The headline of this newsletter gives the name of the rally which the Campaign against Climate Change is organising on Sat 7 Mar to tell our existing and aspiring politicians that it is time to act on climate change. But it is also being used here to underline the message that it is time for us to act -- and there are an unprecedented number of actions that will be needed over the next few months. Most of them are not local to our area, so those readers who live elsewhere are asked not only to take part but to rally support among other like minded people in their own areas. Here goes:
Sat 28 Feb: This is the deadline (previously been set at Fri 30 Jan but subsequently extended) for responding to a consultation by Network Rail on "Improving Connectivity". Visit the web page to comment on the report.
Using East Anglia as a case study, the report advocates a Swiss "Taktfahrplan" type approach to timetable planning so that almost all connections can be made without long waits, as was advocated in the book "Transport for Suburbia" written by the late Paul Mees and reviewed in our Newsletter 108. So far so good, but the comment needs to be made that the principles should apply to buses as well as trains (as happens in Switzerland) so that communities off the rail network are rescued from the isolation that has been imposed on many of them in recent years and given services all day 7 days a week.
The report makes some interesting suggestions, such as an Ely North station which would enable Norwich-Liverpool trains to serve the city without having to reverse into and out of the present station, and diverting the service on the line SE of Ely to run to Newmarket instead of Ipswich (for which passengers would change at Newmarket). It also makes references to how the network might expand in future -- if public transport achieved Swiss modal share levels then this would strengthen both the political pressure and the business case for such expansions, and this would probably offset any feelings that an integrated bus network had solved the relevant problems -- and this leads to a second comment which needs to be made: the report should highlight the need to change the planning system so that protection is given for all strategic routes well before any proposal actually to implement reopening. Even for such a basic need as a direct rail link between Cambridge and Bedford as part of the east-west rail link, mentioned in the report (along with the route from Cambridge to Huntingdon and Haverhill and from Bedford to Northampton), development in our region is proceeding so fast that route options are disappearing almost every year.
For people without computer access, printed copies of the report can be obtained from the following address: Improving Connectivity Consultation, Strategy & Planning Assistant, Network Rail, The Cottons Centre, Cottons Lane, London Bridge, London SE1 2QG, though by the time you receive this newsletter it will probably be too late to get a response in on time. This address is also the one to which paper responses should be sent.
Sat 7 Mar: Time to Act march in London. The Campaign for Better Transport will be organising their own contingent for this rally, and are hoping to have an inflatable bus to symbolise how better public transport to our local communities could help to reduce the contribution of car emissions to climate change. Meet 12.30 at Lincoln's Inn Fields, and check the Campaign for Better Transport website for further details.
Thur 12 Mar: This is the deadline for those who wish to register as interested parties for the A14 upgrade proposals. Under new procedures for dealing with major infrastructure projects anyone who wishes to take part in the public examination is required to do this, but please remember that if you do register you are not committing yourself to taking any further action, and having your name on the list of objectors will help to counter any impression that the project has universal support. Here are some suggested grounds for objection:
Visit the website to register as an interested party -- you will be asked to give a brief summary of the comments you wish to make, for which any of the above can be adapted. Look for a variety of grounds for objection, just in case any of them are ruled out as being beyond the remit of the examination (as can happen under the prevailing legislation -- it's not worth trying to work out what grounds might be ruled out).
There have only been minor changes in the scheme since it was put forward in 2010 -- see Newsletter 119 for details of how it now stands and the minimum changes we would like to see before we would accept it as reasonable.
Wed 10 Apr: Deadline for responding to the consultation on bus cuts proposed by Herts County Council. For full details visit save-our-buses.org.uk which contains links to both the petition form and the county council's consultation document. Please note that for your response to be counted you will have to sign/reply to these even if you signed/replied to the previous versions, as the county council's response to the previous round of consultation was to hold another round!
