Cambridgeshire Campaign for Better Transport

Newsletter 124, March 2017


As this is bring written, the attention of the UK is focused on the triggering of Article 50 which is to lead to our withdrawal from the EU. There has also been talk of the UK withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights (which is quite separate) and repealing the Human Rights Act which incorporated much of it into UK law. Will these moves have any major implications for transport?

There will almost certainly be indirect implications. Withdrawal from the EU will affect our economy, as will the consequent changes in exchange rates. So will a new immigration regime. There may also be changes to people's travel patterns (including foreign visitors). It is hard to assess whether these will help or hinder the cause of transport sustainability.

Disengagement from the EU and ECHR is worrying human rights campaigners, but transport should not be affected as it's not covered by existing legislation. The anti-discrimination provisions of the ECHR include a ban on discrimination on grounds of "property", which could be held to protect people without access to cars, but no legal case has ever been brought on such grounds. It's a disgrace that some ferry operators and Eurotunnel are allowed to impose a complete ban on foot passengers -- though for some reason it's only routes serving the UK that are affected (or was last time we checked). Also, one of the Protocols of the ECHR also provides for "freedom of travel within national borders", but this hasn't been ratified by the UK.

Some of us had hoped that the opening of the Channel Tunnel would lead to better integration of rail services between the UK and Continental Europe. This hasn't happened, and indeed the withdrawal of many ferry services -- including all routes to Scandinavia -- has given air travel (a heavily polluting mode of transport) a monopoly for many journeys. Day trips to the French and Belgian coastal belt are also more difficult.

Before the industrial age many people spent their whole lives within a few miles of their birthplace. Nowadays many people have to travel every day beyond reasonable walking distance for such basics as access to work, education, healthcare or food supplies, and it's time we were given a basic human right of affordable transport without having to buy and drive our own vehicles. After all, we're no longer expected to grow our own food (and we can even get away without the need to cook it), make our own clothes, cure our illnesses or teach our children much of the knowledge basic to our society, so why should we be expected to be responsible for transport, especially when the detrimental effects of mass individual vehicle onwership are so manifest?

Locally, on Thur 4 May there are elections for the new Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and for Cambridgeshire County Council, who together are responsible for most decisions relating to local transport. This will offer us a chance to get through the democratic process what has to date been denied us as a legal right: a comprehensive public transport network fit for a 21th century society. The following service standards should be the absolute minimum:

1. For all communities: to a nearby town at worktimes and schooltimes, and for shopping at least 2 days a week. All but the most remote communites should be served 2 hourly 6 days a week from morning to evening peaks.

2. For main villages: hourly daytime 6 days a week, evening connections off trains (especially from London, which people should be able to leave after the evening peak) and coaches, access to evening entertainment at weekends, and, on Sundays, access to shopping and the ability to return home from weekends away.

3. For market towns, the main "necklace" villages around Cambridge and Peterborough, and urban neighbourhoods: half hourly daytime 6 days a week, hourly evenings and Sundays.

Note that many communities could expect a higher level of service than indicated above because they lie on routes linking larger communities.

Branch News

Our 2016 AGM was held on Sat 26 Nov. A report of this meeting, together with the activities and financial reports submitted thereto, is being sent to all paid up members and to other transport activists who normally receive printed newsletters. (Note: if you do not get this and want it, you would normally be expected to join our group!)

The resolution suspending subscriptions for 2016-7 was passed at the AGM. However, subscriptions are now due for 2017-8. So please note the following:

(a) If you had been a paid up member but your last payment was for 2014-5, you won't get a printed newsletter. However you can update your membership to 2017-8 by sending a cheque for £10 ordinary, £8 concessionary, £12 group or household, made payable to "Cambs Campaign for Better Transport", to Simon Norton, 6 Hertford St, Cambridge CB4 3AG.

(b) If your last payment was for 2015-6, you will receive a printed newsletter (plus the enclosures mentioned above) with a renewal slip. As you're not being asked to pay for 2016-7 the choice is between renewing for 1 year (2017-8) at the rates on page 1 of this newsletter, or for 2 years (2017-9) at the rates in the last paragraph.

