the rate of inflation -- even bus and train fares haven't gone up that much -- it shows how little a sixpence would be worth now. Just about the only thing it will now buy is a telephone call to a far-flung country -- according to all those advertisements one sees for cheap calls.

There is, however, one priceless thing that sixpence will buy: your freedom. Modern civilisation is configured in such a way as virtually to exclude people without access to transport of some kind. During the cold war Western leaders made much of how Soviet citizens were circumscribed in their ability to move around the world and even their own country, in contradiction of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet now Cambridgeshire County Council is planning to remove all support for the ability of its own citizens (and anyone else for that matter) to move around Cambridgeshire. If the distance is too far to walk or cycle, and if the service you need isn't provided commercially, and if you don't have access to a motor vehicle (note that Article 2 of the UDHR prohibits discrimination on the grounds of "property"), you don't go. Curtains.

Now this country is in the midst of a budget crisis, and most people (including the authors of the European Convention on Human Rights, which expands on the UDHR) would recognise that extraordinary situations can demand extraordinary remedies. So are the cuts making a significant difference?

Well the cuts were budgeted to take place over 4 years. When divided by the population of the county, the savings for this year would amount to less than 2.5p per person per week. In other words, we, the people of Cambridgeshire, are being asked to put up with a drastic curtailment of our freedom for less than six (old) pence. For peanuts -- and not very many of them, judging by the cost of a packet of them in the shops.

Defending Government policy, the (Lib Dem) minister for buses, Norman Baker, said in a letter to the Coordinator that Cambridgeshire was a special case, and most local authorities were not planning to make wholesale cuts to buses. Well Cambridgeshire may be special in having announced plans to axe all subsidies, many other local authorities have made cuts on a similar scale to those made by Cambridgeshire this April. Our opinion, for example, is that Suffolk has suffered worse cuts so far. For some others such cuts may happen later when relevant consultation procedures have been completed.

The Campaign for Better Transport wanted to launch a judicial review of Cambridgeshire as a test case, showing that the procedures laid down for implementing such cuts had not been complied with: consultation had been inadequate and/or a sham, and due regard had not been taken of the interests of vulnerable groups as required by the Equalities Act. As a result of this initiative a bus user was found who had suffered from the cuts and was eligible for legal aid (which meant that the action could be launched without the risk of financial disaster). It seems that this has been instrumental in inducing the Council to suspend further cuts, and announce a proper consultation to take place this autumn. Furthermore the cuts already implemented will be included in this consultation.

This seems an appropriate place to mention a "bus summit" organised by the Council and held in March town hall in February. During this meeting the Council cabinet member announced their plan of pooling all transport budgets (for education, social services, community transport etc.) to make savings. This seems quite laudable in itself, and we would strongly welcome it if it, for example, led to greater public access to school buses. But when the Coordinator asked whether they had a "Plan B" in case this didn't come up with a satisfactory framework for satisfying the county's needs the answer was "no". Well it seems they'll have to come up with one now. Also announced at that meeting was that though Stagecoach's two routes to March, from Cambridge and Peterborough, were running commercially, they might no longer be able to do so if the council cut its concessionary fare reimbursement. Well the April cuts included the halving of the Cambridge service and the complete withdrawal of off-peak services to/from Peterborough.

But, going back to the effects of the legal action, that won't really deal with the heart of the matter, which is that our national and local government structures do not give adequate value to the mobility of non-motorists. New Labour brought extra money into the bus industry through measures such as Rural Transport Grant (see Newsletter 62, May 1998) but did not change the culture of running bus services on a shoestring. Now we are paying the price.

The Coordinator has been devising and promoting proposals on a national scale which would mean more rights for non-motorists, eventually leading to a Swiss style integrated transport system (see our last Newsletter) in which rural transport deprivation will be just a memory. This would probably cost more than sixpence to introduce -- some back of the envelope calculations suggest that a really well used bus network for Cambridgeshire might cost the average Cambridgeshire resident 78p per week -- but we believe that this would still be outstanding value for money.

And, given that the argument most often wheeled out whenever the cost of motoring is discussed is the lack of alternatives, it would actually help our budget problems if this argument could be killed once and for all by developing a comprehensive public transport network. Especially in the longer term, given that the price of fuel can only go up as demand increases and supply dwindles ("peak oil"), and this is before one considers the need to limit world consumption to avoid damaging climate change.