Hertfordshire is one of our neighbouring counties, and one which has traditionally been supportive of buses, so that it is all the more disappointing to find that it (and other previously supportive counties such as Devon and Derbyshire) are now planning major cuts. Unfortunately hitherto bus passengers have not been able to demonstrate as much nationwide solidarity as most other cuts victims, so please send a response and don't feel that the issue isn't relevant to bus users elsewhere.
See below for some reasons why buses need to be treated as an essential service.
Thur 7 May: This is, of course, the date of the general election, as well as elections in most districts and unitary authorities in England. Election time is when politicians are most receptive to what we have to say, so please take part in pre-election activities and highlight the importance of transport issues to your quality of life.
This may include road building, aviation and land use planning. But buses are probably the most important issue on the whole election agenda, because they cut across so many broad themes:
London has just been celebrating the "Year of the Bus". As the Transport for London website says "Buses also support the needs of our growing city and in turn help it to function as the engine room of the UK's economy". Well, there has been a lot of talk about decentralising the UK's economy -- maybe better buses would enable other "engine rooms" to function better. In particular it would help to reduce the dependency of Cambridge on its proximity to London, while also spreading prosperity to the further reaches of our county beyond the London commuter belt.
The Government talks a lot about connectivity. Road upgrades such as the A14 scheme do improve connectivity, but only for people with access to cars, and at heavy cost both environmental and in terms of congestion in our traditional neighbourhoods (see grounds for objections to the A14 above). Upgrades to the railways avoid these problems, but they only deliver for suitable journeys, and London with its dense rail network is still dependent on buses, so rail by itself will be even less universal for the rest of the country. Cycling and walking improvements only work for shorter journeys. It is buses that are unique as a truly inclusive mode of transport which can take anyone for any journey long or short provided their planning is taken seriously.
Is there any other issue that ticks all these boxes?
Sat 4 July: Details are not yet finalised, but the Chief Executive of Bus Users UK (to which we are affiliated), Claire Walters, will be speaking to the AGM of the Bedford Area Bus Users Society (BABUS), probably in the morning at a venue within Bedford.
As it's after our AGM but before the start of our membership year, we aren't sending any renewal forms out. However those recipients who live in or near Cambridgeshire but are not members are invited to join -- just send a subscription to the Coordinator. The subscription (£5 ordinary, £4 concessionary, £6 group) will be valid till spring 2016. Recipients from further afield would also be welcome.
Note that only paid up members (and some other people such as contacts from other CBT branches) get our annual activities report, financial report and deputy coordinator's report, which are being sent out with the paper version of this newsletter.
Incidentally, while we do not normally make a group response to consultations, we strongly encourage members, and others, to submit their own individual responses. Use relevant articles in our newsletters as guidelines, or if you can't find any or want further guidance let us know.
Issues on which we have recently attended meetings or will soon be doing so include the A14, the City Deal, the proposed cycle/pedestrian bridge between Newmarket Road and the planned Science Park station, and a Cambridge station travel plan. In addition the Coordinator substituted for the intended Campaign for Better Transport (who was unable to come) in the panel at a "Question Time" meeting organised by the Cambridge University Railway Club, at which the other panellists were the candidates from the 3 main parties and the Greens, and representatives of Network Rail and Passenger Focus.
Recently there has been discussion of a rail strategy for Cambs. Our belief is that the prime need is for better access to stations, and we have come up with the following countywide set of proposals. We have no proposals for Newmarket or Whittlesey; for Lakenheath, Littleport, Manea and Shippea Hill see Kennett, Black Bank, Downham Market and Ely North respectively.
Addenbrookes (new station): New bus links to B1046 corridor (Cambourne via Comberton), and direct to Fulbourn then villages on former 16 route towards Haverhill.
Alconbury Weald (station to serve planned new development): New bus links to Ramsey via Abbots Ripton, Wennington, the Raveleys and Upwood, also to Sawtry and Stilton via Abbots Ripton and Woodwalton Turn for Monks Wood NNR. These routes would start at Huntingdon and run through the village.
Ashwell & Morden: Reinstated bus links to both Ashwell and the Mordens.