(c) If your last payment was for 2016-7, this will be transferred to 2017-8, so you're fully paid up for now. You'll therefore receive a printed newsletter with enclosures, but no renewal slip.

Date for your diary (if you receive this in time)

In connection with the mayoral elections, Cambridge Carbon Footprint, Anglia Ruskin University and Peterborough Environment City Trust are holding a hustings, concentrating on environmental issues including transport, at which all the mayoral candidates will be present (in Cambridge, with the event livestreamed to Peterborough). This will start at 18.00 (doors open 17.30) on Fri 31 Mar at the Lord Ashcroft International Business School, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge CB1 1PT. Finish is expected around 20.00. The Peterborough venue will be Guild House, Oundle Road, Peterborough PE2 9PW. Booking is recommended, though not absolutely essential -- see the website for details (this also has a link to PECT's web page).

There will of course be other hustings events in the runup to the election on Thur 4 May, and don't forget to vote then!

Following our AGM we suggested that the members present produce articles giving their visions for the future of Cambridge and Cambridgeshire. The following were received. These represent the personal opinions of the contributors and should not be regarded as Cambs CBT policy.

From Heike Sowa, Rail Haverhill

For the first time I attended your interesting AGM on Sat 26 Nov 2016 and I was pleased that I was accepted as a new member. Thank you.

My name is Heike Sowa and I live in Haverhill. I use the car to commute to Addenbrookes on a regular basis. I cannot use the bus because my working hours are irregular and often till late in the evening. Either the 13 bus doesn't run that late or the times are unsuitable. And on the evening it takes a long time for the bus to arrive in Haverhill because the route is illogical and poorly planned by Stagecoach. The faster route 13X is only available at peak times. All the 13X buses are full, with people standing all the way to Cambridge. By the time the bus reaches Sainsburys in Haverhill there are no seats available.

Traffic on the A1307 is getting extremely busy and the bus gets stuck in it. For a long time Rail Haverhill has been campaigning to reconstruct the railway. Here is an overview.

Haverhill is located SE of Cambridge in Suffolk, but on the borders of Essex and Cambs. It is a town with nearly 30,000 people and one of the largest towns in England without a railway. The town will grow to 40,000 people under current development plans.

Rail Haverhill is a non-political campaign group. The railway reconnecting Haverhill to Cambridge will play an important part in regulating road traffic and improving the quality of life for many people in the region. The railway will connect people and businesses to wider areas beyond Cambridge via the ever improving and growing national rail network.

Local road traffic congestion will be relieved, especially along the A1307. Buses will be able to run on time again, especially in the peaks.

The railway will give people and businesses a choice of travel not available at the moment. Since summer 2015 4000 people from the 3 counties have so far signed the petition in support of the reconstruction of the railway. Signatures from adults and children are accepted as long as they live in one of the 3 counties. Please support the railway project by signing our online petition.

From Alan Quick, Chair

Nottingham is the first place in the UK to introduce a workplace parking levy (WPL). The levy raised £7.8m in 2012-3 and £8.4m in 2013-4.

Cambridgeshire County Council is now considering a WPL as an alternative to funding the Cambridge Park & Ride service. It is estimated by the Council the WPL could generate between £7-11m per annum; only a proportion of this funding would therefore be required to offset the Park & Ride income target of about £1.2m per annum. However it should be noted that the introduction of a WPL incurs other costs such as the extension of neighbourhood parking control zones.

In the past the County has taken the view that a WPL was not justified in that it targeted commuters who drive to work, and it's only worthwhile if there are overall economic and quality of life benefits. It also took the view that it would be essential for improvements to public transport to be put in place before any charges could be levied.

In using Nottingham as a model the following factors should be considered. Nottingham has a small official city boundary with a population of just 306,000 compared to the wider Nottingham Urban Area with a population estimated at 733,000. In comparison Cambridge has an estimated population of 129,000, including 25,000 students. Cambridge and S Cambs combined have an estimated population of 282,000.

The Cambridge central area is much more compact than Nottingham. An indicator could be that the annual season ticket cost for parking at the Queen Anne car park in Cambridge is just under £2000, nearly twice the cost of an annual season ticket for Nottingham city centre car parks.