Branch news

We apologise for the long delay since our last newsletter, which was primarily due to the non-appearance prior to the April cuts of the listing of service changes we had hitherto been receiving from the Council. As we write there is quite a lot of "current" news, and we hope that members will receive this in time to try out some of our suggestions for trips.

It should be pointed out that we have been far from inactive at local level; for example various committee members have been present at council events where the topic of bus support has been under discussion. We had also hoped to ask members to help us run a stall for a planned eco-event at the Grafton Centre in Cambridge, and had just about finalised our plans when we were told that the event was cancelled (and when it did take place later transport was not featured).

Subscriptions for 2011-2 are now overdue and we have sent out renewal slips to all members who haven't yet paid up. Those non-members who receive this newsletter are encouraged to join -- remember that only members (including reciprocal members, and also other local and national CBT people) normally receive our reports. Membership rates are shown above.

Those members with email access (including the categories referred to above) can choose between several methods of receiving our newsletters: printed, plaintext and PDF. You can even choose more than one of these. However, whichever you choose, you will also receive printed newsletters when, as with this one, there are reports, notices and/or renewal slips to go with them. Non-members (except those we regard as "helpers" who provide information for us on a regular basis) will normally only get newsletters electronically, but can choose between plaintext and PDF. If you are satisfied with your present mode of receiving our newsletters, do nothing (other than renew your membership). Otherwise drop an email to the Coordinator.

Cambridgeshire Guided Bus

The other big news item this time, which also held up this newsletter, is the opening, over 2 years late, of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway.

There is no doubt that the busway will bring significant benefits to some people, including bus users living near the intermediate stations who will regain evening and Sunday services, and walkers and cyclists who are able to use the maintenance track alongside the route. It also seems likely that the busway will bring more people onto public transport, including motorists who use the new Park & Ride facilities at St Ives and Longstanton.

But if asked whether we thought the busway would make a significant difference to the transport problems of the Cambridge area, or whether it represented a wise spending of money, we would have to answer "no" in both cases. The cost per Cambridgeshire resident (including the Government grant which falls on the taxpayer at large) is over 300 pounds, no mere sixpence! It is possible that a significant fraction of this might be recovered through the legal action which the Council is pursuing against the contractors, but even if so one could spend a lot of time regretting what the money could have bought if spent on the rest of the county's public transport network.

What has changed for public transport users?

1. Stagecoach 55 (Cambridge-Huntingdon) and B (Cambridge-Orchard Park) are subsumed into a single route, B, which makes 3 central area stops then serves the Shirehall, runs nonstop to 2 Orchard Park stops, then the old stations at Histon, Oakington, Longstanton and Swavesey, then a stop within the RSPB reserve at Fen Drayton, then St Ives Park & Ride, then all former 55 stops between St Ives and Huntingdon. The level of service is very similar to that on the former 55 (daytime 20 minutes, evening hourly). An hourly Sunday service is also provided but during shopping hours only.

2. Stagecoach A (Trumpington-Addenbrookes) is diverted via the busway, and the only intermediate stop is now at Trumpington Foster Road. It then extends to St Ives Park & Ride (not the bus station), calling at a stop near Cambridge rail station, 2 central area stops, the Science Park, Cambridge Regional College, then all stops on route B between Histon and St Ives P&R. No evening or Sunday service. Some peak services extend to St Ives bus station then via Earith to Somersham. Between Histon and St Ives P&R a joint 10 minute frequency is offered with B.

3. Whippet have introduced a new hourly service, C, from Cambridge rail station to St Ives Hill Rise which will be similar to route A over the common section, except for an extra stop at Milton Road/Union Lane. Some peak-time journeys plus a lunchtime journey from Cambridge will extend to Somersham (but direct, not via Earith). The first 2 journeys in each direction will run via Orchard Park instead of the Science Park, with route designation D; stops within central and north Cambridge will be as B plus Histon Road/Akeman Street. There will also be 4 Sunday journeys in each direction on route C between Cambridge rail station and St Ives bus station.