Audley End: Build park & ride site to the west with direct access to M11 and B1039. Then run frequent buses from P&R site to Audley End station, Saffron Walden town centre and Tesco. Some of these could form part of a longer new route between Stansted Airport and Bury using the M11 (from which only buses and other authorised vehicles would be allowed to exit to the B1039) at one end and a variety of "village" routes between Saffron Walden and Haverhill, which would serve Cambs villages from Linton eastwards.
Black Bank (new station): New bus route from Ely centre to Little Downham and Littleport.
Cambridge: Direct buses to all parts of Cambridge. And move them nearer the station entrance!
Cherry Hinton (new station): Bus link to Addenbrookes, Teversham, Quy and the Wilbrahams (variation of existing route 17).
Chesterford: Enlarge underpass at nearby level crossing on Ickleton Road so that it will take buses, which currently (on route Citi 7) often have to wait ages at the adjacent level crossing.
Downham Market: New triangular bus route linking with Manea (and serving Manea village) and Wisbech, providing access to local villages and Welney WWT.
Dullingham: New bus links to villages south of Newmarket.
Ely: Maintain bus links to Soham (existing route 12) at least until Soham station is reopened -- our prime objection to the county council road proposal, unfortunately now approved, is that it would sever this link. Also to Sutton and Chatteris.
Ely North (new station): This station, proposed in the "Improving Connectivity" report mentioned above, would be served by a bus link from Ely centre to Prickwillow, Shippea Hill, Mildenhall air base and town, probably continuing to Bury. The bus link may be affected by the future of Mildenhall air base, which the US will soon be vacating; if it's used for housing development then regular buses connecting with trains at Shippea Hill and Ely North will be essential to provide sustainable access.
Foxton: Bus link to Harston (existing route 26). The increasing frequency of trains is making this a problem level crossing, and we strongly suspect that a simple A10 bridge would foul up the access to the village -- any suggestions?
Fulbourn (new station): We do not regard any potential bus links as of major strategic importance.
Huntingdon: A14 express between Cambridge and Rugby, connecting with trains there and at Kettering, and also serving intermediate villages by means of stops on the A14 and deviating to serve Thrapston and possibly Spaldwick.
Kennett: Bus to Mildenhall, Lakenheath air base, village and station, Hockwold, Weeting, Brandon, Santon Downham and Thetford. This is a variation of a reamalgamation of 2 existing routes (part 16 and 200) which used to provide a through service between Newmarket and Thetford.
Meldreth: High quality off road cycle and walking link to Melbourn Village College and village, avoiding crossing A10 on the level.
Offord: High priority new station to serve a fair sized village that has lost almost all its buses. This should be coordinated with closure of level crossing and diversion of through traffic from Buckden via new A14, which would require adding a slip road to the proposed scheme (but not widening this section to dual 4 lanes as the Highways Agency believes -- we regard dual 3 lanes as already too much!). Station would have car parks on each side, platforms on slow lines only, and a footbridge usable by non rail passengers, rather like Arlesey. This station should have a new bus link between Cambourne and Kimbolton serving intermediate villages including providing access to Grafham Water.
Royston: Extend existing bus link to the Mordens (route 127) to Wrestlingworth and Biggleswade; upgrade route 331 to provide more direct journeys to Buntingford, Ware and Hertford alternating between the A10 and B1368 corridors; and provide new route to Barley, Chishill, Heydon, Chrishall, Elmdon and Ickleton (continuing to Cambridge or Saffron Walden).
St Neots: As soon as direct trains between Oxford and Bedford are restored a dedicated connecting bus service should run from a station south of Bedford to St Neots station (Loves Farm side), Cambourne and Cambridge (serving West Cambridge, city centre and station). This, and the X5 which will hopefully continue to link Oxford and Cambridge, should connect at St Neots not only with Great Northern (suburban) trains but also with selected Inter-City trains. At present the gap between Stevenage and Peterborough is by far the longest gap between Inter-City stations on the whole ECML, even though St Neots is strategically placed to serve as an interchange for a wide area both before and after the restoration of trains between Bedford and Cambridge.