Also both Nottingham and Cambridge have a sector of a ring road built in the 1930s. In Cambridge the A1134 (single carriageway) in the Perne Road area is about 2.8km from the city centre. In Nottingham the A6130 Lenton Boulevard (dual carriageway) is 1.8km from the city centre.

The Nottingham justification for the scheme is that the Council has introduced a WPL to tackle problems associated with traffic congestion, by both providing funding for major transport infrastructure initiatives and by acting as an incentive for employers to manage their workplace parking provision. "Money raised from the WPL goes towards NET Phase 2 (extensions, now open, to the tram system), the redevelopment of Nottingham Rail Station and also supports the popular Link bus network."

I haven't been able to find any data to show that the level of traffic congestion has changed in Nottingham. However the attractions of a dedicated transport link are shown by Nottingham City Transport's announcement that it will make alterations to the bus routes it operates from Sun 29 Jan after a review of the impact of the tram line running in the Clifton area. "NCT has served Clifton since the estate was built more than 60 years ago. The tram line, which runs from Nottingham station to Clifton South, opened in Aug 2015. Bus use in some parts of Clifton remains good, but there are some parts where usage has fallen by more than 30% since the tram started operating."

Cambridge has no existing dedicated public transport link crossing the City, unlike Nottingham. Indeed the dedicated link from the Trumpington P&R site to the rail station is hobbled by the lack of a turning point at the station.

The County Council proposals appear to be an attempt to prop up the existing park & ride scheme which has shown a fall in ridershup by about 14% since the introduction of parking charges. The County Council quote a 55% occupancy of the sites at present with patronage remaining relatively stable recently.

Below is a snapshot of the patronage at the various park & ride sites on a couple of weekdays recently:

Site 09.15 12.30
Madingley Road 75%90%
Trumpington 50%70%
Babraham Road 35%45%
Newmarket Road 15%30%
Milton 15%30%

Note that Madingley Road is used by construction workers on the University NW site, while Trumpington has special buses for workers on the new Papworth Hospital and Astra Zeneca sites.

On the basis of the above data I have no confidence that any money raised by the WPL will be used to reduce congestion considering that the areas of future employment growth are outside the central area and the existing P&R is in retreat.

The County Council seems to have no future vision and cannot show any overall economic and quality of life benefits which were previously a requirement to justify a WPL.

In my opinion a WPL should only be considered in conjunction with a dedicated cross Cambridge transport link, Nottingham have shown the way with a tram but a guided bus or any other public transport that is not competing with cars for space could be considered.

Letter to Cambridge City Deal signed by Susan Jourdain, Secretary

Whereas we understand that you need to spend the grant monies quickly and have chosen popular items for investment, our AGM agreed that some of the projects are not being carried out to a good, safe standard. We would also ask you to be braver in supporting projects which are generally beneficial but unlikely to be supported by County finances. In particular, we want a break bulk depot rather than a 2nd Park & Ride site beyond an existing one.

With our principle of reducing environmental damage, we agreed to ask for:

Particular projects with our support include:

For Mill Road: There are 2 major problems on Mill Road: delivery vehicles and cycles in front of buses. Solutions are hard to find but we suggest

From Simon Norton, Coordinator

This is intended to represent an overall vision for Cambridge and Cambridgeshire.

There are two main problems to be solved. The first is to provide a countywide (and across the boundary) public transport network which will cater for the vast majority of the journeys people need to make, so that people who can't or don't want to use cars are relieved of the ever increasing restrictions on their movements that have resulted from the bus cuts of recent years; and the second is to implement a "carrot and stick" approach so that motoring is seen as the mode of last resort rather than the default means of travel, thus relieving congestion (mainly but not solely in Cambridge) and enabling buses to run reliably, and turning our streets from car dominated avenues of pollution and noise to pleasant places to walk or cycle.

The first can be achieved relatively quickly, as all it needs is finance -- and not much of that compared with the huge expense of the A14 upgrade or even the Cambs guided busway. We need political action to overthrow the infrastructure obsession which has led to bus revenue support being squeezed for mere millions of savings while billions are spent on infrastructure. But there are some options which would unlock finance even under the present system:

1. Revenue from a workplace parking levy. Ideally this should cover the whole region and not just Cambridge, giving employers a real incentive to locate in places with good car-free access. And we could also do with legislation to allow the introduction of a supermarket parking levy, which would help reverse the decline of traditional town centre and local neighbourhood shops.

