Cambridgeshire Campaign for Better Transport

Newsletter 127, December 2018


As we prepare for our 2018 AGM – and sorry for the lateness of this newsletter, though all members should already have had notice of the AGM details – it seems appropriate to reassess our status within the Cambs & Peterborough transport campaign scene. Our Secretary, Susan Jourdain, put forward a suggestion that our group should be wound up. With the fiasco of Brexit negotiations in mind, we do not feel that a final decision on this should be made until members have had a chance to discuss all the issues involved, so it is not being put forward as a resolution at the AGM, but rather it will be discussed, and if the general feeling is that we need to change then (hopefully early) next year we will arrange an Extraordinary General Meeting to finalise the arrangements.

The main arguments for and against changing our status are:

  1. We haven’t been saying much as a group – it is a lot easier to draw our members’ attention to relevant consultations and encourage them to contribute than to agree a response as a group.
  2. As Coordinator, I have been finding the burden of admin an increasing hassle as I have been spending more time on national issues. (I won’t go into the details of the reasons for the lateness of this newsletter, but this is one of the symptoms of the problem.)
  3. On the other side of the argument, there are some aspects of our campaign that would be in danger of getting lost if we wound up.

With regard to the last of these, we are confident that the interests of rail users and cyclists are in good hands under organisations such as Railfuture, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign and Sustrans. For other issues, however, we would be essentially reliant on three campaigns that have developed in recent years: the Cambridge Area Bus Users (CABU), Smarter Cambridge Transport (SCT), and ABC East, the regional branch of the Association of British Commuters. (All of these were mentioned in our last newsletter.) We have secured statements from spokespeople for each of these organisations, for which see below. Note that both CABU and SCT are largely focused on Cambridge and surrounding villages, and do not purport to cover the rest of Cambs & Peterborough.

We have 4 options:

Under options B-D, those who had already paid for 2019-20 would either have their subscriptions refunded or would receive equivalent credit. We would hold an Extraordinary General Meeting, probably early in 2019, to agree a new constitution (under Option B), wind up (C) or implement our amalgamation (D), and members paid up for 2018-9 would have a chance to have their say either at the EGM or by communicating with us by any suitable means beforehand. Members would receive at least one and possibly two final newsletters which would include notices of the EGM and the decision made there.

Next comes the contributions from CABU, SCT and ABC East, followed by detailed arrangements for the AGM and membership.

Cambridge Area Bus Users

Here are some notes, from secretary Richard Wood, from their last Executive Committee meeting.

Objectives for service improvements, and improved ticketing: Richard Wood to draw up a checklist of based on items in the Campaign for Better Transport’s 3 stages to better bus services using the Bus Services Act.

Public meetings and other events: Agreed that we should try to have 2 public meetings (as distinct from General Meetings) with speakers, including some or all of: MPs, District Councillors, Cambs County Councillors, Greater Cambridge Partnership board members, and Cambs & Peterborough Combined Authority board members. One to be held in South Cambs (possibly Sawston) and the other in East Cambs (possibly Ely Museum).

We should also plan to effectively intervene in “Catch The Bus” week in July 2019.

Cambs & Peterborough Combined Authority Bus Review, Metro & CPIER report: The mayor’s review of bus services is due to be published in early 2019. It may well recommend use of devolved powers of bus franchising. Cambs & Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) published its final report on 14/9/18. Amongst the recommendations were that the mayor should use his devolved powers of bus franchising. He has stated that he “accepts all of CPIER’s recommendations”.

We need to be prepared in the new year to make demands upon the mayor for intervention enabling bus service improvements. However, rather than push for a particular method of intervention (franchising, enhanced partnership etc. under the Bus Services Act 2017) we should develop a checklist of what is essential.

Complaint(s) to Traffic Commissioners: Agreed that we should pursue this. Simon Tilley (ABC): “It becomes an administrative problem for the operator, which they want rid of. However we must have evidence of complaints to the operators.” We should assist passengers to complain. Richard Wood will liaise with Simon Tilley on producing a web form template to make it easy for passengers to complain and, simultaneously, to inform Cambridge Area Bus Users.

