Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 51, December 1995


Are you a motorist? If so, every year the country gives you one of the most generous Christmas presents -- and one that lasts all year. New research by an independent organisation has shown that the true cost of road transport is about GBP 50 billion per year. Most of this can be attributed to motorists, whose contribution to global warming is more than that of all other forms of transport put together. It makes the amount motorists pay in taxes, and the amount devoted to subsidising alternatives to the car, pale in comparison.

Sceptics may care to ponder on the possible consequences of global warming. Melting ice-caps will flood low lying areas -- including parts of this county, unless we spend lots more on sea defences. Trees -- not noted for mobility -- may be unable to adapt to differences in temperature. Tropical diseases may invade temperate areas. Perversely, the British climate may get colder if the Gulf Stream is diverted. Freak weather will become the norm. This may lead to water shortages such as that currently afflicting parts of Yorkshire.

Is a more efficient transport system, available to all without qualifications of vehicle ownership, too great a price a pay as part of an energy conservation strategy that will help keep our planet fit to live on for our descendants?

In this context the recent Budget is no help. For those choosing between car and bus, the increased petrol price will be more than offset by higher fares which operators such as Cambus have introduced, blaming the Budget.

Rail privatisation.

At the time of writing this has been going through the courts and the eventual outcome is unclear. What is clear is that the Government may have a hard time persuading MP's that it has the situation under control. So now is the time for another letter to your MP, especially if a Tory.

The main issue at present is that the Government is refusing to guarantee that levels of service will not be reduced. It is said that it is in the commercial interest of franchisees to maintain service levels, but in that case why have BR cut various services -- the latest in our area being Cambridge to Bishops Stortford? If BR can save money in this way, so can any private operators -- and they will if their sole remit is to maximise their profit subject to staying within the terms of their franchise.

As usual the points to emphasise are yours to choose. Any ``economy'' made on financial grounds can be attributed to diversion of funds to the privatisation process. Fragmentation of the network has also started -- and threatens to get worse as the network gets into the hands of managers not accustomed to the tradition of cooperation with other sectors.

Under the currently planned arrangements, the first franchisees will take over from 1 April. Presumably they will be required to maintain the existing timetable until it expires on 1 June, though this hasn't been made clear. What is problematic is whether it will be possible to issue a new timetable for summer 1996 at all given everything that has to be agreed between the franchisees and Railtrack (who produce the timetable). If anything untoward happens in either of these ways, you know what to blame...

Branch news.

The Secretary will be away for much of 1996. During this period, all correspondence may be addressed to Administrative Officer Basil Bonner (address and telephone number at head of letter). Or contact the Secretary as follows:

(soon to be obsolete postal address edited out, please use email - Webmaster).

This address and numbers will apply from 5 Jan to 14 Feb and 21 Feb to 29 March. It is hoped to arrange a meeting for Saturday 17 February at 2.30 in the Friends of the Earth Office, Bath House, Mill Rd/Gwydir St as usual. The AGM is planned for Saturday 13 April at the same time and place. Consult Basil for any changes in these arrangements.

Under the circumstances it will be more difficult to monitor the national and local press for things to which we should be responding, such as road schemes. Please contact Basil if there is anything you feel we should be doing.

Seasonal thoughts.

The traditional wish for a happy Christmas and new year is made all the more plausible by the fact that the calendar probably makes the disruption to public transport less than if Christmas fell on any other day.

You may have noticed that the ``winter'' timetable now carries on through the whole of May. For those seaside resorts and other areas whose services, especially at weekends, are highly seasonal, this is bad news. This also affects those seasonal bus services whose periods of operation are linked with the BR timetable.

Much criticism has been levelled at BR for the mistakes in its winter timetable. Already three supplements have been issued, and a complete reprinted timetable will be available from the beginning of January. This will be free to holders of existing timetables (in exchange for the latter) -- but only if you have kept that blue card. The changes mainly affect the Western Region, but there are some mistakes in other areas. This has been blamed on the difficulty of coordinating between all the train operators and Railtrack. Again, is this a precursor of what is to come as franchising proceeds?

