Cambridgeshire Campaign for Better Transport

Newsletter 118, June 2014


This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. The phrase "lions led by donkeys" has often been bandied about in connection with this conflict to highlight the contrast between the bravery of many ordinary people -- including noncombatants such as Edith Cavell, after whom the main hospital in Peterborough (where she had part of her education) was named -- and the stupidity of the world leaders who sacrificed millions of lives for no discernible purpose.

Fortunately, there's little call for bravery nowadays -- at least in countries like the UK, as opposed to, say, Tibet where anyone who resists Chinese rule risks draconian punishment. However, there is as much stupidity around as there ever was, and if the plot line of the film "The Age of Stupid" comes to pass even more lives (in fact the whole of humanity) will be lost because of climate change.

In the 1980s, when nuclear weapons were a major issue, there was a controversy about whether the best way to reduce their threat was through unilateral or multilateral disarmament. The multilateralists said that unilaterism would put one country at a disadvantage as compared with another which hadn't disarmed, the unilaterists said that multilaterists' insistence that their country get the better of any multilateral agreements merely meant that negotiations got deadlocked.

Well, much the same is true of climate change. The annual climate change negotiations never seem to get anywhere, because they are dependent on mutual agreement between many different countries or blocs, all of which want to get the better of any negotiations; and we're always told (as are people in other countries) that reducing our emissions unilaterally will place us at a competitive disadvantage economically. So we continue to pursue policies that will lead to disastrous increases in the world's temperature.

Nowhere is this truer than for transport. The roads and aviation lobby take the attitude that growth in growth in their sectors is essential for growth in the economy as a whole, and that if emissions reductions are necessary then other sectors should take the burden. This although London's economy manages to thrive -- with economic benefits spread throughout its commuter area, including much of Cambridgeshire -- with cars used for only a minority of journeys, and it is far from clear how facilitaing a weekend break in New York can help the UK economy.

Here are some of the stupidities that our government is inflicting on us -- and without much resistance, which explains why in our headline we have used the image of lambs being led to the slaughter.

  1. Forecasts of ever increasing road traffic, which are being used to justify major expansion schemes such as the A14 (on which more below). Of course, even leaving climate change aside, such extra traffic would swamp our local neighbourhoods leading to the decline of traditional cities such as Cambridge (see Newsletter 84), and it would be disastrous for those of us who rely on our local buses as our fellow passengers succumbed to the lure of the car, but such considerations are of no concern to the roads lobby.
  2. Similarly, forecasts of ever increasing air traffic are being used to justify new runways for the London city region. A new runway at Gatwick would threaten twice as many listed buildings as the whole HS2 scheme, and Stansted would probably be even worse. And it is sincerely to be hoped that politicians will regard the promotion of a new runway at Heathrow is tantamount to political suicide.
  3. Continuing cuts to local bus services by cash strapped local authorities (with the assistance of other measures such as the cut in Bus Service Operator Grant, formerly fuel tax rebate). It would be far fetched to adduce a causal link between Somerset County Council's cuts to bus services in the last few years and the widespread flooding in parts of the county earlier this year, but the fact remains that Somerset's transport policies are contributing to the more volatile climate of which the flooding is a symptom.
  4. Our countryside is being swamped with proposals for new developments -- whether houses, offices or superstores. Many of the offices and superstores, far from creating jobs, will abstract business from traditional centres pushing them into decline. And housing in areas that will still have easy access to jobs and shopping without a car will be scarce and therefore expensive, forcing people into the new developments whether they like it or not.

Outside transport, governments have presided over a downturn in the world economy as a result of problems which many of us had thought had been solved long ago by the work of Keynes. And, while they may have problems negotiating multilateral agreements on disarmament or climate change, they are doing their best to try to get through the agreement to end all agreements -- the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, and its trans-Pacific counterpart, which if agreed will mean that governments can be sued by corporations if they act to prevent them from harming the public -- whether by causing climate change, emitting poisons or exploiting their own workforce.

A14 -- Time to act

The Highways Agency is currently consulting on the A14 upgrade scheme. There is still time to respond -- but it runs out this coming Sunday (15 June) so be quick. It is important that they should get as many responses as possible to show that we do not want to be treated as ``lambs'' (see above). The scheme can be seen online. Other methods of replying are through the website or by post to Freepost RRAY-TAUA-SUGT, A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme, Woodlands, Manton Industrial Estate, Manton Lane, Bedford MK41 7LW.

