Cambridgeshire Campaign for Better Transport

Newsletter 112, August 2012


The Government has recently made a welcome announcement of large scale investment plans for our rail network. In our area these include the reopening of the line between Oxford and Bedford (which is also to be electrified in the expectation that it will become a strategic freight route), electrification of the Midland Main Line, improvements to the East Coast Main Line and junction improvements north of Ely to reduce conflicting movements. Not so welcome is the likelihood that passengers will have to pay much higher fares, while fuel tax increases for motorists, which could raise the funds a lot more easily, keep getting deferred.

More good news on the railways: Greater Anglia has relaxed restrictions on tickets between Cambridge and Liverpool St. There are now no evening peak restrictions on holders of Off Peak tickets, while Super Off Peak tickets (which are restricted to their own services) are now available on Mondays to Fridays as well as weekends, with evening peak restrictions comparable to those applicable to Off Peak tickets on trains from Kings Cross. In addition, there is now a cheaper period return fare restricted to their trains. Railcard reductions are available for all these tickets.

However, it seems that we have a two tier transport system. If you are lucky enough to have easy access to a railway station, you can (with a few exceptions such as Manea) rely on having trains 7 days a week from early morning to late evening. Otherwise, tough luck unless a commercial operator is willing to provide a service or you have a conscientious local transport authority (which we in Cambridgeshire certainly don't).

This isn't just a rural problem. Many people want to go away at weekends, whether for a day trip or a short break, whether to visit family and friends or to enjoy a visit to the countryside or seaside. Even if one can get back from one's intended destination (try returning from Aldeburgh on a Sunday, though Southwold does now have buses to/from Lowestoft) to Cambridge station, how can one complete one's journey when the only buses running on Sunday evenings are the Citi 1 and 3, the 13 to Haverhill and the X5 to St Neots and Bedford?

One way forward might be to give rail franchisees a responsibility to procure adequate local bus connections in cooperation with local authorities and bus operators. Note that they have a direct financial interest in this -- their share of revenue generated by extra bus/rail travel is likely to be far greater than that of the bus operator.

We plan to put this forward in our response to the current consultation on the new Thameslink franchise, which will take over those services currently operated by First Capital Connect (and some others). Some relevant issues are as follows.

  1. Provide interchanges which will enable more buses to call at rail stations. This tends to be the limit of local authority activity -- but although important it is not sufficient. It is particularly important in a place like Cambridge where the rail station is at some distance from the city centre (though the issue of links at Cambridge may be considered to be outside the scope of the franchise consultation given that Cambridge station is managed by Greater Anglia). However so far there has been no sign of the improved interchange attracting more buses. For details of how this might be remedied see our last newsletter.
  2. Time buses to make good connections with incoming trains, especially at times when they are relatively infrequent. Why do the fast evening trains from Kings Cross so often arrive at Cambridge station just after buses on Stagecoach's premier route, the Citi 1, have left the station (in both directions)? It's just as bad if one's returning from Peterborough or Ipswich.
  3. Improve through ticketing facilities. At present there is the "Plusbus" scheme, but this has many deficiencies: one can't use it to get from one's home to the station as tickets can only be picked up at the station; if one's making a period return journey it's not valid for the return; ticket machines don't sell them; and they only tend to cover suburban areas and not the wider countryside and non rail linked towns where it is particularly important to promote usage.
  4. Develop and market inclusive ticketing e.g. from London to major tourist attractions. An example might be a bus from Royston station to Arrington (for Wimpole Hall). This route should not be a "dedicated" service, but should be integrated with the rest of the rural network.
  5. Ensure that passengers are not prevented from travelling by peak time restrictions. For day trips to London, this means ensuring that people can get back home leaving London after the end of the evening peak. For incoming tourists, this means ensuring that they don't have to leave their home station before the start of the off peak period (currently 10.00 for holders of Network Railcards) to enable them to visit their destination. Incidentally why can't restrictions be relaxed on people going out of London when the direction of peak flow is inward?

For those who want to contribute to the consultation the closing date is 23 Aug. The Government is also consulting on the East Coast Main Line franchise -- for the web link replace "23" by "24" in the above, and the closing date is 18 Sept.