Now for what will be good news to some. That is the Private Member's Bill to move our clocks forward an hour throughout the year (i.e. on GMT + 1 hour in winter, GMT + 2 hours in summer). While a campaign on this issue is beyond the remit of Transport 2000, it is worth noting that it is predicted to reduce accidents; any rise as more people succumb to dark mornings will be more than compensated in the afternoons when children return home from school impatient to do whatever they are planning, and/or tired after a day's schooling. It will also improve the scope for leisure travel. The operating day for public transport is skewed towards the evenings (especially on Sundays) as many services don't start until 4 hours before noon (on weekdays, usually later on Sundays). Also off-peak restrictions affect morning travel.

Incidentally, those who suggest that schools and other institutions who want more daylight in the afternoons should start earlier are ignoring the consequences to parents who have to send children to school -- not to mention people who couldn't get to work earlier for lack of transport. In the case of schools, any change would be especially disruptive as most bus services are planned around school requirements.

Roads news.

The review at the time of the Budget axed certain road schemes; in our region (i.e. Cambs and surrounding counties) the main schemes of importance to us are various M25 widening schemes and various A10 and A47 improvements (but not the Thorney by-pass). Also the A421 west of Bedford and A428 between Caxton Common and Eaton Socon. However, one previously withdrawn scheme has been restored: this is the Stamford Relief Road (A43/A16) which in its previous incarnation was planned to slice through Burleigh Park (Cambs). We shall be watching to see what happens here. Also added is a direct link between the M11 and Stansted Airport.

Some schemes, including the A14 between Bar Hill and the A1, are to be reviewed as smaller scale improvements. Others have been transferred to the longer term, including the A1 between Baldock and Alconbury. But most of the high profile schemes, such as the Newbury by-pass, are unaffected. New privately financed schemes include what is described as the ``A6/A43 South Midlands Network'' which includes not only sections on these routes (not the Stamford Relief Road) but also the Norse Road Link in Bedford -- which was dropped from the by-pass now under construction and causing havoc in villages like Elstow (as well as making it more difficult to restore an east-west rail link). And the A1 between Alconbury and Peterborough, one of the original four (there are now 14), is due to start in 1996. The need for 8 lanes between Alconbury and Norman Cross is all the more implausible now that the A1 south of Alconbury has been postponed, and the A14 east of the A1 is being reviewed as mentioned above.

Traffic Reduction Bill.

This is another Private Members Bill which has been sponsored by various environmental organisations. We reproduce an article by David Earl from the newsletter of Cambridge Friends of the Earth.

Air pollution which aggravates asthma, bronchitis and other diseases; emissions of CO2 which causes global warming; towns like Cambridge being wrecked by congestion; residential and shopping streets becoming rat runs; parents fearing for their children's safety; the destruction of our countryside and wildlife habitats -- all problems of too much road traffic.

Enter the Road Traffic Reduction Bill, an all party initiative launched by Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and Friends of the Earth. The Bill confronts the problems of road traffic and presents the opportunity to devise workable solutions. The Secretary of State will be required to draw up a National Road Traffic Reduction Plan which will show the policies needed to achieve stabilisation of road traffic miles at 1990 levels by 2000, a 5% reduction by 2005 and a 10% reduction by 2010. He or she will also have to review the plan at least once every three years and report to Parliament. Councils will have to draw up Local Road Traffic Reduction Plans based on local needs, detailing appropriate measures to reduce traffic in their areas.

Reductions in traffic can be achieved by traffic calming; the promotion of oublic transport, cycling and walking; changes in the planning system to cut the need for travel (e.g. ending car dependent non-central shopping developments like the current proposal at Arbury Park, Cambridge); and the scrapping of much of the current roads programme (see above).

We need you to support the Bill, both personally and through any organisations to which you might belong (e.g. residents associations, church groups, youth clubs, trade unions, WI groups etc.). Please fill in the form at the end of this newsletter. We (FOE) aim to mobilise a million people in this way and through the petition now circulating! Cambridge MP Anne Campbell has signed Early Day Motion 839 in support of the Bill.

