Cambridgeshire Campaign for Better Transport

Newsletter 125, October 2017


While residents of Cambridge fret and fume at the inability of the powers that be to come up with any sort of coherent solution to the transport problems of our communities, certainly not the solution preferred by the person concerned, for some reason outsiders continue to see it as a desirable place to live and/or work. Three of the resulting developments have come or are coming to fruition now. Note that it has been drawn to our attention that the Open Street Map website is probably the best way of getting up to date details of the layout (e.g. roads and paths) in a developing site.

The first is the new station at Cambridge North. The coordinator felt that any newsletter which didn't deal with this would be inappropriate, but it was only a few days ago that a visit was made -- hence the delay to this newsletter!

We have always been sceptical about the viability of the station and feel that our fears have been borne out. When the station -- which is at some distance from most places that people are likely to live or want to visit -- was opened, Stagecoach diverted the Citi 2 to terminate at the station instead of the Science Park, introduced a thrice hourly guided bus between central Cambridge and Longstanton Park & Ride via the new station, and diverted some other peak time guided buses via the station. A few months later, the majority of the guided buses were removed -- there were too few passengers actually connecting with trains to justify the diversion, and not many other reasons for people to visit the area. The Citi 2 continues to serve the station -- no doubt because the non guided busway route that it uses goes past the Stagecoach depot and therefore provides a useful facility for staff -- but it's a slow journey.

There is a fair amount of housing development close to the new station as the crow flies and poorly served with other public transport -- the 117 serves the Fen Estate just 3 times a DAY -- and not at all after lunchtime or at weekends. However anyone living there and wishing to reach the station -- whether to catch a train or bus -- has to walk all the way to Fen Road (from which there's an access via Moss Bank), or across the Bramblefields Nature Reserve to Nuffield Road, about the same distance from the station in the other direction. Far easier to jump into the car and let the potential of the intended major interchange nearby go hang.

Meanwhile there is no east side exit to the station which means that people wishing to go to/from the far end of Fen Road have a long walk to access the new station via Moss Bank.

The Coordinator's visit was in mid afternoon during school term. There was virtually no activity in the station area -- just a rather brutalist cityscape only mitigated by the lack of traffic. Meanwhile, on the Fen Road side, there was a steady flow of traffic even though it's a dead end.

More on this in the next newsletter...

Meanwhile, as far as trains are concerned, the general pattern of off peak services is that the "slow" services from Kings Cross and Liverpool St (but not the semifasts) are each extended to terminate at Cambridge North, those London-Cambridge nonstops that have hitherto terminated at Cambridge are extended to Ely with a stop at Cambridge North (but those that run through to Kings Lynn pass through the station nonstop), and the Cambridge-Norwich trains also stop there (but not the Stansted-Birminghams). Note that significant changes are expected to the Kings Cross services when the Thameslink upgrade scheme is completed next year.

Then there's the University sponsored new community at Eddington, near the Madingley Rd P&R. For a long time it was fenced off but it's now open to the general public, who might well wish to patronise the supermarket, which is easily accessible by bus because Whippet's U service has been diverted away from the bus area of the park & ride site (though it still serves a pair of stops nearby) to terminate there. Other bus shelters have been erected in the vicinity presumably in anticipation of future further extensions.

There also appear to be walking and cycling routes to Huntingdon Road (Girton Corner or Whitehouse Lane, the latter linking with the path to Histon Road), Madingley Rise, and Churchill College, though not all of these were open at the time of the Coordinator's visit.

The final development is at Great Kneighton, Trumpington, formerly known as Clay Farm. We were told that a much needed bus route providing a direct link between Cambridge and Trumpington en route to the development would be starting in October. However this is being written on the 31st, and there's no sign of any such service. (Incidentally, we were also told that following changes to other services in the Trumpington area in July the park & ride buses would be stopping at Maris Lane throughout the day, but this stop is not shown on Traveline; however visiting Stagecoach's real time information pages suggests that it is in fact in use.)

Branch News

Those who normally receive paper newsletters will be getting an AGM notice with them, but this may not appear till next week (except for those who do not receive an emailed newsletter). So here are the main details -- members please consider this as a formal notification.