If you don't have time to wade through the details of the scheme, don't worry; here are some ideas for principles to use in your response.

There are two differing attitudes which it is reasonable to take to the project.

  1. It is far too expensive and damaging, and any change should be limited to safety improvements and minor tweaks. This could include the provision of local roads in areas with significant levels of local traffic, better access to/from connecting routes (footpaths and bridleways as well as minor roads), bus priority measures and safety improvements. The total number of lanes should be no more than 8 east of Swavesey turn and 6 west, with no extra lanes east of Girton. Money could also usefully be spent on public transport improvements, such as an express bus link between Cambridge, Huntingdon, Kettering and Rugby.
  2. The existing A14 viaduct is a blight on Huntingdon and should be removed as the scheme proposes. But this should not be used as a pretext to carve up Huntingdon's unique network of commons with local roads. Instead, we need a more nuanced approach, with capacity reductions on selected routes to ensure that any relief afforded to them by the new A14 is not eroded by future traffic growth to fill the space available. Borrowing a catchphrase from Heathrow campaigners, the idea is to go for an A14 that is "better, not bigger".

Discussions within our group have tended to favour the second attitude. It is also possible to take an intermediate position, whereby one would call for measures to reduce the cost of the scheme as a precondition for accepting the new road.

Here is a possible transport package covering the relevant section of the A14 corridor and the Ouse Valley between Holywell and St Neots. It is divided into four parts -- new A14, A14 local roads, river crossings and the rest.

1. New A14, east to west:

1.1. No upgrade east of Girton -- to avoid stimulating car commuting in the Cambridge area where the local road network can't take any more traffic.

1.2. Any remodelling of the Girton interchange should include slip roads between the A428 and M11 in both directions (westbound is no problem but eastbound would have to be built into the scheme) so that through traffic doesn't have to use the A1303. It should also include a reasonably direct footpath between Dry Drayton and Girton village (the present route being blocked by the A14/M11).

1.3. The route between Girton and the A1198 should be dual 3 lane as proposed, and should include a bridge at Bar Hill linking with the existing bridleway north of the A14. This would become a cycle route to Northstowe and would avoid conflict with the B1050, which as the main road access to Northstowe is likely to get considerably more traffic than at present.

1.4. The route between the A1198 and A1 would be scaled down to dual 2 lane, with full interchanges at both the A1198 and B1043 for reasons which will be seen in 2.2 and 3.4 below.

1.5. The route west of the A1 should include a bridge linking Brampton village with the bridleway to Brampton Wood Nature Reserve, spanning both the new A14 and existing A1.

2. A14 local road -- east to west:

2.1. Single carriageway local road between Girton and Fen Drayton, running south of new A14 to provide direct access (including for bus users) to Cambridge Crematorium and Lolworth village.

2.2. Existing A14 would be reduced to single carriageway between Fen Drayton and Godmanchester. The other carriageway could be used as a busway (as per the CHUMMS proposals) and/or cycle route. Through traffic to Godmanchester and Huntingdon would be encouraged to stay on the new A14 as far as the A1198 (hence the need for a full interchange there). This would ensure that the reduction of noise impact on Fenstanton was permanent, and that people from Fen Drayton and Conington villages could cross the A14 (e.g. to get access to buses).

2.3. The route from Godmanchester to Huntingdon station would be reconfigured to terminate at the new station traffic lights, with the section of the existing A14 between there and Spittals interchange returned to grass (as was done to the old Winchester bypass when the section of route through Twyford Down as built back in the 1990s). No change to the existing A14 between Spittals and the A1.

3. River crossings -- we follow the river upstream

3.1. No change at the guided busway bridge, A1096, St Ives town bridge, Houghton Mill, Godmanchester Chinese bridge, the railway bridge, existing bridges for walkers and cyclists south of St Neots town centre, and the A428.

3.2. New ferry at Holywell, linking the village with Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB reserve and its guided busway stop (which would become less than a mile from Holywell, which currently has no public transport at all).

3.3. The existing A14 would supersede Huntingdon town bridge as the route for "general" traffic between Godmanchester and Huntingdon, with the latter remaining open for buses, bikes and other classes of authorised traffic.

3.4. The new A14 would supersede the existing local road between Buckden and Offord, which would be closed at the level crossing. See 4.5 for further details of what we envisage in this area.

3.5. Paxton and St Neots town bridges would remain open for all traffic, but with HGVs restricted except for access.

4. Other elements of the package:

4.1. Continue the Felixstowe-Nuneaton strategic railfreight upgrade, with the aim of securing a continuous double track route and eliminating bottlenecks such as Ely North Junction.