In 1996, there will be a Traffic Reduction Tour in February and March, when we hope Cambridge will be one of the stopping points for a public meeting. (Contact FOE on 01223 312800 for an update on this.) On April 13 (the date of our branch AGM) there will be a national demonstration to surround the Department of Transport in London, and there will be a national lobby of Parliament in May or June. In the summer, there will be a week of local events throughout the country highlighting pollutants emitted by vehicle exhausts.

Road Danger Reduction -- the new agenda

Another article from the Cambridge FOE newsletter, reporting a meeting on 9 Nov in Leicester. C. J. Piggott attended on behalf of Cambridge FOE and the Cambridge Cycling Campaign.

Why has decades of ``Road Safety'' campaigning achieved only increased Road Danger? Why, despite endless proclamations to the contrary, are traffic pollution and congestion getting worse and worse? Why do we need a Cycling Campaign?

The short answer is cars. The necessarily longer answer takes in an ever more motorised society, driven by a political economy and ideology that afflicts all our lives, and which both feeds and is informed by far reaching strategies of state not only on national transport, planning and energy production but also on health, employment, policing and law, education, housing, taxation, ``defence'' (wars are waged in consequence) and almost every environmental issue imaginable. That which was invented just 100 years ago has become a monster long out of control. Not, note, the internal combustion engine itself, but motor hegemony, the car culture, ``carmageddon''. There are other names, but what matters is the power it exerts, and this is why to confront it is an essentially subversive act. To subvert the car culture, it might be said, is the highest form of cycle campaigning.

``Road Safety''.. The traditional ``road safety'' establishment is incapable of confronting the problem properly because it is itself compromised with the culprit industry. Thus it promotes devices to protect motorists from the consequences of dangerous driving, while instructing children to flee the streets and cyclists to adopt pathetic measures to save themselves being run over. The Highway Code (though necessitated by motoring behaviour) is generally ignored, save for the purpose of castigating cyclists. ``Road safety'' has produced the term ``Road Accident'' to describe the serious and sometimes fatal result of people using lethal machinery recklessly or irresponsibly, fostering the notion that violence at the hands of criminals is somehow unavoidable or excusable when performed with a car -- a view confirmed in the courts with depressing regularity. It proceeds at base from an acceptance that motorists have a right to expropriate public space (the streets) and threaten others while in their ``private'' vehicles; ``get out of the way of cars'' is the road safety officer's unswerving theme.

Dissenting voices. Opposition to motor domination is nothing new. 60 years ago and more the iniquity of the terrorisation of the streets by the at that time vastly smaller number of motor vehicles inflicted on much larger numbers of bikes and pedestrians was recognised and contested in arguments similar to those resurfacing today. As the cycling and pedestrian organisations fought and lost their battles in the 30's, levels of road carnage attained an all time high. Thereafter, and throughout the post-war decades of increased mass motorisation, unrestrained road building, urban destruction and the progressive decline of public transport, casulaties fell -- not through any improvec motoring behaviour, but because people were learning to ``get out of the way''. In fact, people,physically absented themselves from the streets in increasing numbers. Even in the last 20 years, cycling in the UK has declined by 24%; among children it has declined by 40%.

Motor domination, and all it entailed, seemed complete, until the perception dawned, increasingly through the last 10 years, that ever growing car yse is simply not sustainable -- not in any terms, not merely from an altruistic conservation standpoint. Coincidentally, certain researchers in the UK transport and planning professions started to question the pervading ethos of motoring ``freedom'' in the context of social cost and harm to others; John Adams was notable for developing the theory of risk compensation, illustrated in his exposure of the fallacy of car seat-belt legislation as the archetypal example of an officially unquestioned ``safety'' measure which is at once consumed as extra leeway for risk taking and results in a net increase in road danger.

Others, in particular John Whitelegg and Mayer Hillman, developed these ideas to show how vehicle design, road engineering and ``road safety'' wisdom have colluded to increase danger and restrict mobility and access -- especially of the young, the old and the unmotorised third in between -- all in the name of ``safety''. In his landmark work Death on the Streets (reviewed in our February 1994 newsletter), Robert Davis brought these ``heretical'' views together, showing how, when deference to motorist privilege is added to the promotion of road transport, the result is unprecedented disaster -- not least including some 25 million violent deaths worldwide. Until recently, these were lone voices crying in a car infested wilderness.