Accessibility: “Floating” bus stop bypasses [Note: these are bus stops located on an “island” separated from the pavement by a cycle lane]: Chair/Secretary to contact Peter Blake, Transport Director at Greater Cambridge Partnership, to emphasise that design standard of floating bus stops should be high (e.g. TfL specifications) and, ideally, the same across the city, and be safe for those in wheelchairs, slow walking pedestrians and blind and partially sighted passengers. Noted that Cambridge Cycling Campaign agree that zebra style markings from footway to island would be helpful to pedestrians and cyclists alike.

Smarter Cambridge Transport

A brief summary, from chair Edward Leigh, of what SCT is doing and where it is going.

Founded in 2015 as a reaction to the City Deal (now Greater Cambridge Partnership), Smarter Cambridge Transport has become a significant voice on transport matters in the Cambridge region. Ideas we have promoted that are taking root include rural cycleways (“greenways”), rural travel hubs, citywide residents’ parking schemes, upgrading the traffic management system, reconfiguring the Girton Interchange, and Cambridge South station. We may have had some influence on Stagecoach introducing contactless payments (sooner than originally planned) and Termrider tickets.

Smarter Cambridge Transport’s mission is to advance sustainable and integrated transport by all modes that serves everyone. We respond to consultations on major transport schemes, large developments, and some national policies; meet and correspond regularly with local politicians and GCP/County Council officers; and have a weekly column in the Cambridge Independent. The team of volunteers who contribute to and critique the organisation’s output is about 30 strong, representing a wide range of groups, interests and expertise around and beyond transport, including urban and landscape design, public health and engineering. The group has established strong connections with local politicians, council officers, bus operators, as well as business and special interest groups.

Our next step is to become self sustaining, and not wholly reliant on the huge amount of time donated by a few individuals. The first step is to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, overseen by a board of trustees, and guided by an Advisory Board. Financial sustainability will derive from a mixture of grant funding and offering paid for services. For instance, one area where Smarter Cambridge Transport could potentially add value is in facilitating community engagement in the early stages of developing the new Local Plans for Cambridge and South Cambs, and the new Local Transport Plan for the Combined Authority.

At the moment Smarter Cambridge Transport is assembling a steering group to manage this transition and set the organisation’s direction for the next several years. We have a pledge of some money to employ someone (identified) to direct the steering group. There will also be administration and communication costs to cover. We would like to organise an event (perhaps a mini conference) to mark the relaunch of SCT.

ABC East

This was contributed by Emily Yates, one of the founders of the Association of British Commuters of which ABC East is an offshoot. ABC developed to tackle endemic service problems on the Southern rail franchise, and more recently has covered the problems of Thameslink which have affected our own area. Unlike CABU and SCT, ABC East is interested in covering the whole county, but it hasn’t yet reached the stage of a fully fledged campaign.

We recently spent time in Cambs with long standing colleagues from the Association of British Commuters (ABC) who wish to start campaigning in the area – representing a regional step for us to spread our team’s invetigations, campaigns, events and videos. We’re keen to make a statement on a national level about the importance of bus franchising and emphasise the fact that, where buses are concerned, we now hang in the balance.

As a campaign whose strength is in our online platform and reputation for pursuing justice, we feel that the right place for us to campaign at the moment is in terms of public visibility on the issue of franchising and treating Mayor James Palmer’s decisions on this as bring potentially precedent setting for the health of bus services across the country. Thanks, perhaps, to the recent boost in the media of the issue through the Labour Party’s policies on buses, we feel that there is now a space for campaigners to move in and go deeper into the issues. The most important task is to give the bus users themselves a platform, and constantly remove the stigma and socio-economic divide that keeps buses out of the media, and too seldom the topic of public conversation.

Thus, our end of year project will be to make a short documentary video about the nationwide buses crisis, the bus franchising act, possible solutions to the crisis – most importantly of all to be narrated and presented by bus users themselves. Summer Dean (ABC co-founder) and I began the non-profit in 2016 through viral documentary videos of this kind and we feel it is the perfect place from which to give local people a platform. Our documentary will combine voices from bus campaigns across the country, with a special focus on our friends campaigning in Greater Manchester, and then shooting on location in Cambs to highlight the voices of those affected by bus cuts, and emphasising rural issues.