4.2. Continue progress towards the east-west rail link, for which one option is to follow the A428 corridor between Cambridge, Cambourne and St Neots before picking up the old route between Sandy and Bedford.

4.3. Develop a railfreight route between the English Channel and eastern England, for which one option is to go via Ashford, Maidstone, Gravesend, Barking, Seven Sisters, Ware and Stevenage. This would facilitate the removal of road traffic that currently uses the M25, M11, A14 and A1.

4.4. Stop selected Inter-City trains at St Neots, which would increase its usefulness as an interchange for Cambridge (and Bedford), currently by the X5 bus but in future by east-west rail.

4.5. New station at Offord, with 2 platforms. The bridge between them would be open to the general public (as is the new bridge at St Neots station, on which more below) and supersede both the existing road bridge (from which motor traffic would be diverted to the new A14) and the nearby right of way crossing. There would be a separate car park on each side, with the road from Buckden terminating there. The station would become a focus for local buses leading to improved services for villages between the new A14 and the A428.

4.6. Develop express coach service between Cambridge, Huntingdon, Kettering and Rugby linking with trains at all four places, and also serving the centres of Cambridge and Rugby. Other intermediate stops would also be provided, some of them as "virtual stations" directly on the A14 with separate waiting areas, real time information and cycle parking.

4.7. Park & Ride for Cambridge and coach interchange on A1 corridor where the new A14 meets the A1 near Buckden. This would also be served by the same bus routes that serve the new station at Offord, and by local buses between Huntingdon and St Neots.

4.8. New road bridge across the A1 at Southoe, linking bus stops on either side of the road.

4.9. New one way road from Buckden interchange to Brampton avoiding the need to turn right into the A1. This would form part of the alternative route from Buckden to Offord when the level crossing is closed.

4.10. New access for buses, and possibly other traffic, from the Hinchingbrooke complex to the Spittals interchange, enabling a direct link to be provided e.g. between Alconbury Weald and Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

Finally, we agree with Jim Chisholm's point about the A14 in his article below.

Branch news

Subscriptions for 2014-5 are now due; we have sent renewal slips to all members except those who have already paid for that year, offering them the options of 1 year and 2 year renewals. The rates are unchanged.

The address and telephone number of our Secretary have changed.

We have had one branch activity since our AGM: on Fri 28 Mar we organised a stall at Hills Road 6th Form College where students were invited to make their concerns known to Mr Andy Campbell of Stagecoach and to us. Many complaints -- covering journeys both to/from the college and for other purposes, and both the city and the surrounding villages -- emerged, both in advance and at the stall. In some cases it appeared that students were unaware of alternative options (e.g. bus routes not operated by Stagecoach), but most (though not all) of the other complaints we agreed with in that people should expect to be able to make the journeys in question. Stagecoach, naturally, took the view that it was up to the County Council to support such journeys if they were to be provided -- in some cases we agree but in others we believe that they could be covered by a revised commercial network. However there were some complaints that Mr Campbell agreed to follow up.

"Better Transport" isn't just about buses and trains

This article contributed by our Cycling representative Jim Chisholm.

I started supporting Transport 2000 (now the Campaign for Better Transport) some 40 years ago, when I realised that exponential increases in travel were unsustainable. This is very obvious to any mathematician, but seems unreasonable to many users of transport even today.

30+ years ago I suggested to what I thought was an intelligent audience that if more office blocks were built in Brighton then trains between London and Brighton would be more economical by being full both ways as people living in London could work in Brighton and visa versa. I was very worried when some took me seriously, avoiding the obvious answer.

I even resigned from the Labour Party as it was clear that its policies then supported "Mondeo Man", the ex blue collar worker who could now afford a car and believed that gave him the right to drive where and when he pleased, despite the costs that imposed on others.

When moving to Cambridge with a young family in 1980s, we realised that by living within 5 miles of the City, and near to schools and a bus route, we could afford a house because we would not need 2 cars.

Some may manage without 1 car, but it isn't owning a car that causes the major damage to the environment and "non-user disbenefits", but using it!

Driving a car for a round trip of even a mile costs the user a lot, as not only is the engine inefficient when cold but the catalytic converter does not work and may even be rendered ineffective. Some people with low mileage cars that just do short trips are horrified to find that a new converter is needed because the car fails emission tests. So why not walk or cycle that short trip?