The date will be Sat 25 Nov. As last year our venue is The Hut just off Argyle St. To get there, walk (or cycle) to the east side of the Mill Rd railway bridge them (if you've come fromthe city centre direction) turn first right into Argyle St then first right again where you see a short road leading to a fence beyond which is the railway. The Hut is on the right of this road. Stagecoach route Citi 2 serves stops on Mill Rd Broadway from the City Centre and Addenbrookes. Or make your way from the station to Devonshire Road, then either to Mill Rd then as above, or across the railway bridge, left to Rustat Rd, then through a couple of traffic barriers to Charles St and Argyle St, then left into the short road referred to above.

The meeting will start at around 11.00 -- the venue should be open from about 10.30. The agenda will consist of welcome and introductions, apologies, Coordinator's and Treasurer's reports (circulated at the meeting), other officers' reports, review of subscription rates (no changes are expected), review of affiliations (ditto), election of committee and modal representatives, resolutions and AOB.

Apologies, nominations for committee posts and modal representatives, and resolutions should be sent to the Coordinator or other officer by any means of communication prior to the meeting. Resolutions may not be accepted if they are not received with sufficient notice to be circulated among the committee prior to the meeting, but nominations will also be accepted at the meeting. Only members paid up for 2016-7 or 2017-8 will be able to vote, but arrears of subscriptions will be accepted at the meeting.

The above formal business will be followed by a general discussion on transport issues, which, as in previous years, is likely to include changes to bus services, new developments, the Greater Cambridge Partnership (formerly the City Deal), East-West Rail and the roads programme, together with any other transport related topic that anyone present wishes to raise.

Those members who owe us money, allowing for the suspension of subscriptions for 2017-8 for people who have paid for 2016-7, will be receiving renewal slips with this newsletter, which will indicate how many years payment are required to bring you up to date till spring 2018. You may if you choose pay an extra year which will bring you till spring 2019. The rates are 5 pounds ordinary, 4 pounds concessionary (senior, student, unwaged, disabled or CBT supporter), 6 pounds household or corporate. If you have not renewed by the time our next newsletter is distributed, you may be taken off the membership list -- but if you definitely don't wish to receive any more newsletters, we would appreciate notification of this.

Greater Cambridge Partnership

As we said above, this is the new name for the City Deal programme which is intended to give the Cambridge area the infrastructure it needs to support planned growth.

This year there has been an extensive programme of consultations and meetings about busway and bus priority schemes covering many of the city's radial corridors (including Milton and Histon Roads, the A428 corridor to Cambourne, the A1307/A1301 south-eastern corridor, and the western orbital corridor between Madingley Rd and Addenbrookes.

Several of these schemes have aroused intense opposition locally. While we have grave doubts about whether the GCP's strategy amounts to much more than sticking plaster, we are concerned that the result of the opposition may be that nothing happens except for further increases in traffic as a result of new development and road upgrades (A14 and A428/Cambridge-Oxford) which will make it completely impossible to run a viable bus service.

We suggest the following overall strategy:

  1. Introduce an areawide or countywide workplace parking levy which will encourage employers to choose locations accessible other than by car, discourage car commuting, and raise money for both revenue and capital spending.
  2. Move towards a franchising system for local buses, with every significant community getting regular services, and the larger villages, all market towns and suburban communities having hourly services from early morning to late evening 7 days a week.
  3. Prioritise east-west rail, for which our preferred route would run between Bedford and Cambridge via St Neots (for East Coast Main Line connections) and Cambourne.
  4. Initiate a study into the feasibility and potential of a light rail system for Cambridge (a resolution to this effect won unanimous support at our 2016 AGM).
  5. Oppose road projects which are mainly aimed at increasing road capacity, though in many cases we can support projects aimed at better management of existing capacity.