Branch news

Some of you still haven't renewed for this year. If you are among them, you will be getting a renewal slip with this newsletter. Also, those members without email access will be getting a copy of our membership leaflet; please make copies and distribute where you think there is a reasonable prospect of getting new members. If you have email access, you should be able to download a membership leaflet in PDF format from our website (see page 1, click on "Documents") -- or if this doesn't work ask the Coordinator or Chair to send it to you in PDF or Word format.

Non-members who get this newsletter are invited to join, which will entitle you to "members only" stuff such as our annual reports. The cost is still unchanged -- see page 1 or our website.

Dates for your diary. Our AGM will be held on Sat 24 Nov. Members will get formal notices with the next newsletter. This date does not clash with the Climate March (1 Dec) or the Railfuture branch meeting in Cambridge (8 Dec), which you may also want to put in your diary.

Climate Caravan

As advertised in our last newsletter, we arranged a lunchtime meeting as part of this initiative by the Campaign against Climate Change to promote its "1m Climate Jobs" campaign. The "Caravan" itself was parked in the city centre where people were invited to discuss the issues with representatives of the Campaign, and also the local trade union branches held an evening meeting.

Our meeting was fairly successful, with 23 people attending. We had 4 speakers, with plenty of opportunities for questions which led to a lively debate. 2 of the speakers provided handouts in advance which are reproduced here; we also reproduce summaries of what the others said.

Ours was actually the only event in the whole country themed around transport. We hope that other campaign groups will follow our lead if the Climate Caravan is repeated.

Richard Hebditch, Campaigns Director, Campaign for Better Transport

Importance of Climate Caravan: At the current time, people are focused on worries about jobs, about household budgets and the cost of essentials, about what will happen to public services. But the threat of global warming hasn't gone away. The Climate Caravan is very useful in reminding us that we can do something about climate change, and do so in a way that also addresses people's concerns about jobs, affordability and public services.

Transport and sustainability: Transport is a good example of how we can do something. Domestic transport makes up a quarter of our CO2 emissions and almost 9 out of 10 tonnes of that comes from private road transport. It is the sector with the least progress in reducing emissions. (Emissions from transport in 2011 were the same as they were in 1990, despite cuts elsewhere.) This is despite the motor industry's trumpeting of improvements in fuel efficiency and the potential for electric vehicles. Even with current policies to improve vehicle efficiency, we are still only going to get a cut of 5% by 2020 compared with 2005. People are willing to shift away from car use -- 75% are willing to change their behaviour to limit climate change. We also need change to avoid carving up more of the countryside for new roads and to improve air quality (among many other reasons).

The role of public transport in tackling social exclusion: The assumption amongst policy makers and politicians is that everyone drives -- but over half of those in the poorest income quintile don't have access to a car and 2/3 of job seekers don't have access. For those on low incomes (and older people and those with disabilities) access to good bus services is vital in being able to access work, to get to the shops or to socialise with friends. Buses often get a bad press but there are plenty of places in UK where bus patronage has increased, and not just in London (e.g. Oxford, Brighton, York). But bus services are being axed as a result of government cuts. This includes:

Campaign for Better Transport research shows that over 1,000 bus services have been cut as a result of this, with probably more to come this year as cuts start to affect commercial services as well as those financially supported by local authorities.

In the Cambridge area we have been told of a commercial service which is up for withdrawal, the evening buses on the Citi 5 to Girton and Bar Hill via Huntingdon Road. This shows that it isn't just far flung rural areas that are suffering. (Note: this was reprieved, but there are other examples.)

But transport and social exclusion isn't just about improving bus services, it's also about ensuring that services and employment opportunities are located in places which people can access without a car, and that the costs of other people's mobility aren't borne by those on lower incomes. In terms of access to services and jobs, it's vital that the planning system works to make sure they're located more in town and neighbourhood centres rather than out of town places surrounded by car parking which only those with cars get to. The changes to the planning system through the National Planning Policy Framework could have been much more of a threat based on the initial drafts of the NPPF, but it's likely that more poor development will still end up being allowed. And we also need to improve the streets where we live so that the costs of poor transport provision aren't borne by poorer communities -- for instance children in the poorest income group are over 4 times as likely to be killed by traffic as in the richest income group, and air quality is worse in areas with low income households.