You might think it takes too long, but have you considered how long it takes to earn the money to drive your car that first mile? Statistically you will also live longer having taken such good exercise, so trying to save those minutes by driving short trips may lose you years in later life. Even hopping on a bus (with your senior citizen's pass?) for such short trips has costs for those on the bus making longer trips. Some favour "free" buses, but that has adverse effects. I remember an experimental local "feeder bus" to a rail station, which it was hoped would free up car parking spaces for those from longer distances. In fact the vast majority who used the services had previously walked (some over a mile) and few who drove were attracted. Clearly there are adverse social costs when a local authority subsidises such short trips by bus.

For longer trips by car, they just get longer. Some stats from the National Travel survey a few years ago showed that over half the increase in travel miles was not from new trips, but for longer trips for the same purpose. People drove further to work, further to shop, and further for leisure (or is shopping now wholly a leisure persuit?).

So is "Better Transport" is more about 'planning' than transport?

Is this on an individual, a local, and a national scale? Do we build high density housing on green belt around Cambridge, or build another Carbourne (sorry Cambourne) of low density where most "middle class" households will need to own and use 2 cars to maintain their lifestyle?

If you take the extra land required to widen the A14 -- only really required to support car commuting into Cambridge -- relocated such land to the Cambridge fringe, and built high density housing to enable car commuters to relocate, wouldn't it it be a net gain?

Of course I haven't mentioned "cyclists", or the Chisholm Trail, but I never mention "cyclists" or "motorists", as we don't (or shouldn't) transform when we change modes, and "The Chisholm Trail" can wait for another day.

Rail and road news

Several items relating to our area.

Peterborough: Remodelling over Christmas has led to several changes to the operation of the station. New platforms 6 and 7 carry the Stansted to Birmingham service -- sadly this means the loss of the former cross platform interchange for passengers changing from these trains to go north on the East Coast Main Line on Platform 4. A new platform face has opened the other side of what used to be Platform 3, Platform 2 has been renumbered 1, and the former 1 closed.

Manea: One consequence of the remodelling has been to make it easier to accommodate a stop at Manea by the Ipswich-Peterborough service. This isolated village therefore now has trains every 2 hours throughout the day (though not on Sundays). This is in addition to the two calls a day each way by the Stansted to Birmingham service.

Unfortunately trains in each direction serve the village about an hour apart, which means it's impossible to provide an efficient bus link. If the Ipswich to Peterborough service was upgraded to hourly, then even if Manea was served only every 2 hours it would become possible to arrange for it to be served in both directions at about the same time. We regard this upgrade as one of the benefits to look for from double tracking the route between Soham and Ely (which should also include the reopening of Soham station).

St Neots: The new footbridge has opened providing direct access to the station from the east side (at Loves Farm). It's a pity -- and a definite fault in the planning system -- that this wasn't available as soon as houses in Loves Farm went on sale, as this would have encouraged public transport users to settle there and thereby help to support better buses in the development.

Note that the east side now provides the best route for Cambridge people who wish to use the X5 to interchange with trains serving St Neots. Depending on where in Cambridge you're coming from and when you're travelling, this can be the best route to the North and even to London (and the same in the opposite direction). It would be better still if some Inter-City trains stopped there (see A14 section, item 4.4). The bridge is open to non-travellers, with ticket gates (often open) linking it with the platforms and a ticket machine on the bridge. If your connection allows time for shopping you can now choose the Tesco in Loves Farm instead of the Spar on the St Neots side which is close to the X5 bus stop.

Huntingdon: The new road link between Brampton Rd and Ermine St is now open. At both ends there are traffic lights; at the south end these also serve the station approach road. Traffic leaving the town along George St, which becomes Brampton Rd, are not allowed to turn right into the new road; nor may northbound traffic on the new road turn right into Ermine St. All other movements, however, are permitted.

Users of cycle route 12, which links the guided busway at St Ives with the Green Wheel at Peterborough, have to cross the new route on the level. There are several light controlled crossings which are available for this purpose.

Based on existing land use patterns the road has been grossly overbuilt, but it is presumably intended to open up the surrounding area for development. Let's hope that this development won't be as car oriented as the road suggests.

