Disclaimer: the contents of articles do not necessarily reflect Transport 2000 policy at either national or branch level. If you know any reason why any opinion expressed on a matter within the branch's remit should not be branch policy, please contact the Secretary/Coordinator -- it is through the exchange of ideas that methods for solving our problems are developed.
Please note that although in this newsletter we concentrate on matters of strategic importance, we would like to hear from any member on any transport related topic, however small. If you have a complaint or suggestion of any kind we will endeavour to pursue it ourselves or to advise you on how to pursue it yourself. (However, bear in mind that communications among the Committee are currently erratic because the Secretary/Coordinator is out of the country, so there may be some delay.)
On 26 Sept Platform, set up by Transport 2000 (nationally) to coordinate organisations representing rail users, held a meeting in London. Though all aspects of rail privatisation were on the agenda, the topic arousing the most concern was the National Routeing Guide (NRG), then just approved by the Rail Regulator and to take effect from the start of the winter timetable. Copies of a briefing document, prepared at short notice by transport consultant and Modern Railways columnist Barry Doe (formerly secretary of Transport 2000 Dorset) were distributed.
The Rail Regulator had a reputation of being willing to stick out for the interests of passengers (unlike the Franchise Director). In particular he had previously issued a statement that he would not approve any National Routeing Guide that deprived passengers of the use of their traditional routes. This promise underlay the Modern Railways article we summarised in Newsletter 50. This promise has been broken so don't rely on anything in the MR article or ours.
The main points of the Doe briefing are as follows:
Barry Doe sums up by saying that people who value the flexibility which the railways have hitherto accorded to them will turn to cars as they don't ask questions. Needless to say this won't help the environment or even the privatised railways themselves.
The NRG should soon be available in public libraries. If you find (either in the library or on the train) that a route you have previously used is banned, please write to as many as possible of: the Rail Regulator, the Rail Users Consultative Committee, relevant Train Operators, your MP and your local newspaper. The addresses of the first three are shown in the All-line Rail Timetable. Don't forget to write to us explaining the situation, and to send us a copy of any replies you get!
One aspect of particular interest to us is whether Stevenage is a legitimate route between Cambridge and the North. Hitherto it has been allowed for some destinations but not others, with no obvious pattern. Except on Saturdays it provides the last southbound journey; for some stations (e.g. on the Settle & Carlisle line), the previous departure is several hours earlier.
Just before this newletter was printed, we received a letter from the Rail Regulator which suggests that they are standing by their promise to maintain traditional route flexibilities. Does this mean that the campaigning work of groups like Transport 2000 has borne fruit, or is it just that their interpretationis different from Doe's? Watch this space... Note that it is now even more important to write to the Regulator if you find that the NRG omits your usual route.
This report covers nearly one and a half years because we plan to switch our AGM from spring to autumn with effect from 1997, and this year are holding a special meeting to discuss a new constitution.
Our activities have been limited by the fact that the Secretary has been away for much of 1996. Our financial report is at the end of this newsletter.
Overshadowing the year has been the ``progress'' of the privatisation programme. So far the effects on the public have been minor, except that in future years they will almost certainly have to fork out more in subsidy to support the new structure. (For the current year, this has been offset by one-off receipts from privatisation, but this cannot last long.)
There has been some loss of network benefits. In Cambs we've lost useful ranger and rover tickets and Network Cards aren't accepted on Central Trains between Cambridge and Ely. We complained about both issues to Central Trains and Anglia (who no longer accept Network Cards on their trains on the London to Harwich route either). Also, tickets such as 1-day London Travelcards can no longer be excessed from the boundary station to one's destination outside London unless one is using a train that stops at the boundary station. A much more serious issue currently in the pipeline is the loss of route flexibility.
Services on the West Anglia route during off-peak periods have been cut from 2 to 1 per hour. We have joined other rail user groups in protesting over this. There has been talk of rectifying the matter by providing a service via Stansted Airport, but this has not materialised. Meanwhile the draft passenger requirements for the WAGN franchise issued by OPRAF will allow further cuts (in the Cambridge to Kings Cross fast service, in late night trains from London, and in counter-peak services for commuters to Cambridge, Peterborough and Kings Lynn) and we have sent our comments to OPRAF. We have also continued to campaign for the restoration of Sunday services to Whittlesford where they would connect with local buses.
The project to reopen the St Ives line has been stalled by Government procrastination. Consultants Steer Davies Gleave have issued a report for the Government Office for the Eastern Region which recommended conversion of the line to a guided busway -- partly because government finance for a conventional railway (the preferred option of the county council) would not be available. Steer Davies Gleave were also consultants for a consortium of local authorities (including Cambs CC) regarding the idea of an east-west rail link. Not surprisingly, the option they have chosen does not include the St Ives line. It is also very circuitous (running via Letchworth and Bedford between Cambridge and Milton Keynes) and we are continuing to press for a scheme which will give greater benefits to Cambs people. Incidentally, we believe that a guided busway may be the best option to serve the proposed Cambourne new settlement (via Bar Hill) thus relieving both the A14 and A428.