The Campaign for Better Transport will shortly publish 3 pieces of research looking at this area:

Jobs: Investing in public transport rather than road building will create more jobs, and more long term jobs for those working in public transport. Research from the US suggests that for each dollar spent on roads, the equivalent spent on public transport would create twice as many jobs and sustain them for longer. Investment in rail also goes further, creating more jobs in other indirect and induced jobs than the equivalent in the motor industry.

Conclusion: In summary, we can move to a more sustainable and more socially just transport system. It's not about denying people the opportunity to use cars but providing a good mix of decent streets to walk or cycle in, reliable and convenient bus services and train services affordable to everyone, and locating shops, services and jobs near to where people live or can access them by public transport. There is a clamour from some for more road building as a way to get us out of recession. But road building won't deliver the kind of long term transition we need to a low carbon and equitable transport system that we need.

The Campaign for Better Transport has had some successes in getting the changes we want in the face of cuts -- we've got the massive rail fare rise due this year reduced, we've got some more funding going into buses from Department for Transport underspends, and we persuaded the Government to spend 560m pounds on the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. But we need to keep making the case and demonstrating the support for sustainable transport that we know is out there. (Note: due to a typo the notes handed out at the meeting showed the figure as 650m pounds. 560m pounds is correct.)

Roads are sometimes justified by the expectation of big rises in car use in coming decades, but people are already starting to change their travel behaviour and car use is falling while cycling and train use is rising quickly. The rising price of oil, the need to cut carbon and the desire from communities for places that aren't dominated by traffic all suggest that the future shape of our transport system needs to be very different from the late 20th century model we've inherited.

For more information:

Local rail, Sustainable transport and employment opportunities for South Cambs: Cllr Susan van de Ven, Chairman, Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group, and Lib Dem transport spokesperson on Cambs CC

A. Context

South Cambs transport strategy?

Modes of sustainable transport for South Cambs

B. Rail as localised public transport for South Cambs

Premier mode of localised public transport along 3 corridors, with hourly or half hourly services, contrasted with infrequent bus services:

Challenges and hindrances:

Community Rail Partnerships: Enhancing access to existing jobs, creating new jobs

Efforts toward CRP by Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group have already encouraged:

CRPs could:

What next?

Notes on sustainable transport -- Cllr Tariq Sadiq, Leader, Cambs CC Labour Group

The following is taken from the summary of Tariq's key points in the report in the local Labour Party newsletter.

Sustainability can be defined in many ways and is generally taken to mean environmental sustainability; however, there is also a strong social component when it comes to transport and here I want to focus on the importance of good quality transport to sustaining communities.

Good transport infrastructure is a key that unlocks opportunities for people: to access jobs, healthcare, social life, leisure services and to sustain family ties amongst other things.

In our recent debate about the cuts to bus subsidies we have highlighted the risk of "isolation" particularly for those living in rural areas where villages are poorly served by public transport. We don't just mean geographical isolation but also isolation from social interaction and from access to public services. It's not just about being able to get to places but also about being able to play a full part in life which becomes much harder if you cannot travel easily and affordably and to some extent independently (i.e. not having to rely on other people for lifts).

So sustainable transport is as much about quality of life as it is about quality of environment and the impact on the planet and its resources.

We know that in the long term we cannot sustain increasing use of private cars because of congestion, pollution, carbon emissions, cost of infrastructure, and impact on the physical landscape. To persuade people to move away from cars towards other modes of transport we have to persuade them that their freedom of movement will not be restricted if they do that. However, cutting bus subsidies and as a consequence some bus routes represents a narrowing of choice and a restriction of freedom of movement which leaves no other choice but to resort to cars instead.

For those who cannot afford a car, it effectively isolates them physically and psychologically. It is therefore very shortsighted to cut subsidised routes just because they don't appear to be providing value for money. The true cost of not keeping people connected is social and will be borne in rising costs to other services and in losses to the economy if people cannot access jobs.

I know this from speaking to older people who rely on buses and reading their views in recent research carried out locally by Cambridge University. And I also know how much the 114 which runs through my division is valued by older people who rely on it for shopping and to get to Addenbrookes.