Shelford: More buses are needed using the direct route to Addenbrookes. Footbridge likely to be needed in future.
Shepreth: A key location for new bus links to the A603 corridor and to Fowlmere, Thriplow and Duxford Heathfield/IWM. Likely to need a bridge over the railway to avoid unreliability in making connections because pedestrians don't know when they can get across.
Waterbeach: New bus link to Waterbeach village, proposed new development at barracks, Landbeach and Cottenham. This station is likely to need a footbridge.
Whittlesford Parkway: Direct access to platforms from new bus stops on A505 (used by Citi 7 and 7A). As an aside, the ban on various right turns at the crossroads west of the station is highly damaging to the prospects for an effective bus network and needs to be reversed, e.g. by building a roundabout there. Alternatively, northbound journeys on the Citi 7 could run via Hunts Rd, A505, Royston Rd and Moorfield Rd to turn left onto the A505 towards Sawston.
In addition to Foxton, Shelford, Shepreth and Waterbeach, other stations may also need new bridges as the number of trains increases. There may not be a need for full compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act if arrangements are made so that trains can wait for prenotified wheelchair users to board them by using the level crossing after the train has entered the station.
A more "far out" idea is a Cambridge Metro which would aim to provide local trains, or light rail services, making frequent stops within the Cambridge area. How about the following routes, each running half hourly. Interchange would be made with main line trains at the junction stations -- Whittlesford Parkway, Waterbeach, Foxton, Science Park, Cambourne South, Fulbourn and March. The termini would be foci for major development which would help sustain the routes.
In January considerable changes were made to the validity of Gold Cards, which can be used by holders of annual season tickets starting or finishing in the Gold Card area. This now covers, in addition to the routes previously covered, most of the area served by the Chiltern, Greater Anglia and London Midland franchises, including some trains run by other operators (but not East Coast or Virgin, both of whom had previously accepted discounted tickets within the relevant area). Furthermore, one can now travel from 09.30 (formerly 10.00) on Mondays to Fridays (and any time at weekends and bank holidays). Those who don't make any rail journey regularly may wish to fork out for a season ticket between Lichfield City and Lichfield Trent Valley, or Ryde Pier Head to Ryde St Johns Road (the latter giving some perks if bought at a South West Trains station); or, if they travel regularly in London, to buy a Zone 2/3 Travelcard which covers most of the Overground and also gives unlimited validity on TfL buses and trams outside these zones.
Note that there is no change to the validity of Network Railcards. Formerly Gold Card holders could buy a Network Railcard for a second person at a greatly reduced rate, now they can get a smaller discount on the cost of any railcard for a second person. There is (and was) no requirement for them to travel together.
We start with the City Deal. This is a scheme whereby the Government gives local authorities help with the cost of infrastructure schemes which are regarded as necessary to support economic growth. Unfortunately, and we regard this as a major design flaw, there is no provision for revenue support to enable buses to serve routes or times where they can't run commercially -- so, given the dispersed pattern of development around Cambridge, car traffic and congestion is likely to continue to grow.
Our cycling representative has produced a couple of opinion articles on City Deal proposals -- see the next section.
We support the proposed bridge which will run close to the existing railway bridge to link the cycling network in the Newmarket Road area with the planned Science Park station -- indeed, we are sceptical as to whether the station would be viable without such a bridge, at least until the surrounding area is developed (and can this be done without overloading the local roads?). At a meeting organised by the Friends of Ditton Meadows, who have misgivings about the scheme, we expressed our sympathies and hoped that a compromise proposal minimising the impact on the meadows might be accepted by all.
Regarding the Magdalene Conspiracy (see Newsletter 114) we have been told the Department for Transport assessed Cambs CC's scheme as giving high economic returns, and that local authorities are under no obligation to consult bus users. But the former doesn't mean that the scheme couldn't have been done better, maintaining the economic returns but avoiding the downsides, and consultation is surely the obvious way for alternative options to be discussed.