Cambs leisure bus

Now we turn to buses, as usual starting with the more local changes. One rather unexpected item is the forthcoming opening of a new bus route aimed at leisure traffic. This is the "Bike Bus Explorer", which will tow a cycle trailer, and will run between Cambridge and Gamlingay from the start of the summer school holidays. It is the initiative of Clare Gibbons, an officer of South Cambridgeshire District Council, who together with Cambridge City Council and the National Trust are supporting the service. It will run 4 times a day on Sundays and bank holidays (all year round, starting with an 8 month trial, but not during the Christmas period), leaving Cambridge station at 09.00, 11.30, 14.30 and 17.00. Buses will run via the A603, Orwell village and the National Trust's Wimpole estate to Arrington, then looping via Croydon and Hatley to Gamlingay (09.59, 15.29) and back via Waresley, Gransden and Longstowe, with the 11.30 and 17.00 going the other way round and serving Gamlingay at 12.43 and 18.13.

It is, of course, not restricted to cyclists -- and indeed we'd be surprised if they represented more than a minority of users. Villagers will be able to use it to get to the shops (or wherever else they wish to go) in Cambridge, or to return from weekends away e.g. in London (provided they can get to Cambridge station by 17.00). Cambridge people will be able to use it to visit Wimpole Hall and other places of interest on the route. We don't know what these are, but the OS map shows forest nature reserves at Hayley Wood (which incidentally adjoins the former Cambridge to Sandy railway), Gransden Wood/Waresley Wood and Gamlingay Wood.

Cyclists will be able to make their way from Gamlingay to Sandy then to Bedford along cycle route 51 (which follows the old railway most of the way). They will then be able to put their bikes on an X5 bus to get back to Cambridge.

We wish this route well; it would be helpful if Central Beds Council reinstated the old network in which the Bedford-Sandy-Biggleswade route diverted on Sundays to serve Potton, Gamlingay and the Shuttleworth complex.

We believe that there is scope to run similar routes in other parts of Cambridgeshire. To keep costs down, one could run different routes on different Sundays, aligned with opening days for those attractions that only open occasionally. This would be similar to Northants CC's former Saunterbus. However, the following routes would require support from district councils other than South Cambs and Cambridge City (in the absence of support from the county council).

1. Cambridge-Ely via Newmarket Road (for Cheddars Lane museum and the Leper Chapel), Anglesey Abbey, the Swaffhams, Reach, Burwell, Fordham, Downfield Windmill, Wicken Fen, passing close to Stretham Old Engine en route to Stretham, returning via Queen Adelaide nature trail, Prickwillow museum, Soham, Downfield, as above to Stretham, then via Denny Abbey, Landbeach Barn and Milton for Country Park.

2. Huntingdon-Peterborough via the Alconburys, Monks Wood nature reserve, Wood Walton (for St Andrew's Church, that's the one that you can see from trains on the East Coast Main Line), Upwood, Ramsey (for Gatehouse and Rural Museum), Ramsey Heights (for Woodwalton Fen Nature Reserve), Holme Fen and Yaxley; the return route between Yaxley and the Alconburys would be via Stilton, Washingley, the Giddings (for Steeple Gidding historic church), and Hamerton Wildlife Park.

3. Huntingdon-St Neots via Hinchingbrooke, Brampton Wood, Grafham village, Grafham Water, Littlehey Prison (journeys coordinated with visiting times), Kimbolton, Little Staughton and Bushmead Priory, serving St Neots station before returning via Little Paxton (for Paxton Pits), Buckden (for Palace), Offord Cluny and Godmanchester.

Other Cambs bus changes

There have been major changes in the weekday service on the Cambridge-Gamlingay corridor. The inter-peak journeys on the corridor linking Cambourne, Gamlingay and St Neots have been reconfigured on a demand responsive basis.

If the leaflet is interpreted literally, then although people can get from the villages in the area to St Neots or to villages from which the 4 and/or 18 provide transport to Cambridge, travel in the reverse direction is not allowed. We hope that this is an error and that travel in either direction is allowed, including by people travelling out to the villages.

The core villages served by the route are Abbotsley, Arrington, Caxton, Croxton, Croydon, Eltisley, the Eversdens, Gamlingay, the Gransdens, Hatley, Longstowe, Orwell, Waresley and Wimpole. Travel is allowed between any pair of these villages or to Bourn, Caldecote, Cambourne, Comberton, Hardwick, Kingston or Toft, or to St Neots. Travel between the second set of villages and St Neots is not allowed even though it is otherwise virtually impossible except by going via Cambridge.