A fundamental issue we have to face is that the local bus market is effectively run by a monopoly provider over which the County Council has little or no control. It could choose to use the Local Transport Act 2008 which provides powers for local authorities to influence fares, frequencies, and routes, but it is not straightforward to do this and the model has not been adopted outside of London. We need further change at government level to make it easier for councils to regulate buses. Ideally, it should be a public service not something run for private shareholder gain.

Why the Climate Caravan? -- Ken Montague, Campaign against Climate Change

Ken Montague was one of the organisers and travellers on the Climate Jobs Caravan that was then touring the country promoting the 1m Climate Jobs campaign. The campaign, backed by a detailed report, was initiated by the Trade Union Group of the Campaign against Climate Change, but now had the support of 4 national trade unions and numerous union branches and trades union councils as well as climate campaign groups and political parties, including the Green Party.

The Caravan tour from 12-25 May was travelling nearly 3000 miles and holding meetings and other publicity events in 25 towns and cities. At the time of our meeting the Caravan with stalls and props was parked in Sidney Street, with Caravanners distributing literature and talking to members of the public.

Ken explained that we faced 2 major crises, an economic crisis, with over 2.6m people unemployed and 1 in 5 young workers unable to find jobs, and an environmental crisis with the looming threat of devastating climate change. He began by explaining the environmental crisis, that global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels was a serious threat to the future of our children and grandchildren while the world's political leaders seemed incapable of taking the necessary action to avert it. Since the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992 there had been 17 sets of UN climate talks but we were still no nearer to an international binding agreement on reducing $CO_2$ and other greenhouse gas emissions. 2009 saw more CO2 emitted into the atmosphere than in any other year since the industrial revolution.

Ken used the 1m Climate Jobs report to show that the Government could start to tackle both the environmental crisis and the economic crisis by directly creating government jobs involved in reducing carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency. An important aspect of this was investment in expanding the rail network and improving public transport services, especially bus services, with reduced fares. Currently heavy goods vehicles and private cars were the 2 biggest contributors to transport emissions and the infratructure needed to be created to transfer freight and passengers onto forms of transport that were environmentally cleaner. The report estimated that affordable investment by the state would create 300,000 more jobs in transport while reducing emissions by 80%.

Ken concluded by saying that tackling climate change did not have to involve lowering people's standard of living. On the contrary, if the Government took the initiative rather than leaving care of the environment to private companies, many people's living standards would be improved through such things as free home insulation, cheaper energy bills, and more efficient and comfortable forms of transportation. He believed that campaign groups like ours could make a big contribution to bringing this about by connecting the need for better public transport with the creation of climate jobs and the urgent neccesity to tackle global warming.

Miscellaneous News

The consultation on the A14 Challenge has led to a preliminary response. Our ideas for major public transport improvements on the A14 corridor do not appear to have met with approval -- apparently the powers that be think that the guided busway is the last word, even though it takes over an hour between Cambridge and Huntingdon (16 miles) even after recent timetable changes (on which see below). In fact the "public transport options" come up with very little in the way of improvements. However, there is still no clue as to how any road improvements might be financed: any tolling proposals will arouse opposition not only from the motoring lobby but also from the Campaign for Better Transport, who are worried that this will lead to environmental damage without relieving the existing road, as has happened with the M6 tollway. As far as we are concerned the only reason why we would be prepared to tolerate a new road is if it enables us to get rid of the existing route through Huntingdon!

As we write this the Olympics are in progress. It is disappointing (especially to those of us not interested in sport) that some of the building work to faciliate people's movements will be dismantled afterwards, including the new footbridge over the Thames at Dorney which would have provided a useful link. And while the promotion of cycling is in principle welcome, to what extent will this be achieved by showcasing cycling on roads which have been cleared of traffic -- an amenity denied to the run of the mill cyclist?

Various local plan consultations are now under way -- though Cambridge City's has closed. Cambs CC is consulting on a transport strategy for Cambridge City and S Cambs -- go to the county council website, click on "Consultations" then on "Consultation on a Transport Strategy for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire". The closing date for this is 28 Sept. The highlight of our response to this will be the need for minimum standards of public transport to ensure that people living in communities can meet almost all their transport needs without a car. This is important for new developments -- we need to "build houses not (transport) problems"!

Cambs bus changes

We start with more on the changes of 10 June.