Road Danger Reduction. The first Road Danger Reduction Conference, sponsored by the RDR forum, was held in Leeds two years ago. It brought together for the first time a sizeable body of ``road safety professionals committed to promoting a new agenda for road safety. This is aimed at reducing road danger at source and promoting equity and accessibility for non-motorised road users.'' It attracted little attention, but the activists persevered, forming loose alliances with other groups who found common cause from different angles. These can broadly be described as on the one hand environmentalists, represented by such as T2000 and FOE, opposing unsustainable transport, its greenhouse gas production and urban and rural despoliation, and on the other hand the more direct victims of motoring violence, as represented by Roadpeace, a charity offering support to bereaved families and friends who, moreover, are resolved to seek justice on the roads and from the legal system which so often denies it.

The Leicester Conference. Some 200 delegates, mostly local authority road safety officials, engineers and planners, representing over 100 councils, attended the conference. The leading address was given by Robert Davis, chief ``guru'' of the RDR lobby, in excusably upbeat mode, quoting the highway engineer who blames ``dangerous trees'' for ``causing accidents''. Equally too contemptible to merit discussion, the Great Coach Seat Belt Panic got a mention in passing. He recalled a conversation with Transport Minister Steven Norris, who urged him ``not to confuse road safety with environmental issues''. (!) The RDR Form has every intention of ``confusing'' both these and all the other issues that impinge on the quality of life on the public highways and byways. They are, of course, inseparable.

Other speakers cited examples of success to provoke envy -- or shame -- in the caseof the Cambridge delegate: Copenhagen and Zurich largely liberated from motor traffic; Strasbourg redesigned around a new tram system; 77% of commuters delivered by express busway in Portland, Oregon; the City of Edinburgh Rapid Transit will guarantee half the journey time of cars. Some cities in Northern Europe enjoy cycling budgets greater than the whole of the UK, and some are promoting ``shoals of bikes'' as ``mobile traffic calming'' (i.e. as Cambridge once was).

Workshop discussions revealed the new approach:

  1. On Highway Engineering and Planning: away from ``accident reduction'' towards the ``relief of intimidation, fear. anxiety or danger''. The new council transport funding structure offers scope for incorporating RDR agenda into major road schemes.
  2. On Road Saeft Education: no more Green Cross Code or Tufty Clubs. Children are not the problem; lookmfirst at who creates the danger, which is not an immutable fact of life but can be changed; this will emerge as we move from child centred survival instruction to curricular integration, which must first be taught to teachers.

Lest it be thought this reflects idealistic posturing rather than practicality, the example of York is worth pondering. Between 1981-5 and 1988-1992, for every class of traveller (except motorcyclists), the change in the casualty rate was 10-26% better than the UK average. York City Council is at the forefront of the movement; arguably, the city is the most cycle friendly in Britain.

To seasoned campaigners the RDR agenda may represent little new in ideas and outlook. What is new is that it is now gaining momentum in councils across the land, and faster than some may realise.

Before Leicester, 35 local authorities had already signed up to the RDR charter; more will follow, hopefully along with health authorities. Every council transport head, and every road safety department, is now in possession of the New Agenda information pack, so ignorance will no longer serve as an excuse for inaction. Our task must be to press the County Council to adopt it, and, if not, demand to know why.

Other reports.

Cambridge MP Anne Campbell recently released a report on attitudes to changing one's mode of transport, taking as examples parents driving children to a private school in West Cambridge and commuters to an office near the City Centre. Despite some questionable methodology (people saying that improving the rail network would make little difference to their preferred mode of travel to work; a different story might have been told in the case of a school or workplace near a possible rail station) the report shows that a large proportion of people are willing to consider changing their mode of travel given incentives such as better and cheaper buses.

Coincidentally a similar but more policy oriented report, commissioned by Transport 2000 nationally, discussed the problems of modal shift, using as example commuters to the Inland Revenue building in Nottingham. The main recommendation is for a tax on non-residential parking to be collected as part of the business rate.