In addition there are peak time journeys which run 6 days a week from Gamlingay to Kingston via the Eversdens, and on schooldays from Gamlingay to Comberton Village College, plus return journeys 6 days a week from Cambourne to Gamlingay and from Comberton via Gamlingay to Eltisley; plus a Thursday service on the old 28 route from Cambourne via Gamlingay to St Neots. All these journeys are performed by the same vehicle so it is only available for demand responsive work between the peaks, and on Thursdays it's also not available when in use for the St Neots market bus.

Bookings have to be made by lunchtime the day before, except on Mondays for which bookings have to be made the previous Friday. This is a common and objectionable feature of many demand responsive services.

Route 75 still serves the A603 corridor, and Gamlingay retains its links to Sandy, Biggleswade and Hitchin plus the school bus (open to the public) that links it via Bassingbourn Village College with Royston. The C2 also provides a Thursday market link from those villages in the area not served by the 28 market service.

Apart from this, there have been few major changes in Cambridgeshire, except for significant cuts to St Neots town buses and some journeys between Chatteris and March. One significant change to a cross border service is that Stagecoach's X4 from Peterborough now serves Stoke Bruerne canal museum on Sundays.

A new service worthy of note is provided by Megabus between Norwich, Cambridge and Birmingham. Buses leave Norwich at 05.50 (Mon-Fri), 06.10 (weekends), 10.30, 16.00 and 20.10, with all journeys except the 05.50 picking up 15 minutes later at UEA. Journey time from Norwich to Cambridge is 1hr 30-35min. Arrival at Birmingham (nonstop from Cambridge) is at 10.05, 14.40, 20.10 and 23.55, with the 14.40 continuing to Bristol and Cardiff. In the other direction departures from Birmingham are at 05.10, 11.20, 14.35 (through from Cardiff and Bristol) and 21.30, with the last three serving UEA. Times at Cambridge are at 07.35, 13.35, 17.05 and 23.40; at Norwich 09.15, 15.30, 18.55 and 01.20. Departure points are Norwich bus station (C), University Drive (pick up C, set down A), Parkside (16) and Birmingham railway bridge (1). The last is an easy walk from New St station. As usual with Megabus tickets have to be booked in advance, online or by premium phone line, and their price depends on how far in advance one books.

Other bus changes

Those wanting to explore the countryside this summer can do worse than head for East Sussex (including the now administratively separate Brighton & Hove). The following routes will be running this summer.

10: Brighton-Hove seafront service (daily, likely to use Routemaster).

13X: This is a diversion off the coastal route 12 between Brighton and Eastbourne which runs via Birling Gap and Beachy Head. Daily in summer, Sundays all year round, also Saturdays in low season.

25: Lewes-Alfriston (weekends) serving Glynde Place, Firle Place and village, Charleston Farmhouse, Berwick church and Drusilla's Zoo. This corridor is also served midweek by route 125.

47: Cuckmere Rambler (weekends) linking Berwick station with Seaford by a circular route via Alfriston and the Seven Sisters Country Park.

77: Brighton-Devils Dyke (daily, probably weekends all year round) using an opentop bus in high season.

78 and 79: Brighton-Stanmer Park or Ditchling Beacon (weekends).

121/123: Sheffield Park (for Bluebell Line)-Newick-Lewes-Newhaven. The Sunday service is summer only, but on other days the route runs all year round except that Sheffield Park is only served at weekends.

130: Brighton-Rodmell. There is a shopping service to Brighton on Mondays to Fridays all year round, but on Fridays in summer there is an afternoon journey allowing a visit to the National Trust's Monks House in Rodmell. (Rodmell is also served by the 123.)

131/132: Hassocks-Lewes-Firle Beacon-Newhaven Fort (Sundays). This provides a brand new service for those wishing to avoid the uphill climb on the South Downs. The bus stops by the Firle Beacon car park, which is some way below the Beacon itself but a lot easier walk. Or walk down from the top towards the A259 for regular buses along this road or trains to Lewes and beyond. The Hassocks section runs along the foot of the South Downs, under Ditchling Beacon. On Mondays to Fridays this section, together with other villages in the area, is served by route 824.

246: Uckfield-Sheffield Park (Thursdays all year round). This is primarily intended for local shoppers but can be used as part of a circular trip incorporating the Bluebell Line, also to visit the nearby National Trust gardens.

270: Brighton-Haywards Heath-East Grinstead. This runs 6 days a week all year round, but on Saturdays it diverts via the Bluebell Railway's Horsted Keynes station.

769: Haywards Heath-Sheffield Park (summer Sundays), with the first and last journeys running through to/from Brighton.