4. There have been timing changes to route 21 between St Ives, Somersham and Chatteris; Stagecoach have introduced a new half hourly service, route 20, between Fenstanton and St Ives P&R; and Whippet will be withdrawing Sunday evening buses on route 1A between Cambridge and Huntingdon at the end of the month.

5. It may also be that the cuts to Cambridge Citi routes 2 and 7 in April -- see below -- were linked to the opening of the busway; at any rate (rather different) cuts to these services had been planned when the opening of the busway was previously announced (see Newsletter 103, Oct 2009), and rescinded when the opening was postponed.

The following should also be noted:

(a) The stop in Castle St for route B to Huntingdon is some way away from the stop for Whippet 1A/5, so one can't just get the first bus that comes. (b) Conventional buses have been kicked away from several stops -- including New Square, formerly a valuable interchange -- for exclusive use by guided buses. There is also a significant loss of service for Huntingdon Road and some stops on the A14.

(c) Eastbound buses have to go round part of St Ives twice to access the bus station. Wouldn't a stop outside the bus station be better?

(d) The "Cambridge station" stop is actually some distance from the station. It is however linked by a new road to the Hills Road/Brooklands Avenue traffic lights. We believe that this road will in due course carry conventional buses serving an interchange closer to the station which is still under construction.

(e) The Trumpington Foster Road stop is adjacent to the Trumpington Community Orchard. As well as the maintenance track to Addenbrookes, the public footpath that crosses the railway on the level is still open.

(f) The eastern end of the Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB reserve is actually closer to Swavesey. Similarly the western end is not far from St Ives Park & Ride. The RSPB leaflet says that the nearest toilets to the reserve are at the A14 services, but non-motorists will surely find St Ives P&R more convenient!

(g) The development of traffic-free access to the busway from surrounding villages would provide a useful amenity. We suggest Longstanton as a place to start.

(h) There is at present no access between the maintenance track and the new developments in Shaftesbury Road, though such access may be provided later. There is access just north of Long Road to the Empty Common footpath.

Cambs bus changes

The retenderings which we referred to in Newsletter 107 (Nov 2010) resulted in some operator changes at the beginning of April but no major service changes. There were however some cuts at this time to Cambridgeshire villages served by Suffolk CC supported services. The splitting of the 152 at Kimbolton was mitigated by Bedford Borough Council supporting an extension of their section of the route to make connections.

The major cuts came in mid-April, mostly affecting Stagecoach services. This led to such wholesale withdrawal of evening and Sunday services that it is easier to describe the present situation by listing those that continue to run. (Note: these do not include services in the Peterborough City Council area unless they run into the Cambridgeshire County Council area. Neither are long distance coaches mentioned, including Whippet's coastal services.)

Sunday evenings: Cambridge Citi 1 (Fulbourn-Kings Hedges), X1 (Peterborough-Wisbech-Kings Lynn and beyond), Cambridge Citi 3 (Cherry Hinton-Fison Road), Peterborough Citi 3 (which serves Yaxley), X5 (Cambridge-Bedford and beyond), 13 (Cambridge-Haverhill).

Weekday evenings: As Sundays plus Busway B (see page 4), and Cambridge Citi 2 and 4-8, i.e. the rest of the network except for south of Sawston; note that Milton is no longer served except for a single late night journey from Cambridge.

Sunday daytimes: As weekday evenings except that Yaxley is served by Peterborough Citi 7 instead of 3. Also Busway C (see page 4); Whippet 1A (Cambridge-Huntingdon); Stagecoach 33 (Peterborough-Whittlesey); Norfolk Green 46 (March-Kings Lynn); and Myalls 132 (Cambridge-Saffron Walden). Plus the Cambridge park & ride network.

There were also significant cuts to weekday daytime services. As alluded to on page 4, Cambridge Citi 2 and 7 were reduced. The 2 now terminates at Cambridge Science Park and does not serve Milton; the 7, which ran every 10 minutes between Cottenham and Sawston (and extended southwards) was replaced by overlapping services 7 (Cambridge-Sawston and beyond) and 8 (Cottenham-Addenbrookes) each running every 20 minutes.