In Peterborough the Waitrose formerly near the bus station in Queensgate has now moved to just north of the rail station. As a result a new pedestrian crossing has been provided across Bourges Boulevard. Both of these will help people changing trains at Peterborough use their layover to get food, either at Waitrose or at one of the takeaways on Lincoln Road.
Finally, a leaflet has been produced which gives full details of the Bike Bus Explorer. To recap what we said in Newsletter 118, it is supported by S Cambs District Council, Cambridge City Council and the National Trust, and does 4 trips from Cambridge station to Gamlingay on Sundays and holidays by one of two routes returning by the other. The area in question is now better served on Sundays than on weekdays, and we hope that local villagers will also use it to visit Cambridge for shopping or whatever.
The following articles are due to our cycling representative Jim Chisholm.
Do we really need expensive bus lanes?
The City Deal proposes bus lanes, on long sections of several major routes into Cambridge, but these will be both expensive and controversial, and early delivery will be difficult. It is important that buses don't get delay by slow queues of private car traffic, but is there a more cost effective way of delivering benefits? I hope I can show there is and that it works elsewhere.
Both Milton Road and Histon Road provide obvious obstacles to otherwise effective bus routes down the Guided Busway, from local villages and from P&R sites, but bus lanes through their much of their length would be extremely costly and provide little extra capacity on many sections.
It is not the capacity of the roads that is the problem but the capacity of the junctions at the ends that is the issue. Reduce the flow on those sections of road and there would be no queues from the junctions and a huge reduction in bus delays. The obvious way would be reduce overall the number of private car trips into the city, say by road user charging. Although it would probably only need a reduction of about 10%, that is clearly a step too far, but there are more subtle methods, which although involving some (expensive) highway engineering, rely mainly on traffic management.
So why are bus lane schemes so expensive? Buses are heavy. The damaging power to road structure of a single loaded bus is more than that of around 20m bicycles! (The damage is proportional to the 4th power of the wheel weight: say 60kg & 4 tonnes.) This means unlike for a cycle lane or footway, miles of services, such as water, gas, electricity, telephone or cable, will need to be moved or specially reinforced even before any other work starts. "Statutory Undertakers" work can take months of disruption and cost many millions.
If any compulsory purchase of private land is needed that can add years to the timescale, and should trees and grass verges need to be removed outside private properties local opposition can be forceful.
So how do we achieve the objective at a lower cost?
Zurich does it City wide, but SCOOT, an Urban Traffic Control system already in use in parts of Cambridge can do it locally. It is called "Gating" or queue relocation: "Traditional bus priority measures have failed to provide continuous priority along congested links and through oversaturated junctions. Queue relocation techniques have shown significant benefits in dealing with these issues and have been introduced at a number of isolated sites."
We do have similar systems on some busy motorways and it has been long in use on highways in the USA and called "ramp metering". After these confusing terms you need a simple explanation: "We count them out and we count them in."
On motorways it was realised that when congestion occurs capacity drops further from that achieved in "free flow", so regulating flow can perhaps paradoxically increase throughput (a lot of traffic theory and practice in traffic management is paradoxical). On motorways this is achieved by placing traffic lights on slip roads, and restricting access to the motorway if a critical level of flow is achieved. It works!
On the narrow sections of Histon Road and Milton Road if the traffic is free flowing, as it is for much of the day and all of the night, no significant delays will occur to buses so no bus lanes are needed.
Nearer to the A14 Northern Bypass there are wider sections of road with grass verges and few adjacent private properties. By creating sections of bus lanes here with perhaps two lanes of other traffic that can be delayed, we can "regulate" (gate?) that other traffic into the narrow sections such that no queues form and buses have a smooth and uninterrupted journey to the City centre, or at least as far as Arbury Road and Victoria Road. Between Brownlow Road on Histon Road and The Golden Hind on Milton Road and the A14 there is space, with some local widening (expensive Highway Engineering including removal of trees and grass verges, but not, in general outside private houses!). This could allow temporary stacking of up to 400 cars whilst allowing free passage of buses. It might not seem many, but should result in a very significant improvement in bus reliability.