Cambs CC did manage to introduce some replacements to the services which Stagecoach axed (largely in anticipation of future subsidy cuts by the Council, as we said last time). These are as follows:

2: This Whippet route is amended to cover former Stagecoach 14, with both morning and evening peak journeys. This looks like an adequate replacement, but the ones below certainly aren't.

7A: 2 hourly from Sawston to Whittlesford, Duxford Heathfield and Hinxton replacing the "branches" of Citi 7. Pampisford is served hourly. Operated by NCS Contract Services. For our alternative proposals see below.

16: Teversham and The Wilbrahams to Newmarket, operated by A&P with just 1 journey on Tuesdays and Fridays -- a sad comedown from former Stagecoach 17.

19: 2 hourly from Haverhill to The Camps, Linton, Balsham and Burrough Green. This is similar to what was previously provided by Stagecoach, but there is nothing left of their route 16 (except for the school journeys on route 16A) which provided a direct link to Cambridge and a more direct route to Haverhill, as well as half the provision on sections of route within Cambridge city. The 19 is operated by The Voluntary Network, who also do a demand responsive service in the area on behalf of Suffolk CC which would, for example, provide a link between Burrough Green and Newmarket. Anyone know what sort of connections are offered in practice?

65: 1-2 journeys Mondays to Fridays between St Neots and Huntingdon via Great Paxton, The Offords and Godmanchester. Operated by Nene & Ouse Community Transport. Nothing for Southoe, and a sad comedown from what we had before -- see below for our own proposals.

In addition, note that from 10 June buses in Cambridge started to use the new link road in the station area in both directions. We believe that this was premature, because initially the pavement was closed forcing pedestrians to walk on the road in the way of buses. However, this was soon remedied. But the station interchange is still woefully underused, and what's more many services terminate in the city centre and therefore waste opportunities to provide through links to places beyond. And the dispersal of the new bus stops has led to an inconvenient increase in walking distances for interchange passengers.

Though the timetable of the X4 between Cambridge and St Neots shows a timing point at Bulstrode Gardens, the actual pickup point on outward journeys is Wilberforce Road, the preceding stop and that also served by the X5 (which is sensible). The route also serves Croxton, thereby quelling our fears that this village would be isolated. Some time in "late summer" the route will change in the Loves Farm area to include the new bus link road.

The Duxford Shuttle is operated by a single decker in Cambridge Sightseeing livery. Inclusive ticketing is available which covers admission to the Imperial War Museum, travel on the Shuttle and travel on the main sightseeing tour at an inclusive price. However, we suspect that Dayrider Plus tickets and suchlike are not available on the Shuttle. At one time we found a map on the City Sightseeing website showing an impossible route for the Shuttle -- via the guided busway then using a non-existent cut through to Trumpington Maris Lane (which is an advertised pickup) then through Little Shelford and skirting Whittlesford. We believe that a route through the villages would not only offer an opportunity to help local people in these villages, neither of which is now adequately served, but also appeal to tourists more than a run along the M11. And maybe the extra patronage would enable the service to run all year round. But one thing is definite -- the only permitted boarding point in the area is at the Museum.

In our last newsletter we said that East X5 Dayrider Gold tickets contained a statement that they were valid on all Stagecoach services in Southern Britain. This should read "South of England". Does this mean that South Wales and, more important, the Midlands (covered by Stagecoach in Northants and Warwicks) are now excluded?

More recent changes: Most of the following were implemented on 22 July.

Guided Buses: Increased from 3 to 4 per hour on each of routes A and B. Route B misses out St Ives Hill Rise. 1 journey per hour extends to Huntingdon station (formerly 3), 2 per hour to Hinchingbrooke Hospital passing the turn for the station and replacing former short workings on route 65, and 1 per hour to Peterborough replacing the 46 but not serving Alconbury village, Alconbury Weston, Glatton, Stilton or Folksworth. For all but the last of these see routes 46 and 46A below. On route A all journeys extend to St Ives bus station, then alternately to St Ives Marley Road and via St Ives Hill Rise to RAF Wyton. Eastbound journeys call at Station Road rather than going into the bus station. See below for changes in the Somersham area. First arrivals at Peterborough are now 06.44 from Huntingdon, 07.44 from St Ives but not till 09.44 from Cambridge; last back is 20.20. First arrivals at Cambridge are 06.25 from St Ives (07.10 Sat), 07.07 from Huntingdon (07.37 Sat) and 08.52 from Peterborough, with the last back being 18.15 to Peterborough and 23.33 to Huntingdon. The last bus from Huntingdon to Cambridge is at 22.15.