The RAC commissioned a report on the extent to which people were car dependent. The statistics showed that about 20% of journeys could very easily be made by other means, about 60% with difficulty, and about 20% not at all. The RAC suggested that this was an indication of high car dependency -- but the statistics hardly bear out this interpretation. Rather, they suggest that the traffic reduction targets (see article on the Traffic Reduction Bill above) are very modest, and we should really be looking for cuts of up to 80% in traffic. And maybe better public transport and cleaner and safer streets could eliminate much of the remaining 20% ...

Some time ago Cambs County Council signed up to the Climate Resolution calling for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. It recently published a consultation document on an action plan to achieve this. Rather vague but a start.

We attended a meeting called by Cambridge City Council on tourism and commented on their draft strategy. Our main recommendations were for a major effort to promote the use of public transport for access to the city by tourists and for touring the surrounding region from the city; and improvement to pedestrian facilities in off-road areas, notably the colleges and Backs.

We have also commented on plans by Cambridge City to support an evening bus network and to implement the Transport 2000 ``Streets Ahead'' initiative. The former generated some confusing press coverage; what really happened is that it has been postponed till 1997-8 (with the possibility of an earlier start) to allow time to consider the best way to proceed. We have emphasised the necessity of proper timetabling and linking with late night trains and coaches. The latter involves three projects: cycle hire for people entering the city at park & ride car parks or by public transport; controls on existing private non-residential parking; and guidelines for car-free development. We understand that the County Council, together with Norfolk and Suffolk, has been awarded a grant to improve facilities for cyclists as a result of the same initiative.

Public transport changes.

Not much this time. As we do not have enough copies of ``Travel Times'' to distribute, here is a summary of changes which affect more than the holiday period:

  1. Minor changes to Cambus services X7, X11/166, 31/2, X46, 103, 118, 122, 124, 146-7 and 196; Viscount services 4, 10 (serves Flag Fen and Ferry Meadows on Sats), 11, 29, 355 and 367; United Counties 73, Morley's between Peterborough and Whittlesey, and Carnell's between Wisbech and Sutton Bridge.
  2. Operator changes to Sunday buses 355 (Peterborough to Sutton Bridge), 477 (Huntingdon to St Neots) and services run by Storey's.
  3. Changes to the Sunday network in Suffolk. The 200/1 is cut and now offers just one journey to/from Yarmouth (08.44 from Cambridge and 17.41 return, basically unchanged) plus three to Mildenhall or Brandon. The new Suffolk CC leaflet shows changes to many other Sunday services (71, 82A/B, 97-8, 118, 166-9, 604 and 757) but most of these are minor. The 166-9 now runs south from Lowestoft at 12.15 and 15.15 (to Ipswich) and 13.15 (to Southwold), returning by 14.45, 16.15 and 18.52 (from Ipswich). Buses run north from Ipswich at 5 past each hour plus 13.28, with journeys to Framlingham at 13.05 and 16.05 returning by 14.55 and 17.55 and to Lowestoft at 12.05, 13.28 and 16.05 returning by 15.02 and 17.55. Buses leave Ipswich for Colchester at 15.05 and 18.05 returning at 11.06, 12.36 and 15.06 (journey time 46-9 minutes). The Ipswich to Clacton service is unchanged, as are most others Cambs people are likely to want to use. Note that we have only shown journeys accessible by day trip from Cambs.

Cambus Holdings, owners of Cambus and Viscount, have been taken over by Stagecoach. We have written to United Counties, also owned by Stagecoach, expressing our hopes for improved coordination, including links between X46 and 173-4 (Cambridge-Biggleswade via Royston), 118 and 178 (Cambridge-Bedford via Sandy), and 73-4 and 351 (Cambridge-Peterborough via villages), also earlier starts from Cambridge by basing some vehicles working the X3 and 73-4 there, and interavailability of ticketing.

Three further items. On UC X60/1 Explorers are now valid for journeys between Oxford and Mkt Harborough or Northampton and Leicester only; the changes in N Herts referred to in our last newsletter were all minor but still a step away from the integrated network we'd like to see; and Ashford International station is shortly to open -- but Eurostar are refusing to offer reductions on the fares from London. No doubt this is linkeed to the refusal of the Government to allow domestic travellers on Eurostar.

Action Line.

Write to your MP about rail privatisation and seek support for the Road Traffic Reduction Bill.

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