2. Developer contributions. As long as it's hard to find funding from other sources provision of adequate public transport should be a first call on Section 106 contributions from developers. This could start with a policy of ensuring that all major new developments meet the standards given at the end of the headline article above.

3. Savings from moving to a franchise system. The report reviewed in our last newsletter suggested that huge savings could be made by using the powers of the Bus Services Bill to move from a deregulated to a francised bus network. These savings could and should be used to upgrade the level of service available in those areas that have lost out in recent years.

4. Go for "Total Transport". This is the name given to an approach whereby the resources of all organisations that need transport -- schools, workplaces etc. -- are pooled and used to procure a comprehensive network. There really is no reason why every community with secondary school pupils shouldn't have a bus every schoolday, and it wouldn't take much more to provide worktime links to a nearby town. Larger communities could benefit too, e.g. from a faster bus between Cambridge and Saffron Walden serving the various science and research parks in between.

The advent of "Cambridge Connect" -- a scheme for a light rail system for the Cambridge area incorporating a tunnel under the central area -- has opened up new opportunities for solving the second, more long term, problem. I would also like to suggest that it could deal with the problem of getting the east-west rail link into Cambridge station.

My proposal is that this route, instead of entering Cambridge from the south or north, should share tracks with the light rail system. Trains from Cambridge station would stop only at an underground station in Cambridge city centre before surfacing on the west side of the city, then continuing parallel to the A428 to serve a new station at Cambourne, then continuing to St Neots, Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford.

Both Cambourne and St Neots would be major interchanges: the former with light rail for communities between Cambourne and Cambridge, and with local buses including routes to Huntingdon, Biggleswade (via Gamlingay) and St Ives; the latter with suburban and inter-city trains to London, Peterborough and the North, as well as local buses in all directions. I would expect passengers to/from destinations north of Peterborough to make up a significant proportion of the revenue generated by the east-west railway.

In suggesting this idea I have met with considerable scepticism about its feasibility. Well, maybe it isn't feasible; but if we don't put it on the table for study we will never know, and I think that its advantages are so great that if it is feasible it should become the preferred option. Based on existing provision on cross country routes I would envisage the main line service as running about half hourly using 3 or 4 coach electric units, and any east-west freight could use the route via Letchworth and Sandy which is too circuitous to be attractive to passengers but better suited to the less time sensitive freight.

Meanwhile we need to adopt the principle of not digging ourselves further into a hole. Residents in the Milton and Histon Road areas have been up in arms about the potential loss of trees to Cambridge City Deal proporals, but were less in evidence when it came to objecting to widening the A14 which will feed extra traffic into these roads. We now need to object to the A428 upgrade between Caxton Gibbet and the Black Cat, and, in the longer term, to the Cambridge to Oxford Expressway and major upgrades to the A1.

The closing date for comments on proposals for the A428 is Sun 23 Apr. All options involve a largely new route rather than widening the existing road. We believe this is unnecessary (as a regular user of the X5 bus route I can testify that this is not where delays are most frequent), damaging (by encouraging traffic growth which as well as causing more pollution will exacerbate problems in other areas such as Cambridge) and extravagant (because the money could better be used on solving the real transport problems of the area), but there may well be a case for grade separated junctions at the two ends (Caxton Gibbet and the Black Cat) which are subject to delays. Though as Highways England has just spent a lot of effort upgrading the Black Cat roundabout this wouldn't reflect well on its management of our money.

Roads News

This leads onto the subject of roads policy. A recent report commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) adds yet another to the series of reports showing that the roads programme is not achieving any worthwhile objectives in return for the environmental damage it causes.

Back in the real world, the signs are very worrying -- schemes like the A14 upgrade, the A428 dualling, and the Cambridge-Oxford and A1 Expressways are being pursued heedless of their impact either on the environment or on local traffic problems. It's as if the Government are saying it's up to local authorities to deal with any spillover traffic problems, though not even packages like the City Deal give them enough resources to do so, especially with the lack of provision for bus revenue support, which is essential if we are to get a comprehensive network.