At the north end of Sussex, and across the border in Surrey, the following routes are worthy of note:

G4: This is a "hotel shuttle" between Gatwick Airport and the Russ Hill Hotel in Charlwood, running 24/7, but it runs as an ordinary bus service. It provides a means of visiting the windmill in Charlwood (moved from Lowfield Heath as a result of airport development), which is open on the last Sunday afternoon in the month, as Charlwood's ordinary bus service doesn't run on Sundays.

765: This summer Sunday route is sponsored by the National Trust and links its properties at Leith Hill (including the newly opened Leith Hill Place, home of the composer Vaughan Williams, and previously of the Wedgwood family from which he was descended), Clandon Park, Hatchlands and Polesden Lacey. The National Trust also owns a lot of countryside in the area, including Box Hill whose foot it serves (but it's also served by Transport for London's 465 from Kingston and Surbiton). Unfortunately the 516 which used to serve the top of Box Hill no longer runs on Sundays, though it still runs on other days.

Both these routes can be linked by walks with the 93 which runs between Dorking and Horsham 7 days a week, including Sundays when there are no trains going this way.

Isle of Wight and Hampshire: The ``Downs Breezer'' route is changed for this year. The other seasonal services -- the Needles Breezer, the Island Coaster and the Shanklin Steamer -- continue to run, as do the New Forest National Park's three open top tours, two of which connect with the Isle of Wight ferry at Lymington, and one of these also with the small boat that provides a link between Keyhaven, Hurst Castle and Yarmouth.

Incidentally, Brighton provides one of Britain's best urban networks, while the Isle of Wight provides probably Britain's best rural network. In both cases the predominant bus operator belongs to the Go Ahead group. However this is probably a coincidence, as Damory in Dorset, which had large scale cuts at the begnning of this year, also belongs to that group. Nor is the New Forest, whose main operator also belongs to Go Ahead, well served when the tour bus network has gone to bed.

Devon and Cornwall: There have been some cuts but these counties have retained most of their network. However we believe that Cornwall was unwise in scheduling a reshuffle of services (with new timetables only confirmed a few days before they came in) at a time when it should have been promoting its public transport network to tourists put off by the 2 month closure of the county's rail link to the outside world.

Essex: Worthy of note is First's 300 bus route which links Basildon and Stanford le Hope with the new port at Coryton 7 days a week. The access roundabout is on a public footpath and, though the right of way peters out, one should be able to get through the marshes to Pitsea station.

Bucks: A couple of routes that didn't quite make it. Stagecoach are running a route 83 via Buckingham to a college at Silverstone, but have changed its route from the minor road going past Dadford (which is an easy walk from the National Trust's Stowe Landscape Gardens and also Stowe House, alias Stowe school) to the A413. Otherwise it would have been possible to reach Stowe on the Tuesdays only 134 and return on the 83. And Britannia had been running a route 321 between Steeple Claydon and Olney 7 days a week, but say they have had to abandon it due to predatory behaviour by another operator. Steeple Claydon is 2 miles from the National Trust's Claydon House. However, those not travelling on a Sunday can use the Wednesdays only 54 from Winslow that goes close to the house, and Steeple Claydon is also served by the 16 from Aylesbury (6 days a week) and the 18 from Buckingham or Bicester (5 days a week).

Worcs: Moving northwards, this county threatened to remove all subsidies but has changed its mind after consultation. There will still be fairly large scale cuts, though. This is typical of what has been happening in many parts of the country.

Shropshire: Two of the Shropshire Hills Shuttle routes continue to run at weekends, but they don't provide decent connections from the biggest population catchment (the West Midlands conurbation) even on Saturdays, let alone Sundays.

Rutland: The Shorelink bus continues to run 7 days a week on Sunday, but no longer does a complete circuit of Rutland Water. Instead it runs between Uppingham and Oakham, covering both the south and north shores and diverting to serve Wing, Cottesmore Toll Bar and Egleton. Kime/Centrebus 9 from Peterborough to Oakham connects with the service at Empingham -- except on Sundays, when the only access is by train to Oakham then backtracking on the bus.

West Yorks: The summer weekend route 906 continues to link Hebden Bridge with Hardcastle Crags and Widdop Reservoir. The town is also served by routes 900/901 to Huddersfield; the 900 (2 journeys Mon-Fri, 1 Sat) does a zigzag via the B6138, A58, B6114 and A640, while the 901 (hourly Mon-Sat, 3 journeys Sun) runs direct between Ripponden and Outlane. Other interesting routes are the 517 (2 journeys to Burnley via Blackshaw Head on Sats) and 500 (to Keighley via the Worth Valley and Haworth, hourly 7 days a week). There are many other scenic routes in the Pennine fringes in West Yorkshire.