We now discuss other related issues. Firstly, there was the mayoral election. Various hustings were held in connection with this; at the one attended by the Coordinator, whose theme was environmental issues, a question was asked about the candidates' attitude to bus franchising. Three of the candidates (or rather two and the spokesperson for a third) -- in alphabetical order of party, the Green, Labour and Lib Dem people -- spoke unambiguously in favour. The Tory was noncommittal, also saying that he didn't think that conventional public transport in rural areas could be viable because of the need for buses to call in at every community, and suggesting community transport as an alternative. The independent who was there suggested that this could be overcome by a network of fast and stopping buses, which more or less implies support for a franchising process as this would be the only way of procuring such a network. The Lib Dem cited a case in which someone who had had to rely on commmunity transport had been faced with a 2 hour wait both before and after a medical appointment, implying that at least in its present state it wasn't fit for purpose.

The Tory was the victor, but it was a close run thing and the voting figures suggested that had all the Labour supporters used their second preference votes sensibly the Lib Dem might have won. On the first preference votes the Tory was fairly sure to win, but either Labour or the Lib Dems could well have gained second place, so the rational voting behaviour for anyone for whom franchising is the ruling issue should be to vote for Labour and the Lib Dems as first and second preferences in some order (i.e. not give the Green Party first preference, however good their overall policy mix might appear).

Now we have to persuade the Tory (who was incidentally pledged to support both heavy and light rail development, and also road building) that bus franchising offers the best hope of a strategy that might actually work...

In September a meeting was called by S Cambs DC on the development of "rural hubs", to which parish councils and other interested parties (including ourselves) were invited. There was an official report which mentioned the Swavesey guided bus stop as a hub, but this would mainly be for people coming in by car, bike or on foot, and there was a feeling that more attention needed to be given to people arriving by bus. Most people thought that hubs were generally a good idea. We were pleased that the chair of the meeting, a Tory councillor, actually spoke up in favour of bus franchising, in contrast to the Mayor (see above).

We have produced the following set of hubs within or serving communities within S Cambs.

High priority: Foxton and Whittlesford stations, M11 near Audley End station, Cambourne.

Medium priority: Shepreth, Watebeach and suggested Fulbourn stations, Genome Campus, Bar Hill Tesco.

Low priority: highway stops on A428 at Hardwick, Eltisley and Croxton; guided busway stop at Fen Drayton Lakes; proposed new stations at Offord and Six Mile Bottom.

Finally, in July Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, who was formerly a shadow minister for buses and is now on the all party Transport Select Committee, convened a meeting on buses in Cambridge and its surrounds. The main topic under discussion was franchising, which the Stagecoach rep vehemently opposed and the Whippet rep equally vehemently supported. At the time of writing no follow up has yet happened.


We have also attended several meetings about the roads programme -- specifically strategic studies into plans for an Oxford-Cambridge Expressway and also upgrades to the A1. It seems that the relevant consultants are taking for granted the need for road building rather than public transport/railfreight based solutions. We have been told that Highways England are moving in the direction of what one might call multimodalism, but these meetings suggest that the speed of progress in this direction doesn't match Highways England's design speeds for road traffic.

The problems of access to the bus stop at Cambridge Crematorium caused by the A14 upgrade scheme, mentioned in our last newsletter, were resolved soon after that newsletter was distributed. However we wonder whether the effects of this project were instrumental in leading to further disintegration of the Whippet 1A route, which at one time (in combination with the 5) used to provide a half hourly service between Cambridge, Bar Hill, Fenstanton, St Ives and Huntingdon, but now one has to change at both Bar Hill and St Ives for a through journey, the service is hourly with a gap in the mid afternoon and stops well before the evening peak.

Elsewhere in the country, two schemes where announcements have recently been made are the Lower Thames Crossing and the A303 Stonehenge. The 50m pounds net annual receipts from Dartford Crossing tolls by law can only be spent on transport, but they will come nowhere near to covering the cost of the planned new crossing, whereas they could have made real impact if spent on public transport schemes including a new interchange where HS1, the Purfleet-Grays line and the Dartford Crossing all meet, a cross Thames bus network, coaches between Gatwick and Stansted, and a waterbus service that crisscrosses the river to link jetties on both sides. As for Stonehenge, organisations like the National Trust have welcomed the provision of a tunnel where the A303 runs near the stones themselves, but many people think that dualling along half the route of the road through the Stonehenge World Heritage Site -- one of the richest collections of archaeological relics in Europe -- is too great a price to pay, especially in conjunction with the financial cost of a dual carriageway tunnel on a route much of which functions without too many problems as a single carriageway. If the Stonehenge bastion falls, then the route may become established as a relief to the M5/M4 for traffic between London and the West Country, in which case it will probably be impossible to stop dualling through the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at the other end of the route between Ilminster and Honiton.