Of course there are issues, and a major one, although apparently remote, is the M11 or A14. Queues from slip roads onto Highways Agency fast roads can result in serious crashes, and at busy times the use of "queue detectors" on such slip roads may result in traffic leaving such roads having priority over other traffic. I think this is the reason for such serious morning peak queues up Madingley Hill. Once queues on Madingley Road reach the M11 J13, it in effect seriously reduces the capacity down Madingley Hill. The Highways Agency could veto any traffic management system if it was feared that slip road queues would increase.
Less of a problem to solve is "rat running". Drivers will take routes long in distance but shorter in time, often on unsuitable residential streets to avoid queues. It may even take them longer, but they feel less frustrated when moving than when stationary. "Filtered permeability", where access is available only on foot or bike (or even bus), would be required at a few locations, and a benefit might be gained by relocating some existing ones. It would take a surprisingly small amount of private car traffic to be "gated" for a surprisingly small amount of time to give big advantages to public transport.
Any advantage qiven to buses should result in win-win-win strongly positive feedback loops:
The current situation with more private cars resulting in more delays and less reliability for public transport reduces the attractiveness of public transport resulting in strongly negative feedback loops.
Work here cannot solve all the problems of congestion, but increasing peak hour bus reliability from say 80% to 95% should bring us closer to a tipping point where public transport or bike is the obvious mode in and around Cambridge.
Appendix: In the early 80s Jim helped for a while in the team that developed SCOOT. There is a short online video the "Zurich Traffic System" or a longer version There is a PDF of an article regarding the principles of "Gating" using the SCOOT Urban Traffic Control Systemt: Advice Leaflet 2: Congestion Management in SCOOT).
Why South Cambridgeshire Cycle Routes are so Economically Important
The key to getting the economic benefits by reducing congestion is to nudge drivers away from private cars. The best chance of influencing such decisions is when users make other changes. Having facilities available when they move house or start a new job will result in the greatest change.
If this switch is for the whole trip (with walk, cycle, bus and train contributing), there are also economic gains to be made by enabling households to function with fewer cars.
The main alternative for many in villages within 6 miles of Cambridge who drive, either to work or to a P&R site, is to cycle. For those further out there should be the alternative of cycling to a local "hub" well served by public transport.
Cycling from necklace villages has nearly doubled (89% increase) in the past 9 years, with over 10,000 trips now recorded each weekday.
The Shelford to Addenbrookes path, well away from busy roads, opened in 2006, now has over 1,000 trips per typical weekday, without significant reduction in cycling on adjacent roads.
Census data (2011) show 8.5% in Sawston cycling to work, yet only 2.7% in Bar Hill, both of which are similar distances from Cambridge. The reason is obvious: NO easy cycle routes from Bar Hill.
Cycle routes do need to be of a quality such that those who can cycle, but are not confident in heavy traffic, or on poor surfaces, will cycle 5 days per week. They need to be usable by a wide range of ages and abilities, on ordinary bikes and in ordinary clothes. Those young people who become independent by cycling to school or college are less likely to become car dependant when they start to work.
Congestion reduction should be significant: In the County's 2013 Cambridge Cordon survey there were about 160,000 car and 10,000 bike trips across the cordon. If we could double the recent increase in cycling trips by transfers from driving, it would reduce car trips by about 10%. This is about the same reduction as occurs in peak hour car trips on the main radials between a half term week and term time week. We all know how little peak hour car congestion there is in half term weeks.
Hence, in theory, such a switch would almost eliminate congestion in Cambridge. Of course just as with, say insulating your house, not all such benefits will be achieved. If you insulate your house you will almost certainly then keep it at a more comfortable temperature during cold weather. If we reduce traffic on the main radials, such that congestion, especially important for buses, is significantly reduced, more trips will be generated, hence negating any benefits, unless other measures such as controlling parking are taken.