We’d greatly appreciate your input – especially in terms of case studies you feel would demonstrate best the larger issues involved in transport justice in Cambs & Peterborough. We’d love to get in touch with users and campaigners with strong feelings about buses, or who have been personally affected by the lack of an adequate service to their community. If you know anyone you think would be ideal, or if you yourself would be interested in participating in this project, please write to us.

AGM and membership arrangements

Recipients of this newsletter who are or have recently been paid up members will be receiving an AGM notice. Unless you have already paid up to 2018-9, you will also be receiving renewal slips, which will show whether you need to pay for 1 year (2018-9) or 2 years (2017-9). Please note that only members paid up for 2018-9 will have their votes counted on any AGM or EGM agenda items, including the discussion on which of the above four options for the future of our group to implement. If possible, please send any comments on agenda item 7 by email to the Coordinator to arrive before Sat 15 Dec. However, we will accept late contributions, and members not present at the AGM will have until the New Year to pay their subscriptions if you wish your vote to be counted on any AGM agenda item.

For the benefit of any recipients who are not paid up members but who wish to attend, we have a new AGM venue this year, at the Ross Street Community Centre in Ross Street, off Mill Road. Those who wish to arrive from the City Centre (or Chesterton) by bus should catch a Citi 2 and alight at the second stop after crossing the Mill Road railway bridge. Then turn into Ross Street, and the entrance to the Community Centre will appear soon after crossing St Philip’s Road. People can also catch a Citi 2 in the other direction (from Addenbrookes or Coldham’s Lane Sainsburys), or walk from the station (turn right through the car park into Devonshire Road, across the bridge, turn left and keep going until you reach Mill Road, turn right there then left into Ross Street and as above). The meeting will start at 13.00 prompt – and note that unlike previous years we will not have the room all day, so while we should have some time for general discussions on local transport and planning issues it will be important to keep these discussions focused.

Current subscription rates for 1 year are £5 ordinary, £4 concessionary, £6 household or affiliate, and double these rates for 2 years. We are currently not accepting any subscriptions for 2019-20, so any excess that is paid will be treated as a donation. Payment of a subscription for 2018-9 will entitle you to receive all remaining paper communications from Cambs CBT, unless we decide to carry on as we are.

Rail and Road News

When we sent out our last newsletter, Thameslink had just started introducing through services between Cambridge and Brighton, and between Peterborough and Horsham. A full service was expected to commence in May, including half hourly services PeterboroughHorsham (serving all stations to Stevenage then nonstop to Finsbury Park), Cambridge-Brighton (serving Royston, Baldock and all stations to Stevenage then nonstop to Finsbury Park), and Cambridge-Kings Cross (serving all stations to Hatfield, Potters Bar and Finsbury Park). However the operator was completely unable to provide the promised service and, after a spate of cancellations, an interim timetable was advertised. From Mon 10 Dec it looks as if the originally planned timetable will come into effect, except that Cambridge-Brighton will only run hourly and no through trains via Finsbury Park to St Pancras and beyond will run at weekends. It remains to be seen whether the timetable will work.

Incidentally, some of us may well have received emails from the Wimpole History Festival which offered no indication of how people were supposed to get there. One might just be able to manage a visit to Wimpole Hall at a time of one’s choice, but attending an event at a specific time would rarely be feasible. Is there any chance that, assuming stopping trains on the CambridgeKings Cross route will now be running reliably, the festival organisers could put on a shuttle bus from Shepreth station?

Other operators affected by similar problems include Northern, which is also currently suffering from regular strikes on Saturdays. Industrial problems are also affecting other operators including Southwestern.

We have brought rail and road issues into a single section because they do need to be discussed together in relation to the Cambridge-Oxford corridor. Government announcements haveq made it clear that they see this as a major development corridor, and any new towns or villages on the route are likely to entail infrastructure development.

As the local road network in Cambridge has problems accommodating existing car commuters, how much worse will the problems become when capacity on radials into Cambridge has been increased by the current A14 project, then the A428 dualling, not to mention other proposals to dual the A10 from Waterbeach and to build a bypass for the level crossing at Foxton, and then the Cambridge-Oxford Expressway which is likely to follow the same route as east-west rail.