Other cuts include Stagecoach 65-67, which, beyond Hinchingbrooke, are now limited to an hourly service to Brampton and Buckden, extended alternately via Little and Great Paxton to St Neots and Eaton Socon. Southoe no longer has any southbound buses, unless one can persuade the driver to stop the bus on the A1 and then get across the road. Also, expanding on what we said on page 3, the 9 group of services now runs only 2 hourly from Ely to Littleport, Chatteris and March, and the 33 between Whittlesey and March is peak times only. Market day service 414 to St Neots was axed completely. Also, a few weeks later, as a result of Northants CC cuts, major changes were made to route 24 between Peterborough and Thrapston, and the 23 and 25 were axed completely.

We next come to the beginning of August when the Busway opened. We have already described the changes that came with it. We know of the following changes which are forthcoming:

Whippet 1A: As previously referred to, the last 2 Sunday journeys in each direction are being withdrawn at the end of the month.

Stagecoach X4: A new timetable will come into effect in September but the overall level of service will be maintained.

Stagecoach X5: Removal of stops in the St Neots area other than timing points. This may cause problems with access to the southern end, for example Wyboston Lakes Business Park will be a long walk away. At the same time the route will now serve Buckingham town centre. Of more concern is the loss of the early morning journey from Cambridge; the first bus will start 50 minutes later Mon-Fri and 20 minutes later at weekends, while the last bus will only be 5 minutes later.

Charter 28: New Monday-Friday, presumably schoolday, service from the Mordens to Cambridge via Royston, Shepreth, Barrington and Comberton village college. There will also be a return journey between Shepreth and Bassingbourn village college.

Grant Palmer 28: New circular route replacing 152 providing 7 round trips on a loop route between Bedford and Kimbolton, plus a morning commuter service to Bedford 5 days a week. Some connections with 150 to/from St Neots are advertised.

Grant Palmer 29: New route with 3 journeys in each direction linking St Neots with Sharnbrook and other North Bedfordshire villages. This is a considerable improvement on current market day only service 154.

Centrebus 209: Winwick and Great Gidding will lose their market day service to Oundle.

On another issue, Whippet's coastal buses are running again this year. The network is too complicated to describe here, but there is an interesting new route on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays till end Sept from Cambridge, Newmarket and Mildenhall to Hunstanton via Shippea Hill, Prickwillow and Ely. On other days a different route is used. As last year services also run to Cromer via Bressingham, Felbrigg and Sheringham (Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays with varying end dates), and Lowestoft via Framlingham (Tuesdays till end Aug).

The Wider Picture

As stated earlier, some local authorities have introduced major cuts; in others the cuts have been more minor; in yet others the process is not yet finished so that though cuts haven't happened yet they may well do so in the future.

In some cases the scale of cuts has been mitigated because operators have taken routes on commercially. The local authority may then be preening itself on making savings for the council tax payer without adverse effect, but the process is not without its dangers. For example Geoff Amos, the former operator of the route between Banbury and Rugby, recently went into receivership. For the moment the route has been taken over by Stagecoach but will this last? And will the relevant local authorities get worse value for money for their tenders as a result of the loss of a competitor? As it happens shortly before the Coordinator had received an email from Amos saying they were no longer receiving support from any of the three relevant local authorities and were concerned at receiving inadequate levels of concessionary reimbursement. Close to home, another operator that has ceased to operate is Burtons of Haverhill, whose services have been taken over by Stephensons.

Probably the worst (and the earliest) cuts in our surrounding area took place in Suffolk. Almost all evening, Sunday and market day services were axed in one fell swoop, and many other services were reduced in frequency. It is no longer possible to go for a "seaside Sunday" to Aldeburgh or Southwold, and weekday day trippers have to take care not to miss the last bus back. The Coordinator travelled on several market day services in the last fortnight and by chance encountered a journalist when travelling on the 536; the result can be seen online. The journey on which the journalist travelled was not very well used, but the route would probably have seen more patronage on Friday, which is Beccles' market day. On one route, the 627, the last journey was completely full up and the Coordinator had a wasted trip trying to use it (though a ride had been made on the 610 earlier that day).

Northamptonshire originally went for the "zero option" like Cambridgeshire, but on an even more rapid timescale. However it seems to have reconciled itself to maintaining some level of subsidy, and it seems as if large scale cuts have been avoided. But there have still been some very significant cuts, in addition to those mentioned above that spilled over into Cambridgeshire, for example the loss of Sunday buses on the route between Raunds, Rushden and Wellingborough. And let's not forget the "Amos effect" referred to above!