We have been represented at several workshops on the Cambridge-Oxford and A1 Expressways and the impression we have been given is that however much their organisers claim that no decision has yet been made the bulk of any money available will go to roads rather than public transport. We have been told that Highways England will get all money from vehicle licences within a few years. But buses pay licence fees too so why can't some of the money be used for their benefit?

When roadworks are in progress steps are usually taken to ensure that there is provision for essential movements. But recently it emerged that Highways England had forgotten to make provision for people visiting Cambridge Crematorium by bus: the state of the roadworks meant that the bus stop that has hitherto been available could not be used, and there is no other bus stop within miles -- well one might be able to persuade a driver on Whippet 8 to stop at Oakington turn but that only runs 3 times a day, and depending on the works in operation it may not be a safe walk from there anyway. To be fair, Highways England has admitted that it made a mistake and is looking for a way round the problem -- but 2 months on there is still no sign of a solution. Non-motorists do not cease to be the victims of discrimination even after death!

We urge all readers to let your next of kin know that if you die before decent access is restored to the Crematorium you want your funeral to be held somewhere else which is accessible to public transport users. And also tell any relatives and friends in the Cambridge area whose funeral you might wish to attend that you may not be able to do so at the Crematorium while present circumstances remain in being. People should not be expected to put up with the humiliation of being treated as the underclass in order to pay their last respects to their friends and relatives.

While researching this issue we had a look at other places along the A14 which have lost their bus stops. Whether or not this was mandated by safety considerations is irrelevant. There's Catch Hall, just short of the Crematorium -- the Coordinator knows about that one because he once got out there by mistake when on the way to a funeral! There's Lolworth turn, formerly used by someone who worked in the same office as the Coordinator. There's Buckingway Business Park, where car ownership should not be a necessary qualification to apply for a job. There's the turn for Conington and Fen Drayton -- villages very poorly served otherwise. And, further along the A14, there's the Woodland Hospital between Kettering and Rothwell. This may be a private hospital, but staff, patients and visitors still need to get there.

The whole "expressway" philosophy is that vehicles should not be allowed to stop and there should be no direct access to premises. This is the direct opposite of our belief that such roads should have frequent and fast buses serving a series of roadside stops which would provide high quality services for nearby communities. See Cambs CBT response to the Government's "A14 Challenge" consultation 5 years ago in which this point was made.

Beyond this we would support a philosophy of "nultimodalism" under which an overall transport plan is worked out covering problems faced by all modes of transport on a given corridor. This contrasts with the present policy under which Highways England concentrates on problems faced by long distance car and lorry drivers, with few resources available to deal with problems faced by other groups, such as people who want to get to Cambridge Crematorium by bus.

Rail news

First, a quickie on an important issue. Budget proposals have been released in the US which would eliminate all funding for long distance trains. See It is not clear what we Europeans can do to help the cause but we hope something will emerge.

Back home, we are concerned by the apparent Network Rail philosophy that all level crossings are unsafe. Yes, there can be problems with motorists who try to beat the gates, rail passengers who need to get across to buy a ticket (for which the remedy is to provide ticket machines on both sides), and people who stay glued to their mobile phones while using the crossing, but, properly used, crossings are safe -- certainly more so than many roads, which walkers may be forced onto if crossings are closed.

There are also concerns that higher train frequencies are making some crossings unusable by road traffic. In built up areas provision of bridges may jeopardise local access -- for example at Foxton on the A10, if the access to the village was closed this might further prejudice the future of the bus route which was recently cut (see below). Here, we suggest traffic management measures to divert through traffic via the M11 and A505, and to provide a park & ride facility for motorists from south of the crossing heading for Cambridge.