A positive development has been the launch of the Cycle Challenge initiative by county councils in the region in conjunction with Anglia Railways.
Cambs county council introduced a fair number of experimental services in Spring 1995, but most of them have not lasted. We believe this is partly because they have not tried to adapt them to be useful to several classes of traveller, and have continually been trying to get some sort of liaison with county councillors to get our ideas onto the agenda. The council has done very little to develop the county's rural transport network ever since deregulation. There have been some improvements but at least as many cuts.
In neighbouring Suffolk, which started a programme of network development a couple of years ago, there have been panic cuts which have negated most of the benefits. Norfolk has just started to develop its rural network. In other neighbouring counties changes have been relatively minor but generally unfavourable.
1996 saw the launch of the ``Sunday Rover'' scheme in which 8-9 counties are partners. A single ticket is valid on all tendered bus routes and most commercial ones. Unfortunately the launch of the scheme has not been accompanied by adequate publicity or coordination; for example in Cambs there is duplication between Peterborough and Wisbech while other services have been cut, and at Ely services to/from Cambridge and Ipswich no longer connect, while timetable publicity in many counties has been late, non-existent or incomplete. We have suggested the idea of a Network Manager to deal with such matters region-wide.
On the commercial front, Cambus Holdings has been taken over by the Stagecoach group. This has not, yet, led to improved coordination between the networks of Cambus and Stagecoach United Counties despite our pleadings. Of particular significance would be the provision of a service from Cambridge to the Sandy/Biggleswade area following severe cuts to Whippet service 175.
Another important development has been the introduction of limited stop X5 between Cambridge and Oxford via Bedford and Milton Keynes. We suggested a stop at St Neots Tesco's which United Counties have now provided, but there's still a need there for connectional facilities, especially on Sundays. This service has been linked with advertisements attacking the east-west rail link plan. We've made several suggestions to improve the coordination of the X5 with other buses. One beneficial result has been lower fares on Cambridge Coach Services 75, which also runs between Cambridge and Oxford.
One major inter-urban link is relatively poorly served -- the A14 corridor. Cambridge Coach Services run 4 journeys a day to Worcester, but these are poorly timed for Cambs people and do not connect with rail at Rugby. National Express has severely cut its Cambridge to Birmingham service. We have been campaigning for a rail-link service from Haverhill and Cambridge to Huntingdon, Kettering and Rugby, connecting with Anglia Railways at Cambridge, Inter-City at Huntingdon, Kettering and Rugby and North London Railways at Rugby; we believe this could lead to spectacular cuts in journey time for public transport users, and there is scope for marketing it in such a way as to make significant inroads into traffic problems on the A14.
While much of the trunk road programme has been cut or postponed, work has started on the A1 motorway project between Alconbury and Peterborough. This is financed by the wasteful DBFO system. We objected to the scheme because it was overblown and heedless of the needs of people walking between communities on either side of the road, or travelling on the local bus service which now has to detour to enter Stilton in both directions. We also complained to the Parliamentary Ombudsman about the handling of the public inquiry, but our complaint was not upheld -- partly, we believe, because the credibility of the Secretary was impaired by imperfect recollection of events that had happened several years previously.
There are still schemes in the pipeline to improve the A14, A428, A10 and A47 to which we would object -- nothing more than grade separation (with consideration for walkers and bus users) and rerouteing of traffic away from the most environmentally sensitive areas (such as the Huntingdon riverside) is justified in our opinion. We have objected to a county scheme to by-pass Papworth, which will, we believe, lead to the A1198/A428 becoming a rat-run for traffic to avoid the A14.
We secured useful improvements in the Cambs Structure Plan in the 1994-5 year by campaigning for a more positive rural transport policy. (However, they are not reflected in the Council's public transport plan, nor has anything been done to implement them.) But meanwhile changes were made in the shopping strategy that were completely uncalled for by the Panel report -- namely, a positive prescription for an edge of town retail development in Cambridge. This has led to a planning application by Sainsbury's in Arbury, to which we objected. Retail development is also discussed in the Northern Fringe strategy; we believe that this can only be acceptable if car parking is strictly controlled to stop the area becoming an easy option for car shoppers deterred from the City Centre by the cost or unavailability of parking. There must also be development of the public transport network, including the St Ives line.
We plan to submit evidence to the public inquiry on the closure of the right of way through Lion Yard and consequent closure of the centre at night. It may allow the centre manager to exclude people from the area, which would be of grave concern as the Central Library is an important public service.
As part of Transport 2000's national ``Streets Ahead'' initiative, a cycle friendly employer scheme has been launched in Cambridge.
We have also been campaigning against the break-up of the county, believing that this would harm strategic transport planning. Unfortunately, unless the next government does something, Peterborough will be hived off from the rest of Cambs in 1998.
We have taken part in discussions on Cambridge's tourism strategy in which we have tried to promote better pedestrian access and marketing of public transport.