Bedfordshire is an interesting case. It wasn't long ago that the county council was abolished and its responsibilities transferred to 2 unitary authorities, Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire. As the majority of supported services were in the latter, the former found itself with money to spare while large scale cuts loomed in the latter. However, after reviews in both areas, the Central Beds cuts were mitigated to some extent (though not entirely), while Bedford Borough is due to receive improvements shortly, including new evening town services. (Incidentally, the "Planets" brand introduced by a previous Stagecoach in Bedfordshire manager will be coming to an end, with the relevant services renumbered.)

Norfolk was originally planning large scale cuts, but after consultation decided that its bus services were too important to local communities to warrant this treatment.

Further afield, in Surrey Hindhead has lost most of its coaches to London not because of spending cuts but because of the opening of its 371m pounds bypass. There have been significant cuts in Warwickshire which have, inter alia, led to the demise of a noteworthy example of integrated transport planning: the buses that ran every 15 minutes between Birmingham Airport/NEC/International Station and Coleshill Parkway station, which extended hourly to Nuneaton, Atherstone, Tamworth or Sutton Coldfield. The link between Coleshill and the airport is now half hourly, and there are independent bus services running hourly to Tamworth and irregularly to Sutton Coldfield. North Yorkshire is among the local authorities that planned a complete axe on evening and Sunday travel, and it was only community action that has saved the Dalesbus network aimed at Sunday visitors. This has received money from the Government's Sustainable Transport Fund so should continue to run in the future. The Moorsbus has also survived. The Lake District has lso benefited from the STF. In Cornwall major cuts were avoided when the local authority decided to maintain its level of concessionary reimbursement to operators, but this may be about to change.

An Early Day Motion has been tabled in Parliament calling for more support for buses. If you live in Cambridge constituency, there's no need to ask your MP Julian Huppert to sign it as he's already done so, but you may wish to congratulate him on doing so. Other MPs in our area have not signed it, and you may wish to ask your MP to do so, but remember that only backbenchers, and not ministers such as Andrew Lansley, are in a position to sign Early Day Motions. The number of the EDM is 1986 -- coincidentally (we presume) the year when buses were deregulated.

Holidays at Home

The emergence of Fen Drayton Lakes as a highly accessible destination following the opening of the guided busway has prompted us to make a listing of other places of interest within or just outside Cambridgeshire. Attractions in towns are not shown. When specific times are shown, unless otherwise stated they are Mondays to Saturdays. Departure point is from bus station unless otherwise stated. In many cases it is a pity that positioning workings aren't made available to the public which would make things much easier -- notably Wicken Fen and Grafham Water, in the latter case using Whippet 401 on Saturdays.

Anglesey Abbey: Stagecoach 10/A from Cambridge or Newmarket. The old railway line has for some time provided an unofficial walking and cycling route from Cambridge.

Fen Drayton Lakes: Busway from Cambridge or Huntingdon.

RSPB Fowlmere: Walk from Shepreth station or Fowlmere village. The latter is served by Meridian 31 leaving Cambridge at 09.20 or 14.00.

Grafham Water: On Thursdays, leave Huntingdon at 09.00 by Whippet 408 for Grafham or Perry, return 12.40 or 12.33 respectively. On the 1st Wednesday of each month leave Huntingdon at 09.00 on Whippet 404 for Perry and return at 14.20. On the 2nd Wednesday of each month leave Huntingdon at 09.00 on Whippet 405 and return from Grafham at 14.25 and Perry at 14.30. On the 3rd Monday of each month catch a Stagecoach X5 to Bedford, leave at 08.32 on Stagecoach 50 to Milton Ernest (Queens Head), and catch the Villager Community Bus from opposite to Perry. Return from Perry is at 14.44.

Hamerton Wildlife Park: On Fridays leave Huntingdon at 09.00 on Whippet 409, return from Hamerton at 13.22. Or on the 4th Wednesday of each month leave Huntingdon at 09.00 on Whippet 407, return from Hamerton at 14.15.

Hinchingbrooke Country Park: An attractive walk from Huntingdon via the Ouse Valley Way, or use Stagecoach 65/66 from Huntingdon.