Cambs Bus News

The major changes since our last newsletter have involved the Whippet network, where many services were deregistered as from September, both commercial and Cambs CC contracted. New operators were found for most but not all of these, and in some cases with a loss of service. The Hemingfords, Hilton and Holywell all lost their services and were advised to rely on community transport, which is worrying because all these villages have places of interest to visitors. Routes not affected or with only minor changes are the 6, 8, 31, 61-63 (St Neots town), 75, 196, 400-1 (W Hunts), C (guided busway) and U (Universal, extended to Eddington when that opened); the Huntingdon-Godmanchester town service was renumbered 478, and the X3 was improved with the addition of a Sunday service. Services transferred to other operators include the 1A (Dews, curtailed at Bar Hill), 2 (replaced by extension of Stagecoach Citi 6 journey), 7A (A2B), 9 (Dews), 12 (now Stagecoach 22), 15 (Dews), 18 (A2B), 21 (Dews), 45A (Dews), 114/7 (Big Green). Routes lost include the 1, 3, 5.

Stagecoach changes include the reinstatement of an hourly service on route 26 Cambridge-Royston but terminating off peak at Trumpington P&R, where passengers have to change to get to/from Cambridge. As the timetable shows a layover of over half an hour at Trumpington -- ample time to get to/from central Cambridge -- and there's no other route to interwork with at Trumpington, the motivation is obscure and we fear passenger loss, as we do with the 1A (Bar Hill-St Ives, see above), 7A (Babraham Rd P&R-Whittlesford), 31 (Addenbrookes-Fowlmere), 45A (St Ives-Huntingdon) with the loss of through services to Cambridge -- with the 106 (Cottenham-Ely) being a case in point where the service subsequently disappeared. The best option would be to run high frequency services from Cambridge to the "necklace villages" beyond which they would fan out to serve a variety of destinations in turn -- but such a network, including both commercial and supported routes -- can only in practice be secured by means of a franchising system (or some other alternative to the deregulation we now have).

Another change was the reroute of the Citi 7 to avoid Trumpington village. This makes sense in a way, because the whole route is appallingly slow, but this left the Maris Lane stops without a service until it was learnt that the park & ride buses would be stopping there. There is still no reasonable option for people from (say) Shelford who wish to shop at Waitrose in Trumpington. With two logical routes between Cambridge and Shelford (via Addenbrookes and Trumpington) the sensible thing to do would be to split all the services on this corridor (7, 7A and 31) more or less evenly between these two options. 3 buses an hour on each would probably be comparable to the overall frequency that will be achieved when the Great Kneighton service eventually starts (see above).

Another important change is the diversion of the Busway B via Stilton, replacing the 46 which provided an independent service between Peterborough and Stilton. Most northbound journeys leave Huntingdon at exactly the same time that buses are scheduled to arrive instead of having a 3min layover. The online timetable is not clear as to whether these will remain through workings -- if so, then timekeeping is bound to suffer, and if not, passengers wishing to travel through off the first bus from Cambridge (06.45 Mon-Fri, 07.45 Sat) will face an hour's wait at Huntingdon if they miss the connection, as will passengers on the last two return journeys (19.19 and 20.19 ex Peterborough).

A few years ago Centrebus linked their Peterborough-Oakham and Oakham-Nottingham services to provide a long distance through service, recreating a link that had existed before deregulation when the service was run by Barton (though without the evening and Sunday return workings that would allow the full day trips that were popular in Barton days). Now this has all gone into reverse: Peterborough buses terminate at Oakham, the Oakham-Melton Mowbray route is attached to the Rutland Flyer which links Oakham, Uppingham and Corby, in lieu of the Melton-Cottesmore-Oakham route which now runs independently, and the Melton-Nottingham service also runs independently but is reduced to 2 hourly. Connections are possible in principle but there are some gaps and schooltime variations (also applying on non schooldays) which mean that one can't get back to Peterborough by bus using the 14.35 Nottingham-Melton (though one can get to Corby and catch an X4 there). In Barton days one could stay in Nottingham till 17.00, and there was an even later journey on Saturdays, as well as a 17.40 on Sundays when there is now no service at all.