North Yorks: This county made very severe cuts in the spring, exacerbated by the going out of business of one of its operators (Pennine) because it couldn't afford to subsidise concessionary passholders as the Council was requiring it to do. However the Sunday network in the Yorkshire Dales, which is funded separately, has survived. Not so the North York Moors, though skeleton Moorsbus services linking the National Park Centre at Danby with Pickering (plus a morning bus and afternoon return from Hull via Beverley and Malton), Guisborough and Whitby are running on summer Sundays. There is now nothing at all on the western side of the National Park, linking Helmsley with key attractions on the west side of the Park (Sutton Bank, Rievaulx and the through routes to Osmotherley and Stokesley. There isn't even a direct service to Thirsk (though a local activist has started a petition asking for one).

Lancs: This county threatened to remove all subsidies from evening and Sunday services but changed its mind after consultation. The Pendle Witch Hopper runs 7 days a week in summer, with the Sunday service using a different route. However services in the Slaidburn area are severely reduced, with the through service to Settle limited to a single return journey on Sundays, running as part of a through service between Burnley and Hawes.

Cumbria: This county too has threatened to cut off all subsidies. The latest info on its website is that no decisions have been made, but it might be worth planning a ``last chance'' visit this summer. Noteworthy routes include the X33 (2 journeys weekends and summer school holidays between Ambleside and Ravenglass via Silecroft), 73 (Keswick-Caldbeck circular on Saturdays plus positioning workings to/from Carlisle), 77 (Keswick-Buttermere circular, daily in summer), 106 (Kendal-Penrith Mon-Sat), 111 (Penrith-Shap-Burnbanks circular on market days), AD122 (the Roman Wall bus between Brampton and Hexham), 352 (Newcastle-Blackpool via Kirkby Stephen and Tebay, now limited to 2-3 days a week even in summer), 508 (extended to link Penrith with Windermere via the Kirkstone Pass at weekends and during the summer school holidays), 525 (a daily link from the western end of the Windermere ferry to Beatrix Potter's home at Hilltop, Hawkshead, Wray Castle, Grizedale and Satterthwaite), the 564 group (which provides the strategic link from the Settle-Carlisle route via Sedbergh to Kendal) and 572 (a market day service from Kirkby Stephen to Barnard Castle which in summer uses the scenic route via Middleton in Teesdale on the outward journey).

Routes that have run in previous years but are not (yet) shown on the Cumbria CC website include the minibus to Wasdale, the service between Weardale and Alston, the South Lakes Freerider and the 888 that runs across the Pennines between Newcastle and Keswick via Alston, but based on other websites we believe that the last two will start running for the summer next month and hope that this is also true of Weardale.

Wales and Scotland: It is sad to report that the Beacons Bus network around Brecon has disappeared. However the Pembrokeshire coastal network continues to run, including a reduced service in winter, and over the border there's a coastal link between Cardigan and New Quay -- again with a reduced service in winter. We can recommend a visit to this area -- catch the Megabus from Cambridge to Birmingham, then by train to Aberystwyth, then by route X50 to New Quay (or on to Cardigan) where one can pick up the coastal network. Further north, Wales's third national park is still served by the Snowdon Sherpa, though frequencies seem to have been cut.

Scotland of course has many scenic routes in its two National Parks and elsewhere in the Highlands & Islands -- and even in its less spectacular areas -- but we are not aware of any new opportunities to get off the beaten track. There are however many (in fact too many to list) opportunities to arrange imaginative itineraries that go off the main routes -- though all too many local links in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, are aimed at local residents wishing to get to the main centres and ignore the needs of visitors using them as centres for exploration. If visiting a remote area requires an overnight stay and one can't find suitable accommodation one can always resort to camping. One route which ran last year which we would have liked to be able to recommend is Stagecoach's open top bus (route 200) between Braemar, Ballater and Loch Muick, the last being well off the beaten track, but as far as we can make out it won't be running again this year. However there's no harm in checking Stagecoach's website to see if it will appear after all!

Incidentally we would be grateful to hear of any new initiatives we've missed -- local authorities that support them deserve to be rewarded!

Action line

As usual, this only includes actions which have been recommended elsewhere in this newsletter, of which there are just two.