Holme Fen Nature Reserve: Served on Tuesdays by Whippet 430 from Yaxley Queen St at 11.15 or 12.15. Prebook with operator on 01954230011. And on Wednesdays by Dial a Ride 415 from Upwood Church Lane 09.48, Conington turn at about 10.10 and Peterborough at 13.30. Register and prebook on 01733394545. Connections from Ramsey New Road at 08.55 to Upwood, or from Huntingdon at 09.00 to Conington turn. After visit use public footpath to Stilton for Stagecoach 46 to Huntingdon or Peterborough. Information would be appreciated as to whether one can terminate the return walk at Stilton Fen, on the other side of the motorway, which is on the 46 route but not an official stop. One can of course walk both ways from Stilton.

Houghton Mill: Whippet 1A/B from Cambridge or Huntingdon, or Stagecoach 45 from St Ives or Huntingdon. Or use Whippet 5 to Hemingford Abbots and walk across the river. Or use the Ouse Valley Way from St Ives. Note Busway B passes close to Houghton but doesn't stop there.

RSPB Lakenheath: Some Sunday trains stop at Lakenheath station.

Linton Zoo: Stagecoach 13/A from Cambridge or Haverhill.

Milton Country Park: Stagecoach 9 from Cambridge or Ely Market St to Milton village, or Citi 2 to Science Park then cross A14 by bridge, or walk along riverside path from Cambridge ot Waterbeach station to just east of Baits Bite Lock then along lane to beyond railway.

Monks Wood Nature Reserve: The Ramsey Community Bus runs from Huntingdon at 12.15 on Thursdays and passes the eastern entrance. On Wednesdays one can also use Dial a Ride 415 from Upwood or Peterborough -- see Holme Fen above. After visit walk to Alconbury Hill for 46 to Huntingdon or Peterborough. One can of course walk both ways from there.

Paxton Pits: Stagecoach 66 from Huntingdon or St Neots market square. Or walk along Ouse Valley Way (St Neots is nearer).

Shepreth Wildlife Park: Train from Cambridge or Royston.

Welney Wildfowl Trust: 08.55 from Downham Market Tesco, alight Welney village for walk of about 2.5 miles. After visit walk back to Welney for return bus at 12.39.

Wicken Fen: Ely & Soham Dial a Ride leaves Ely Market Street at 13.29 on Thursdays. After visit walk to Burwell or Soham in time for the last bus. Or do a longer walk along the river to Waterbeach station. On other days visits require walking in both directions.

Wimpole Hall: Whippet 75 from Cambridge at 12.00, alight Arrington. Return from Orwell on 16.45 to Cambridge. Or on Wednesdays try Myalls 15 which leaves Royston at 12.30.

Wood Green Animal Shelters: There are two within the county. The one on the A1198 is accessible by Whippet 3 from Huntingdon or Papworth (Elm Way). The one near Heydon is on routes Meridian 31, Richmonds 43 and 334, and Viceroy 444, but none of the timetables are really convenient; the best options are probably to use 334 from Cambridge on a Friday at 13.30 returning by 31 to Royston at 16.30, or to use route 43 on a Saturday from Royston out 13.00 and back 17.27, or out 10.02 continuing to Bishops Stortford at 13.27 and returning by train. A visit can be combined with Great Chishill windmill (though this is being sold off by the county council). For more flexibility walk to and/or from Barley which is served by Arriva 331 from Royston; Barley is also served by all the above bus routes and interchange there is usually possible.

Woodwalton Fen Nature Reserve: Bus 31 from Ramsey New Road or Peterborough to Ramsey Heights. Note that not all 31 journeys go that way. Most journeys to/from Ramsey connect with 30 to/from Huntingdon.

Further afield

Despite the cuts some new leisure travel options have appeared this year:

Essex: A new Sunday and bank holiday service (till end Oct) links the stations at Loughton (30 past the hour) and Chingford (50 past the hour) with High Beach, which has the Epping Forest Visitor Centre. Easiest access from Cambridge is probably train to Tottenham, tube to Walthamstow then bus 20 to Loughton or train to Chingford.