Even just getting 100 peak hour drivers into Cambridge out of their cars and onto bikes would reduce the net peak hour queue lengths by around half a mile!
Safer routes to Schools -- and more: Many of the proposed schemes offer much better routes to Village Colleges. That not only gives the degree of independence mentioned above, but also reduces car traffic and the need for school buses. It also offers opportites for other utility trips, say for work or shopping. Such routes are especially valuable for small communities, with no shop, pub or local primary school, and on busy rural roads.
What about "local hubs"? The plans propose some local hubs, but we already have a number of rural railway stations which, with much improved cycle routes and parking, would make excellent rural hubs. Proposed improvements in train frequency, and the Science Park station, add significant extra value to such schemes as they remove the need for car trips in the congested area around Cambridge.
Are existing Cambridge P&R sites not just "local hubs"? There is already congestion on the approaches to many P&R sites and when full this negates much of the value for occasional users. Providing capacity on approaches and for extra parking on the site is expensive. For just the cost of another 500 spaces it should be possible to construct around 4 miles of quality cycle route. Enabling these alternatives frees up car space for those from further away who have fewer alternatives.
The true economic benefit of such cycle routes will be higher than that in the published assessment, as the DfT EAST process precluded the inclusion of any health benefits. When health benefits are included using "Health Economic Assesment Tools" the benefits from such routes are likely to at least double.
As usual we conclude with our roundup of news from the bus world -- almost all bad.
In Cambridgeshire the link from Cottenham to Ely (route 106) was removed last autumn, though the weekly 110 survives. The villages north of Wilburton remain linked to Ely by a new service. Also disappeared from Cambridgeshire are the schooltime journeys on route 43 between Royston and Chrishall, though the Saturday services (some of which run through to/from Bishops Stortford) survive. And Cambs CC's draft timetables for tender suggest that the 75 beyond Orwell (including the journeys which provide a weekday service to Wimpole Hall), the 115 (Ely-Gold Hill Corner) and 196 (Cambridge-Waterbeach) might not last much longer, ditto the entire West Hunts network (400-9) except for commuter, school and shopping journeys to Huntingdon. Also the frequency of the Citi 6 between Cambridge and Oakington, which is part of the Stagecoach commercial network, was reduced early this year.
Arriva announced the withdrawal of route 797 between Stevenage and London from 28 Feb. This is the last remnant of a route that used to run through to/from Cambridge via Baldock and Royston, which used to provide a joint hourly service with the 798 (which went via the A10 corridor south of Royston). We are sure that the existence of such a through service was one of the reasons why loadings were much higher than those on the 26 (Cambridge-Royston) and 331 (Royston-Hertford, supported by Herts CC) today. We reported on these cuts in Newsletters 16, 27 and 60. The good news is that Uno will be taking on the Stevenage-London service, though only Mondays to Fridays. Note that this route enters London by a different approach to trains from either Cambridge or Stevenage, or National Express coaches from Cambridge, thus providing a convenient facility for those wishing to travel to/from this area (Brent Cross and Finchley Road).
Major cuts are due in East Sussex around Easter and it also looks as if Leicestershire's Rural Rider network, currently operated by Centrebus, which serves villages east and south of Leicester, will disappear.
There is quite a bit to say about changes in Buckinghamshire and South Bedfordshire. Alternate weekday buses between Luton and Leighton Buzzard now use the faster guided busway route to Dunstable and the A505 for part of the way from there to Leighton Buzzard. These journeys also extend to Milton Keynes using a different route to the 70, and are numbered F70. There is now a half hourly bus service between Aylesbury and Buckingham, up from hourly, but almost all journeys use the main road between Whitchurch and Winslow, so the villages on the former route are now down to 2 hourly. Hourly journeys by the main road extend to Milton Keynes, giving a faster running time than the 150 via Leighton Buzzard, though slower than the former direct 100. On Sundays, the supported service continues as before, with 4 journeys between Aylesbury and Buckingham. The section between Buckingham and Milton Keynes is of course also served by the X5.