Present indications are that developments are likely to be steered towards old airfields, exploiting the loophole whereby they are classified as brownfield rather than greenfield land. If a route via Bassingbourn was adopted, it would be doubly disastrous as we’d almost certainly have to put up with a dualled A10, and there would be no scope for interchange with the East Coast Main Line for northward journeys as it would be too much of a detour. Accordingly we believe that it is crucial that the railway should follow the A428 corridor through Cambourne to St Neots, where passengers could transfer to/from selected inter-city trains which could make an extra stop there – as the station has 4 platforms there would be no problem in accommodating such stops.

The new road at Ely opened at the beginning of November. This means that the level crossing north of Ely station is now closed; buses on route 12 that used to go that way are now diverted via the new road to Angel Drove, where they stop significantly further from the station than before. The underpass will be shared between low motor vehicles (i.e. cars and vans) and non-motorised users, with the former restricted to a single traffic light controlled lane. This is a pity, as we had hoped the underpass would be restricted to pedestrians and cyclists.

There are other controversial road schemes around the country, including the Stonehenge tunnel (A303) and the Gwent Levels Motorway (M4 relief road). The former will take traffic away from the immediate vicinity of Stonehenge, but has been severely criticised for entailing the dualling of the rest of the route within a World Heritage Site. Such dualling would also open the way to dualling the A303 continuously to Honiton, which will spoil the Blackdowns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is no doubt because of this that official proposals call for the dual carriageway to leave the A303 at Ilminster and take the A358 to Taunton, but if the A303 becomes a relief for the M4/M5 route from London to the West Country it seems likely that such traffic will stay on the A303 past Ilminster.

It is time that we considered public transport options for access to Stonehenge and communities along the A303, and for the Gwent Levels Site of Special Scientific Interest which covers much of the coast between Magor and Cardiff which, despite its proximity to the Welsh capital, is not well served by public transport.

Back to rail, it is very regrettable that the Government has backtracked on the electrification programme. While some of the newer trains can operate in both electric and diesel modes, this is at the cost of higher weight and reduced performance. Such bimode trains are worthwhile as temporary expedients to cover intermediate stages in an electrification programme, or to reduce the air pollution caused by through trains on routes such as London-Grimsby, but should surely not be used as a permanent solution on major routes such as London-Bristol.


There have been few major changes in Cambs & Peterborough. The County Council is keen to transfer responsibility for the bus network to the new Combined Authority, which has commissioned a review of the countywide bus network which has not yet reported, so the role of the county council has largely been to keep things ticking over.

There have however been some changes, mostly detrimental. Whippet, having already cut the X3 Cambridge-Huntingdon (Papworth’s main service, and the fastest route between Cambridge and Huntingdon) to run less than hourly, deregistered the route completely, but after receiving support from Cambs & Peterborough Combined Authority and South Cambs District Council is now continuing to run this service, though still at the depleted level. Stagecoach has made further cuts to services on the A10 corridor, with Landbeach losing its off peak buses, and fewer buses between Ely and Chatteris. The 127 and 128 routes around Royston have been amalgamated, with some communities losing their service in the wash. The withdrawal of Stagecoach from Kings Lynn led to a reduction in the section of route 46 between March and Wisbech via Guyhirn from hourly to every 90min, so that it no longer provides a joint half hourly service with route 56 via Coldham.

One service that has improved is the “Universal” route U operated by Whippet, where the University is now supporting evening and Sunday buses to ensure that people in the new community of Eddington aren’t stuck at these times. Also an hourly through service has been restored between Royston and Cambridge, now run by guided buses and running through to/from St Ives.

Just outside the county there have been several major cuts. Until shortly after deregulation Barton ran a through service between Peterborough and Nottingham. When it pulled out of Stamford, and later Melton Mowbray, the pieces were gradually acquired by Centrebus, which eventually restored a through service, though without the evening and Sunday services that used to provide opportunities for day and weekend trips to Nottingham and beyond. Well now it’s fragmented again: Centrebus have pulled out of Peterborough-Stamford in favour of Delaine, Stamford-Oakham (which is of major importance to tourism as it goes past Rutland Water) has lost most of its afternoon and Saturday buses, and Melton-Nottingham is down to 2 hourly. There remains however a demand responsive provision around Stamford which covers villages in Peterborough, Lincs, Rutland and Northants – the last extending to Oundle and offering access to the summer opening of Apethorpe Palace.