Bucks and Oxon: The addition of positioning workings to route 118 has made it easier to get to Beckley or Horton cum Studley (for RSPB Otmoor), Boarstall (2 National Trust properties) or Brill, a good centre for walking, from Oxford, though unfortunately the change in the X5 times (see above) means that the first journey is no longer accessible this way. Brill is also accessible by routes 111-3 from Aylesbury, Thame, Princes Risborough or Haddenham, or by route 30 from Bicester, and Boarstall is usually within walking distance of these routes. Otmoor can also be reached from the north and west by Charlton on Otmoor services 93-5.

Hants: The New Forest's open top circular tour, which has run for several years, has been supplemented by a new and more interesting route. The traditional route, which links Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Lymington, Beaulieu and Exbury Gardens, runs daily till 18 Sept; the new route, which links Lyndhurst, Burley, Ringwood, Fordingbridge, Cadnam and Ashurst station, runs daily till 4 Sept. A combined ticket gives unlimited travel for 1, 2 or 5 days on both routes and can also be bought on some feeder routes.

Cornwall: The Fal estuary boasts a network of ferries with an integrated ticketing system (the Mussel Card, formerly the Oyster Card, not to be confused with its London namesake) that also covers some trains and buses in the area. The highlight is probably the demand responsive Pandora Ferry which runs Wednesdays to Sundays in August, and replaces the Mylor Shuttle that served part of the area last year (full details).

North Wales: In addition to the Clwydian Ranger which has run for several years on summer Sundays, a new Llyn Brenig bus started up last year. It runs on Saturdays and Sundays till end Sept from Corwen or Denbigh to Llyn Brenig providing excellent circular tour facilities to a noted beauty spot. Further west, the Welsh Highland is now fully open between Caernarfon and Porthmadog, linking with the Ffestiniog Railway to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Argyll and Northern Ireland: This year a ferry has been introduced linking Campbeltown, Argyll with Ballycastle on the Antrim Coast and close to the Giant's Causeway. Fridays to Mondays only, and advance booking is recommended as it's only a small boat. Remember too that this year is the last before Stranraer loses its traditional Northern Ireland link to non rail served Cairnryan. Further north, the Jura Ferry (see Newsletter 106, Aug 2010) is running this year, but with a reduced timetable, and not all sailings have bus connections at remote Tayvallich. Also the Isle of Mull Railway, which links Craignure ferry terminal will Torosay Castle, will be closing permanently on 1 Sept as a result of the sale of the castle. Till then it should be running on Sundays to Thursdays, but check on 01680812944 before finalising plans.

Rail news

The Campaign for Better Transport is running a "Fair Fares" campaign. 3 of our committee members were present at a rally at Cambridge station where a petition was organised which was signed by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert. The event received television coverage. You can sign the petition online.

Cambridge station is currently the centre of a lot of building work: the guided busway, the station area redevelopment, and also the new platform. The last of these is intended to solve the capacity problems of the station, and it should provide enough extra capacity to enable the provision of a Cambridge local train network serving all the surrounding villages that are actually on the railway. Unfortunately there is as yet no sign of any move in this direction.

Finally, spare a thought for Greece which has cancelled all international trains due to its financial crisis. Though this doesn't affect the easiest surface access from the UK which is by ferry from Italy. Even before this the only regular surface option to Cyprus was via Turkey and Turkish Cyprus -- a situation not to the liking of Greek Cypriots!

Road news

The A14 road scheme, against which both we and the Campaign for Better Transport campaigned, has now been officially abandoned. This means that the Highways Agency no longer requires land that had been earmarked for the scheme to be protected from development. However there is still pressure to do something, and we may support this provided environmental improvement and better access for bus users and non-motorised travellers take priority over more traffic capacity, and provided the cost isn't excessive.

The road layout around Milton Keynes Coachway has now been finished. Reports are that the delays that used to afflict morning peak buses no longer occur, but in any case people will no longer have the option of catching the 05.30 ex Cambridge if they are worried about getting delayed on the 06.30 as the former is being withdrawn (and the latter advanced to 06.20).

Action Line

  1. Remember to stand up for our bus services in the forthcoming Cambs CC consultation.
  2. If you live outside Cambridge constituency and your MP is a backbencher, ask him (all Cambs MPs are "hims") to sign Early Day Motion 1986. If you live in Cambridge constituency congratulate him for having done so.
  3. Sign the Fair Fares petition.
  4. 4. Renew your subscription for 2011-2 (and possibly 2012-3 as well).