Most Cambridge people will probably have noticed the new vehicles in use on the X5. Being less manoeuvrable they no longer go through Buckingham town centre but do a double run from the A422 to the bus station, which as well as being a longer route may subject them to peak time delays on the A421. The route has also been split into sections to enable it to run under UK rather than EU driving hours regulations. (In Newsletter 99 we highlighted some dire effects that were predicted when the latter came into force for longer distance local bus routes, but fortunately a workround was found involving splitting routes into sections while allowing buses to run through with passengers remaining on board, and also maintaining through ticketing.
The Aylesbury-Claydon route 16 passed to a different operator following retendering and the same operator runs commercial route 17 along the main road between Aylesbury and Bicester, Sundays included. This means that walkers can at last get access on a Sunday to places of interest near Waddesdon (Waddesdon Manor, Bucks Railway Centre and Quainton Windmill -- the last is only open on Sundays and that's also the date for many events at the railway centre). However it is still impossible to travel directly between Claydon and either Bicester or Buckingham on a Saturday (let alone a Sunday). And there are no current plans to rectify the situation when the first stage of the east-west rail link reopens, so that passenger trains from Bicester and Aylesbury en route to Winslow, Bletchley and beyond will pass nonstop through Claydon.
Finally, the major attraction of Whipsnade Zoo is to lose its Sunday service after Easter. At present it's served by Centrebus X31 on weekdays and Arriva 31 on Sundays. This marks a further step in disintegration on the corridor between Aylesbury and Luton, once served by Cambridge-Oxford express coaches. It still has an hourly weekday service on Arriva 61 but years of non-cooperation between Bucks CC and Beds CC (now Central Beds Council) means that buses in the area never had a chance to attract potential custom from passengers travelling between these major regional centres (and the nearby subcentres of Dunstable, Tring and Wendover). Route 50 does still offer 3 Sunday journeys between Aylesbury, Wendover, Tring, Marsworth, Pitstone and Ivinghoe, serving many places of interest en route.
A few updates to our last newsletter on leisure bus services in Britain. Also note the references to routes 17, 31, 50 and 61 above.
Herts: The Paradise Wildlife Park runs its own bus all year round from Broxbourne station. One used to have to ask the station to summon it on arrival but now it runs a scheduled service, shown on Traveline. For an alternative return route walk from the Park to Bayford station via Broxbourne Woods National Nature Reserve. Day return tickets from Cambridge to Enfield stations (slightly cheaper than to London termini) can be used to/from both Broxbourne and Bayford.
W Sussex: Last year a heritage bus operator, Southern Transit, ran a summer weekend service between Horsham and Shoreham largely following the old railway. Apparently it was successful so we hope to see it again this year. For the 2014 timetable see.
Devon: The free Sidmouth Hopper (see Newsletters 113 and 116), which penetrates the countryside each side of the town, ran in 2014 and we hope it will run again in 2015. Perhaps less likely are the Tuesday journeys on the Totnes Community Bus route, which last year ran a summer service on top of the all year Friday service between Totnes and Stoke Gabriel. The Tuesday service diverted via attractive country lanes to serve local holiday camps, though the direct route used on Fridays also involves attractive country lanes.
Lancashire and the North: The Pendle Witch Hopper provides weekday services by 2 routes between Nelson and Clitheroe (routes 7/7A), also in summer (at least in 2014) a Sunday service by a variation of one of these routes (7S) and by a third route (72 via Burnley). Further north, in Cumbria, the section of route of the 564 between Kirkby Stephen and Sedbergh has now indeed been withdrawn except for a schoolday service, and other communities such as Alston and Shap are similarly isolated. Most bus routes in the Yorkshire Dales that haven't already been axed are likely to run this year but beyond that their future is likely to depend on the availability of national or regional funding. But isn't national funding appropriate for a national park?