We have been represented in meetings of the newly set up Shelford & Whittlesford Rail User Group (SAWRUG). For more information about this group contact Michael Kilpatrick at michael AT

Whittlesford is a particular problem area, and we have suggested the following package to the village's neighbourhood plan consultation:

  1. Downgrade the A505 (east of the M11) to give a higher status to local movements. It may be possible to remove some traffic by providing new slip roads between the A11 and M11 North. Facilities should include bus stops and pedestrian crossings near the railway bridge and at Moorfield Road, the latter also having a roundabout to allow traffic movements in all directions. Further new bus stops at the A1301 roundabout and Pampisford turn.
  2. Lifts from the eastbound carriageway to both platforms, which with the pedestrian crossing would provide adequate level access. Plus stairs from the westbound carriageway.
  3. Development of walking and possibly cycling routes linking local communities and providing access to existing or new stations. These include the rights of way between Spicers crossing (west of Sawston) and the north end of Whittlesford village, and from south Sawston to Whittlesford Mill; plus a new route from Pampisford Mill to Station Road East.
  4. Provide a bridge to allow Citi 7 buses to avoid the crossing north of Great Chesterford.
  5. Buses between Cambridge and Shelford/Sawston to be modified so as to serve either Trumpington or Addenbrookes but not both. Existing frequencies to be maintained. Guided busway may be used. South of Shelford would incorporate existing Citi 7 plus a new circular route amalgamating Whippet 31 and 7A.
  6. Buses providing worker access to local employment sites such as the Genome Campus at Hinxton should be open to everyone and designed as part of a comprehensive network (e.g. to provide faster journeys between Cambridge and Saffron Walden).

As for Shelford, the overwhelming problem is the lack of a footbridge which means that people with trains to catch may be at risk of being stranded on the wrong platform.

Kimbolton visit

In our last newsletter we gave (very late) notification about a group visit to Kimbolton Castle organised privately by the Coordinator. The castle, used as an independent school, has occasional open days, but always on Sundays when no buses are available. However the local historical society, who organise these open days, are prepared to show groups of people round the castle by arrangement when it is not in use by the school. They told us they would waive the normal minimum charge of 15 people, and a date was agreed during the autumn half term.

After advertising the trip to contacts in Bedfordshire and London as well as Cambridgeshire, we did in fact manage to get exactly 15 people to come, though for some of them it was a near thing as our recommended train from London, the 10.00 to Bedford, was cancelled. All three bus routes -- the 28 from Bedford, the 150 from St Neots and the 400 from Huntingdon -- were used. Our guides, Nora Butler of the historical society and her husband, were very knowledgeable and everyone enjoyed the visit, with some people asking where we might go next. Here are some options.

With careful planning it may be possible to combine visits to more than one of the last four, or to include others such as Kirby Hall or Lyveden New Bield, both of which are reasonably walkable from bus services which run on days when they're open and on which no booking is necessary.

If you're interested in visiting any of these places, or (better still) in organising a visit, please let the Coordinator know. If the trip is organised on the same basis as the Kimbolton visit, there will be no need for either the organiser or other participants to put up any money in advance.

Cambs Bus News

Bus Users UK organised a bus "surgery" in Cambridge on the day before our AGM. Stagecoach provided a bus which was parked outside Boots in Sidney St, and some of its managerial team were present to answer questions, as was a county council officer. Also there for part of the time were Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge and shadow minister for buses, and several Cambs CBT activists.

Unfortunately one can't make complaints about problems that haven't yet happened. Thst evening, the Coordinator had two successive X5 buses sail past the stop in Madingley Road without stopping (it was later confirmed they were full). The evening event in London was reached in time by using Cambridge rather than St Neots as the railhead, but at the cost not only of higher fares but also of braving Cambridge's peak time traffic and the madhouse that Cambridge station is on a Friday evening.

Worse still, no forewarning was given of Stagecoach's planned cuts in the new year, even though they must have been registered by then. Here is a summary of the most important changes affecting the county.

Stagecoach 9 (Cambridge-Ely-Littleport/Chatteris): reduced to run 2 hourly north of Ely, with the Chatteris section extended to March in replacement for the 35 (see below).

Stagecoach 17 (Fen Estate-Cambridge-Coldhams Lane-Teversham-Fulbourn): only a single peak journey to/from Stetchworth survives.

Whippet 18 (Fulbourn-Wilbrahams-Newmarket): extended to/from Cambridge partly replacing 17, but the frequency of 2 journeys per day 3 days per week is much reduced.