21: Stagecoach buses on this route between St Ives, Earith, Somersham and Chatteris were withdrawn completely, which means that Somersham is now out on a limb and the villages are almost isolated on Saturdays when Whippet 21 doesn't run. Stagecoach do however run a guided bus to Chatteris Mondays to Fridays only, also 2 guided buses to Ramsey, and various services to Somersham, including 1 on Saturdays -- all of these timed for the Cambridge peak so not much use to local shoppers, say. See below for our alternative proposals.

29: This route between St Neots and Pavenham was introduced last year as a result of a review of bus services in Bedford Borough, running 3 times a day and replacing a former weekly market bus. Well now it's back to weekly service. If you want to use it be at St Neots market square for 12.15 on a Thursday -- there are plenty of connections with other services in the Bedfordshire villages.

46: Hourly between Peterborough and Stilton, with 2 journeys extending to/from Sawtry at school times (though also on Saturdays and school holidays) by a circular route serving Glatton in one direction and Conington turn in another.

46A: 6-7 journeys each way between Huntingdon and Alconbury Weston with 2 extended to/from Stilton via Sawtry and Glatton. Operated by Nene & Ouse Community Transport. See below for our alternative proposals.

Welland Call Connect: It is worth noting that this demand responsive service from Peterborough and Stamford, in addition to serving many communities within the Peterborough City Council area and in Rutland and Northamptonshire (but not Corby, which would be a useful extension to the network), also serves Stibbington and the nearby Nene Valley Railway station (called Wansford). It also serves Yarwell village which is within walking distance of the NVR station of that name.

National Express: The service between Kings Lynn and London, which used to go via Peterborough, now goes via Cambridge. It still serves Wisbech and now also serves March. Traveline shows it as serving Chatteris southbound only but we believe this is an error. There is also a journey to Dereham via Cambridge calling at Brandon, Mundford and Swaffham. Note that Fakenham and Cromer are no longer served by National Express. Also, some stops in London are suspended for the duration of the Olympics.

X5: The bus interchange at Milton Keynes station has reopened. Buses now stop a bit further from the station entrance, though one no longer has to cross a traffic route. Also, at the time of writing there are roadworks just west of Bedford that may delay this service (and also the routes from Bedford to Northampton and Newport Pagnell).

We now describe our alternative proposals for the villages served by routes 7A, 21, 46A and 65. These would bring many benefits to villages other than those served by the withdrawn routes, some of which serve important countryside attractions.

A: New route running 2 hourly from Whittlesford direct to Sawston then via Pampisford, Hinxton, Ickleton, Elmdon, Chrishall, Heydon, Chishill, Barley and Royston. Interworked with route 127 from Royston to Guilden Morden, including diversions to Whaddon and extensions to Ashwell and Wrestlingworth, this could be done with just 1 extra vehicle and would replace several routes supported by Herts and Essex as well as the 7A.

B: Replace 31 by new route from Babraham Rd P&R or Addenbrookes to The Shelfords, Whittlesford, Duxford Heathfield, Thriplow, Fowlmere, Newton then back via The Shelfords. Hourly service alternately each way round. May interwork with 114 to provide a through route to Cambridge, though passengers could save time by changing at Addenbrookes. Again 1 vehicle would be needed.

C: Replace 65 and 150 by the following routes, each running twice a day: (a) Tilbrook/Kimbolton to St Neots town and station, Southoe, Buckden, The Offords, Great Paxton and back via St Neots. (b) Tilbrook/Kimbolton to St Neots town and station, Great Paxton, The Offords, double run to Godmanchester and Huntingdon, Buckden, Grafham Water and Perry, Great Staughton and return.

Note that Southoe has been a problem for many years because of problems in turning to/from or crossing the A1. But neither the Highways Agency nor Cambs CC seem to care enough about the villages to provide a bridge, either for traffic or pedestrians. The above network, though rather convoluted, is the best we have been able to devise in the current situation.