Other bus news

A quick rundown of news across the country, roughly in increasing order of distance from Cambridgeshire.

Central Beds:Since the major cuts of May there have been further losses, including the X31 section between Dunstable and Milton Keynes which formed the main service for the village of Hockliffe.

Northants: is consulting on removing all bus subsidies, including the demand responsive County Connect which, according to its own bus strategy document, has "transformed accessibility in deep rural areas". Other rural routes will suffer too. And who knows how many inter-urban routes will be deregistered when the council has removed the safety net?

Warwicks: Sunday services were introduced doing a circuit from Leamington to Upton House (National Trust) and Compton Vermey (an art centre). They appear to run all year.

East Sussex: Following a campaign by the local CBT group, a Sunday service was reintroduced on the 349 between Hastings and Hawkhurst via Bodiam, giving access to this major attraction which is also on the Kent & East Sussex Railway and also offers boat trips. Furthermore, it was extended to Cranbrook to replace the withdrawn section of a connecting route from Maidstone. Other services targeted at visitors continue to run in the South Downs, as does, in neighbouring West Sussex, the Horsham-Shoreham route 3 (which now runs all year on Thursdays and Saturdays, though not Sundays).

Hants: A summer Sunday service was introduced between Andover and Stockbridge, connecting with the long standing community bus service from there to Romsey. The Andover leg served the Hawk Conservancy near Amport, the Museum of Army Flying and Danebury Hill. The service is still shown on Traveline but this is almost certainly an error.

Dorset: having already implemented 2-3 rounds of cuts eliminated most of its remaining rural network in July.

Somerset and North Somerset: A few days before compilation of this newsletter, we heard that Somerset operator Nippy Bus had decided to cease trading, sacking all its staff without notice and giving the local authority hours to find new operators. At the time of writing (2 days after the announcement) 6 of its 10 former routes still have no replacement operator. Meanwhile, on the B3139 formerly served by Webberbus which went bust last year, the replacement operator between Burnham on Sea and Wedmore has withdrawn this route isolating several villages. There is happier news in North Somerset, where First have now introduced a service running 21 hours a day between Weston super Mare and Bristol Airport, using the scenic route through Brockley Combe that was served by the A2 (linking the airport with Clevedon and Portishead) until this was cut back.

Staffordshire and Cheshire East: have both consulted on major cuts, including the elimination of all subsidised evening and Sunday services.

North Yorkshire: A couple of interesting new routes -- one runs from Grassington to Litton on the 5th Saturday of the month in season -- which means just 3 times this year; the other is one of a series of routes called the Richmondshire Rover which runs to Barnard Castle on Mondays and Fridays using a route different from the normal service (79). Another interesting route in this area is the Thursdays only 79A.

Lancashire: A new service in the Dalesbus network ran on summer Sundays from Ingleton via Bentham or Clapham stations to Clitheroe, using the Cross of Greet and Bowland Knotts passes which haven't had any public transport for a long time. First and last journeys ran through to/from Lancaster. Also, the county council, which made considerable cuts last year, has announced that some of the lost routes are to be reinstated from December.

Borders: The opening of the Borders Railway between Edinburgh and Galashiels/Tweedbank may have been the catalyst that sparked off the introduction of a City Sightseeing tour from Galashiels -- unlike many such tours it serves some beautiful countryside not on other bus routes. The operator, Borders Buses, is part of a group that also does several other scenic rural tours, from the unequalled west coast (Oban and Bute) to Holy Island (Lindisfarne) off the Northumberland coast.

Other "summer specials" have continued to run on the Shropshire Hills from Church Stretton -- though the lack of other services in this area considerably limits the scope for imaginative itineraries -- and Sidmouth has continued to offer its free "Sidmouth Hopper". But the general downslide continues, with no access whatever to Lulworth Cove at least till next summer following the Dorset CC cuts (see above), and the withdrawal of the Surrey Rambler route 765 that has run in recent years around Dorking, linking several National Trust attractions.