Also lost is long standing route 236 between Haverhill and Sudbury. There are now separate services each side of Clare, connections are erratic and the service only runs at certain times of the day, with absolutely nothing on Saturdays. This route too is important for tourism. One can still get from Cambridge to Long Melford or Sudbury by changing at Bury, though following cuts to Stagecoach 11/12 which we noted in our last newsletter one now has to make a further change at Newmarket. There also remains some demand responsive provision by both Essex and Suffolk county councils in the area.

Not quite as bad is the splitting of service 331 between Royston and Hertford – the remnant of former Greenline 798 which linked Cambridge with London via the A10 corridor. Now one has to use Centrebus 18 from Royston to Buntingford and change there for the 331.

The service to Whipsnade Zoo has been revamped and now consists of a circular shuttle from Dunstable also serving the Chilterns Visitor Centre on the escarpment. It finishes early on Saturdays, which one would expect to be the most popular day for visitors, and doesn’t run at all on Sundays. However the Zoo itself has sponsored a service from Luton, which ran daily over Easter and during the summer school holidays.

The end of the summer term in July was the occasion for the massive cuts in Northants, which were only mitigated by the actions of some district and parish councils in giving support to services. One new service introduced as a result is Monday to Friday route 59 between Market Harborough and Welford, which continues as route 60 to/from Northampton. Further cuts are expected in the new year as Stagecoach reviews its commercial network.

Further afield, the next county after Northants to suffer major bus cuts – apart from the loss of Sunday services in Derbyshire at the same time – looks like Hants. Its services were already poor when the county council announced that it was considering axing all subsidised services. Happily it has rejected this option, but the cuts that it has announced are bad enough. Incidentally, in summer 2018 the Sunday services linking Romsey, Stockbridge and Andover were reintroduced, as were the (now commercial) New Forest Tour buses, but the former route between Hythe, Beaulieu and Lymington was curtailed. Also reintroduced was the Sunday service between Petersfield and Winchester via Old Winchester Hill, which had not run in 2017.

In Norfolk there is now no service on the A1062 between Horning and Ludham, one of the main access routes to the Broads National Park.

In North Yorkshire community supported services for visitors have continued to run in the Dales and Moors National Parks, with the latter including some Saturday routes which are therefore accessible from a wider area than services that only run on Sundays. Restoration of support by Lancs County Council has also led to a through service between Skipton and Lancaster involving interworking between routes 580, 581 and 582. Further north, Alston has been served by summer Sunday route 100 from Crook, and daily in summer by the 888 between Newcastle and Keswick, while the 680 that runs twice a week to Carlisle in school term only has been changed to amalgamate with former village route 95.

In Wales the Pembrokeshire coastal services continue to run all year round and 7 days a week in summer. Further north there is “Cardi bach” route 552 which in winter runs Thursdays to Saturdays between Cardigan, Llangranog and on some days New Quay, and the summer only “Llyn bus” between Trefor and Llanbedrog via Aberdaron.

We conclude with a few news items in Scotland:

(a) The last postbus – linking Tongue with Lairg – has ceased. What’s more no replacement was provided, and as a result, unlike the similar communities of Durness and Lochinver, Tongue no longer has a 6 days a week service. It does however have a range of services provided by community buses in Tongue and Durness.

(b) Route 29 runs twice a day 5 days a week between Tain and Nigg Ferry. In summer it connects with a car ferry to Cromarty, which has regular links with Inverness, thus providing an interesting route for visitors.

(c) Stagecoach threatened to withdraw the main service (77) between Wick and John o’Groats, but after consultation decided to retain a Monday to Friday service for at least another year (till Aug 2019). John o’Groats is also served by route 80 from Thurso, as well as by school/works services such as the 177, 277 and 280, but one would expect most tourists to want to use the 77 in one direction and the 80 in the other. Well you still can, at least till Aug 2019. Note that John o’Groats is not the end of the line – it and nearby Gills Bay have ferries to Orkney, and in summer there are through connections between Inverness and Kirkwall by this route.