D: Replace journeys from Huntingdon to Stilton on route 46A beyond Alconbury Weston by one of the following routes:

In addition, an evening service would be provided from Huntingdon (connecting from London, Cambridge and Peterborough) to The Stukeleys, The Alconburys and Upton setting down as required.

Incidentally, we argued about 20 years ago for a bridge linking Stilton village with the B1043, saying that otherwise the village's bus access might be vulnerable. This has been vindicated -- a bridge would provide easy access from Stilton to a bus stop on the B1043 served by the guided buses, and also provide for walkers between the village and Holme National Nature Reserve. But as in Southoe the powers that be don't care about sustainable access to the villages...

Leisure trips

As usual we give a rundown of seasonal services that can be used to visit places of interest. Unfortunately many of them are beyond day trip distance in practice even if not in principle. Note that all except the last are run by community bus operators. For some of them only a few operating days are left -- if this makes things awkward, sorry for not getting the newsletter out earlier!

Hylands House: A free minibus links Chelmsford centre (County Hall outside Shopmobility) with Hylands House on certain Mondays -- at the time of writing the only ones left are 3-17 Sept. Leave at 11.00 or 12.00, return at 14.30 or 15.30. The House is only open on Sundays and Mondays -- an admission charge applies. It is surrounded by a park which is open free of charge. The park is also served on the main road by route 351 between Chelmsford and Brentwood. Note that the best route between Cambridge and Chelmsford involves getting a bus from Stansted Airport -- 42A local or X30 express, but the latter is more expensive except for people with concessionary bus passes.

Dedham Vale: The Dedham Vale Hopper (route 745) runs on the hour on Tue, Wed, Sat and Sun until 14 Oct from Manningtree station to Flatford Mill, East Bergholt, Stratford St Mary and Dedham. There is also a positioning working to/from Hadleigh (route 796, 09.30/17.26).

Crouch Valley: Route 174 runs 6 days a week till 3 Sept, then Tuesdays and Saturdays, between Southend, Rochford and Wallasea Island. This area, which is being developed as a nature reserve, is also the ferry terminal for Burnham on Crouch, which has a rail service. It is advisable to ring to confirm ferry operation. See also for wildlife cruises run by the same operator, which usually need prebooking at the above number. Numbers are 01702 258666 and 07949 940297. These include visits to forbidden Foulness Island, whose visitor centre is open on the first Sunday of each month (which means that the only public transport access is via Burnham). Another boat operator in the area is Nature Break at

Herstmonceux and the South Downs: Herstmonceux is served on the second Friday of each month till November by Cuckmere Community Transport (route 49), with the minibus running on the hour from Polegate station. The fare is quite expensive and unless you have a concessionary pass it may be cheaper to ask for an Explorer ticket which is also valid on most other operators in the area. At one time Herstmonceux was the site of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, which subsequently moved to Cambridge but has now closed. The observatory is now a science museum, with discounted admission available to bus users. There is also the castle, owned by Queens University of Kingston, Ontario; it is not open to the public except by (recommended) guided tour -- to check availability ring 01323 833816. The castle grounds are open (till October). A combined admission ticket is available but it is cheaper to pay separately if you're getting the bus user's discount. The operator continues to run the Cuckmere Rambler (route 47) at weekends till 28 Oct, which serves some of the best scenery in the South Downs National Park. The area is also served by the regular Brighton-Eastbourne service, operated by Brighton & Hove, which includes journeys (route 13X) detouring via Beachy Head daily till 15 Sept. B&H also run buses from Brighton to Devil's Dyke (77), Stanmer Park (78) and Ditchling Beacon (79) on weekends till the end of September; Devil's Dyke is also served daily in August. Check for possible off season operation.

Croome Park: In part replacement for the Sunday service on route 382 between Worcester, Eckington and Pershore, a new route 381 has been established that also serves Pershore station (which is some way from the town) and the National Trust estate at Croome Park. This will run till 16 Sept. Unfortunately this is just beyond day trip distance from Cambridge via the X5 to Oxford, as the first X5 gets in at 11.45 and one needs to catch the 11.51 train. On August Bank Holiday Monday there's a different timetable not serving Worcester but with extra journeys to Pershore station.