Stagecoach 26 (Cambridge-Royston): reduced to 2 hourly. A side effect is the worsening of connections with supported routes 127 (Royston-Mordens) and 331 (Royston-Hertford). Note that both these corridors once had through buses to Cambridge.

Stagecoach 30/35/66 (Eaton Socon-St Neots-Warboys-Ramsey/March): the Eaton Socon to St Neots and Chatteris to March sections are withdrawn, the latter replaced by route 9. Side effects are the worsening of connections at Ramsey with route 31 and at Chatteris with route 9 (in both directions).

Whippet 115 (Newmarket Rd P&R-Addenbrookes): withdrawn.

Whippet 117 (Cambridge-Fen Estate): new route part replacing 17. Interworks with 114 to/from Addenbrookes via Coldhams Lane. No Saturday service.

Centrebus 190 (Hitchin-Biggleswade-Gamlingay-Sandy): As a consequence of the Central Beds cuts (see next paragraph), Gamlingay loses its last Mon-Fri buses from the beginning of May, with the Saturday services ending even earlier.

Central Beds cuts

This local authority has decided not to support any services in the evenings, on late Saturday afternoons or at any time on Sundays. For people who don't have access to cars or live close to rail stations or commercial bus routes, this restricts their freedom of movement in a way that's surely incompatable with civilised society: no evenings out, no weekends away, no long day trips on Saturdays, no visits to London unless one returns before the evening peak (or is prepared to pay peak fares). Indeed, one might say that the main purpose of the local authority support system is to keep services in being at the times when they can't run commercially, and terminating support at such times is like closing shelters during rainstorms.

One byproduct of leaving sole discretion to local authorities is that some people from neighbouring areas will suffer from a decision made by councillors in whose election they had no part: we mentioned Gamlingay in the last section, and another example is the new development in The Wixams which is set to lose its Sunday service. (While it was being planned we were told that sustainability would be a priority, but this seems to have been dropped -- not only has no progress been made on its mooted rail station, but there isn't even a road to where the station would be. Is it any wonder that many ordinary people regard developers as the enemy?)

In some areas, the harm had already been done. Long time Cambridge residents will remember the old Premier Travel express service to Oxford. This predated the closure of the railway, but as part of consent for closure was increased to run 3 times a day 7 days a week. The route was via Hitchin, Luton, Dunstable, Tring and Aylesbury, with Luton Airport added later. Then the service was taken over by National Express to run between Norwich and Bristol. Nowadays this route no longer exists, though Luton Airport still has links with both Cambridge (787) and Oxford (737), the latter running via High Wycombe and Hemel Hempstead, and continuing via Hatfield to Stansted Airport -- a very contorted route.

The local counterpart of this route was United Counties 61 between Aylesbury and Luton. This is still run under that number by Arriva, though it now terminates at Dunstable, so anyone travelling from Luton has to catch a connecting bus and worry about missing the connection if there is a traffic jam in Dunstable. Also, there are fewer weekday and no Sunday buses.

The last stemmed from non-cooperation between Bucks and Beds County Councils. The former withdrew its support, but later brought it back. However by then Beds had amalgamated its section of the 61 with the Luton-Whipsnade-Studham section of current route X31 to form route 60. Bucks CC's reinstated route 161 ran to Whipsnade, but didn't connect with 60 to/from Luton. The 161 went via Wendover, but didn't connect there with trains from London. Now both the 161 and 60 have disappeared, though there is still a route 50 from Aylesbury, Wendover and Tring running as far as Ivinghoe, which is fortunate because this area has several attractions only open on Sundays.

The former Sunday service to Studham was the counterpart of a weekday service linking Luton, Dunstable, Whipsnade and Studham with Hemel Hempstead, currently numbered X31. This is to disappear as part of the cuts, with Studham served solely by 3 shopping buses to Dunstable 4 days a week and a single service to Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard on the latter's market day (Tue). Whipsnade will be better off, served by diverting alternate journeys on Centrebus 34 which links St Albans with Dunstable hourly 6 days a week. This will bring regular buses to the Chilterns Visitor Centre at Dunstable Downs, base for a spectacular escarpment walk between Dunstable and Whipsnade. (We support this diversion but believe that the X31 should also have been retained and diverted via Markyate to reduce duplication.)