We have continued to cooperate with Cambridge Friends of the Earth. New links have been forged with Huntingdon Friends of the Earth, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign and the Eastern Regional officer of Sustrans. We are also hoping to join with other local groups to promote the aims of the Real World coalition, probably at a public meeting in January. We were represented at a meeting, organised by the regional officer for Alarm UK, to set up a regional transport campaign. We are planning to submit a response to the SCEALA draft regional strategy and hope to be represented at invitation meetings on this subject in Cambridge and possibly Peterborough.
The constitution distributed with a previous newsletter was adopted with no change except to correct some misprints. Note that, in line with Transport 2000's model constitution, the post of Secretary has been renamed as the Coordinator. We shall use the titles interchangeably. Also the Administrative Officer is now the Minutes Secretary. As our headline article shows, the disbenefits of privatisation have now started to show -- perhaps in future 29 Sept 1996 will be remembered as ``Disintegration Day'' on the railways just as 26 Oct 1986, just under 10 years before, was Deregulation Day on the buses.
We are planning to join the ``West Anglia Rail Forum'' -- a consortium of local authorities and user groups with interests in the West Anglia line from Cambridge to Liverpool St. Our responses to the SCEALA Draft Regional Strategy and Lion Yard public inquiry have now been submitted -- the former is summarised below. We have submitted papers -- based on our SCEALA response -- to both the Cambridge and Peterborough meetings referred to above, but will only be represented at the Cambridge one. At our September meeting we decided in principle to join the proposed East Anglia Transport Activists' Round Table and have communicated this to the local organiser. A final decision will be made when details of membership come through.
Here are contact addresses etc. for the Secretary/Coordinator. These apply till 17 Dec, except between 7 and 12 Nov. Mail: Lehrstuhl D für Mathematik, RWTH Aachen, 52062 Aachen, Templergraben 64, Germany; office phone: 0049 241 804542 (best 12.00-16.00 UK time); home phone: 0049 2407 3143 (best 20.30-21.30 UK time); fax: 0049 241 604536; email (at all times).
If you haven't renewed, you should have a renewal slip. Please note that this will be the last reminder. If you are a National Supporter who pays to Head Office, or if your subscription arrived after 29 Sept, ignore this warning. If you have a legitimate reason to delay payment (especially for affiliate members) let us know and give us an idea when we can expect payment, and you won't be taken off the membership list.
Diary of events:
We also hope to organize a Real World meeting in Cambridge in January -- again, contact the Committee if you wish to attend.
The Alarm UK regional conference on 14 Sept, naturally enough, concentrated on regional issues, and its main theme was that it was at the regional level that more and more decisions werebeing made -- a trend that will lead logically to regional government. There was a speaker representing the Standing Conference of East Anglian Local Authorities (SCEALA), whose draft regional plan was distributed. This is up for consultation until the end of October so there should still be time to comment. Copies of the document should be available in libraries or from local authorities.
Our general attitude to the document was that though it talked a good deal about the need to move towards a more sustainable transport system, there was little substance as to how this might be done (though this could partly be blamed on central government constraints), and most of the stated regional priorities were still road schemes. We therefore restated our objections to certain road schemes (involving the A1, A10, A14, A47, A428 and M11), refuted arguments against raising motoring costs as part of a strategy to reduce car dependence (quoting a new report by the Railway Development Society that estimates the ``social deficit'' of motoring as GBP 70 billion, equivalent to a GBP 15 gallon) and presented a public transport strategy. Here are the highlights of the last:
Just a few items.
In June the IRA bombed Manchester. This led to a sharp reduction in visits to the City Centre, especially by bus, because services have had to use temporary terminals. As a result one of the main local bus companies has planned major cuts. The local PTE, already stung by increased costs as a result of rail privatisation, is unwilling to fork out. We suspect the main villain is, as usual, the Government for limiting the ability of local authorities to raise funds and denying the PTE's the authority to precept constituent district councils. Why are the Government continuing the work of the IRA in disrupting the essential services of cities?
These relate to the period between 1 April 1995 and 21 September 1996. It is difficult to draw any meaningful conclusion from these figures because they span considerably more than a year -- except that we are still solvent! As there is still an opportunity for members to renew, we have not included current paid-up membership figures.
177.50 Subscriptions 21.50 Donations 57.50 Payment from Transport 2000 for National/Corporate Supporters 25.00 Affiliations 9.00 Payment for Transport Retort ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 290.50 Total 173.50 Branch funds at 31/3/95 ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 464.00 Total
159.95 6 Newsletters 30.00 Secretary's Expenses 38.00 Chairman's Expenses 8.00 Affiliation to National Federation of Bus Users 12.00 Affiliation to Alarm UK 8.80 Payment to Bath House 1.00 One World Fair 4.00 Alarm UK conference fee ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 261.75 Total 202.25 Branch funds at 21/9/96 ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 464.00 Total
173.50 Branch funds at 31/3/95 121.15 Unclaimed Secretary's Expenses 19.60 Uncleared cheques ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 314.25 Girobank balance at 31/3/95 202.25 Branch funds at 21/9/96 47.00 Unclaimed Secretary's Expenses 13.50 Uncleared cheques ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 262.75 Girobank balance at 21/9/96