It's disgraceful that Whipsnade is now inaccessible on Sundays. In the 1960s there used to be a dedicated Greenline route running from London every Sunday. The zoo is run by the Zoological Society of London and was conceived as a site where the animals could have more space to roam than was possible on ZSL's Regent's Park site. So why has there been no marketing of Whipsnade to Londoners since Greenline was hived off from London Transport?

We'd like to see the closure on Sundays of the section of the B4541 within earshot of the escarpment walk (though this wouldn't by itself restore peace and quiet, as it's under the flight path for Luton Airport). This road would, however, carry a shuttle from Luton via the guided busway to Dunstable, the Visitor Centre, Whipsnade Zoo and the Bison Car Park (where the escarpment walk ends), financed by higher car parking charges at the visitor centre (but free for people who had paid to park there). Then amalgamate existing routes 50, 70 and 150 (though the 70 may end up as yet another victim of the cuts) into a new 2 hourly circular route from Luton via Dunstable, Totternhoe, Eggington, Leighton Buzzard (connecting for Milton Keynes, the Narrow Gauge Railway terminus and the Billington Road estate), Wing (for Ascott House), Aylesbury, Wendover (connecting with trains from London), Tring, College Lakes, Pitstone, Ivinghoe, Edlesborough, Eaton Bray, Whipsnade, Studham or Kensworth, Markyate and Caddington then back to Luton.

Further east, Toddington is set to lose route 20 to Luton via Chalton, and the Saturday service to Dunstable will be reduced to a few shopping journeys. (Mon-Fri buses to both towns are provided commercially by Centrebus's route E using the guided busway.) Also, the last Saturday arrival from Bedford will be at 15.00 (currently 19/36). Chalton will be served solely by shopping buses, but Upper Sundon will be on a new route 78, which is a replacement of the 79 Luton-Shefford incorporating a diversion via Upper Sundon, Harlington and Sharpenhoe (the last of which currently has no service) -- but, no surprise, reduced from current 5 journeys Mon-Sat to 4 Mon-Fri and 2 Sat, with one of the former not taking the diversion. Sundon Hills Country Park will be on the new route but not Sharpenhoe Clappers, which we had recommended as a Sunday diversion for Luton-Bedford route 81 when the Wrest Park diversion was dropped (but which is now set to lose its Sunday service anyway).

Further north, a new route between Flitwick/Ampthill and Milton Keynes, with 6 journeys Mon-Sat, is set to start as a result of developer funding, running via Ridgmont station and Magna Park. A pity it won't run via Center Parcs, Eversholt, Woburn Park and village and Woburn Sands, providing a useful facility for visitors.

Not connected with the cuts, but users of the Luton-Dunstable guided bus will be aware of a section that's wedged between a housing estate (Jeans Way) and open countryside. This now has a stop, which can (we think, confirmation welcomed!) be used for access to the Blow's Down nature reserve. One can use Caddington as the other end of the walk (route 231 Luton-Dunstable hourly Mon-Sat, no major cuts imminent).

Other bus news

Moving northwards, cuts by Milton Keynes Council have split Bedford-Milton Keynes 40 -- all villages retain a service but both frequency and connectivity have declined, and journey time Bedford-Northampton on route 41 is longer. Newport Pagnell, an independent market town within the Milton Keynes urban area, has now lost all links beyond MK except for the more circuitous C10 to Bedford via Cranfield -- it once had services not only to Bedford direct but also to Kettering, London, Northampton and Oxford (plus Wolverton within MK).

Another noteworthy cut is Maiden Newton-Bridport route 73 in Dorset. This replaced a former rail service, and its curtailment has isolated several communities. Bridport does however retain buses to Yeovil and Dorchester. Also, to update on the last newsletter, the Birmingham Airline has now been withdrawn, and Sabden in Lancashire has regained a service.

As for seasonal services, in the Yorkshire Dales (Dalesbus) has been reduced this year, and present indications are that the Surrey Rambler 765 won't run this year. The Shropshire Hills Shuttle will run this year (though not in June) -- we hope it will be on Traveline, but full details can be seen on the website which has a link to the shuttle timetables.