Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 56, January 1997

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.


At 12.30 on Wed 22 Jan there will be a rally at Central Hall, Storey's Gate, Westminster in support of the Road Traffic Reduction Bill. This bill was drafted by Friends of the Earth jointly with the Green Party and Plaid Cymru. More than a third of MP's, including Cambridge MP Anne Campbell, have actively expressed their support for it, as have many local councils including Cambs County Council and Cambridge City Council.

The Bill was introduced into Parliament by Don Foster, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, who came seventh in the Private Member's Bill ballot. (Anne Campbell also had a place in the ballot, but as it was lower she decided that the bill would have a better chance of being discussed properly if introduced by someone else.)

The second reading of the Bill is due on 24 Jan. As just one MP can wreck the Bill, it is important that all MP's are aware of its importance, so please write to your MP immediately or attend the mass parliamentary lobby that will follow the rally at 2.45 unless your MP has already expressed support.

The main provisions of the Bill are to require the Government and local (county, district and unitary) councils to draw up Traffic Reduction Plans stating what they think is needed to achieve a target of reducing traffic from 1990 levels by 5% by 2005 and 10% by 2010. As the Government will have to report to Parliament regularly on progress towards the targets, it will be under pressure to listen to local councils. This marks an end to the current situation whereby the Government continually intensifies its control on local councils.

It should be noted that under the Bill ``traffic'' is defined to include all motorised road traffic except public transport and transport for the disabled. Also the targets will not be imposed uniformly everywhere -- it is clearly unrealistic to expect traffic in an expanding rural area to be reduced as much as in a declining urban area. But, with the ``business as usual'' scenario projecting an up to fourfold increase in traffic in rural areas, it is equally clear that areas such as rural parts of Cambs can't wash their hands of the problem.

We believe that to a large extent Cambs CC has done just that -- the Council has no coherent rural transport strategy. This is partly because of Government restrictions, but we believe that this is far from the whole story. We are drawing up a traffic reduction plan for Cambs to indicate what we think the Council ought to say in the Traffic Reduction Plan it would have to draw up if the Bill were law -- partly in the hope of reminding the County Council that it is possible to think outside the framework currently set by Government.

What do we think the Government needs to do to achieve traffic reduction?

  1. Increase taxes on cars and lorries, with the revenue going towards reduction of bus and train fares.
  2. Set up democratically controlled Local Transport Authorities with freedom to plan local public transport networks. The role of private enterprise would be reduced to operating rail, bus and ferry services under franchise from local transport authorities; entering into Quality Partnerships with local government whereby it would put in investment in return for a share of the generated revenue; and running purely commercial services where these fill gaps in the network. (This is roughly equivalent to the current framnework for bus services in London, except that these are not under democratic control.)
  3. Provide part finance for the subsidies local transport authorities need to provide the network. This will encourage transport authorities to expand the network.
  4. As patronage for public transport grows, the revenue would be recycled into improving the network.
  5. The roads programme would be stopped except where new roads fulfil clear environmental objectives.
  6. Traffic regulations would be tightened to make walking and cycling safer, and to crack down on inconsiderate motoring.

Here are some of the initiatives which could help to reduce traffic. Some of these would require national legislation in addition to that mentioned above.

  1. Make the public transport network comprehensive and user friendly -- more on this below. This also applies to rail freight.
  2. Provide new and safe off-road walking and cycling routes, and give more priority to pedestrians and cyclists where they cross main roads.
  3. Introduce lorry off-loading points so that heavy lorries do not need to enter urban areas like Cambridge.
  4. More local traffic management measures -- bus priorities, speed limits, traffic calming, selective road pricing, parking and entry control, dispersed park and ride.
  5. Encourage commercial interests to take more heed of the needs of non-motorists -- shop delivery facilities with neighbourhood depots and creches, car-free residential developments (pioneered within the UK by Edinburgh), mandatory targets for use of non-car modes for access to new urban fringe developments (again pioneered by Edinburgh), green commuter plans for workplaces (which the Government should encourage by offering tax relief on public transport season tickets).

What needs to be done to improve the local public transport network?

A: Develop a comprehensive rail and bus network, based on existing infrastructure, for long distance travel. Our plan calls for extending alternate Stansted Express trains to Audley End, Whittlesford, Cambridge and Ely; adapting the cross-country network to provide hourly trains from Norwich to Birmingham and 2 hourly services from Ipswich to Cambridge and from both these places to Liverpool; providing, in addition, 2 hourly local services between Cambridge and Norwich or Peterborough; stopping hourly Inter-City trains at Huntingdon.

The following bus services of strategic significance would also be provided: a frequent shuttle between Kennett and Lakenheath stations (both to be served by the cross-country network) via Mildenhall and Lakenheath village, with 2 hourly extension to Thetford, Newmarket and Cambridge; an hourly A14 corridor service between Haverhill, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Kettering and Rugby; an hourly link between Peterborough, Wisbech and Kings Lynn, extended alternately to Norwich and the Norfolk Coast; and upgrading of existing cross-country links between Peterborough and Northampton, and between Cambridge, Stansted Airport or Central Essex and Oxford to offer improved interchanges.

B: Plan a programme of infrastructure upgrading. Priorities include the rail link between Cambridge, St Ives and Huntingdon, which could form part of a cross-country link to Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford; a guided busway from Cambridge city centre to Bar Hill and Cambourne; new stations to serve new developments (Peterborough Southern Township, Chesterton Sidings in Cambridge, a new station north of Huntingdon with bus shuttle to Ramsey), existing communities -- both sizeable ones such as Sawston and, where difficult to serve by bus, smaller ones such as Six Mile Bottom -- and workplace destinations such as Addenbrookes, Cambridge Science Park and Regional College.

In the longer term there is scope for further rail expansion, such as an east-west rail link through Stansted Airport and a light rail network for Cambridge partly using the existing main line network (the German city of Karlsruhe has pioneered this idea).

C: Improve rail/bus links. Ideas include a major interchange at Duxford, a rail/bus station at Ely, specific links at stations like Manea, a regular shuttle at Cambridge including evening and Sunday services, and the retiming of evening buses to connect with specific incoming trains.

D: Consolidate the bus network. Fill in ``missing links'' such as between Warboys, Somersham and Chatteris and between Cambridge and East Beds; recast existing services on a regular interval basis; improve connections at places like Burwell; and create new regional links by linking together existing services to form routes such as Cambridge to Southend and Huntingdon to Long Sutton.

This is a summary of the first draft for our Traffic Reduction Plan; the full text can be obtained from the Secretary, but if you wish to make comments (and we welcome these) please do so as soon as possible. Note a minor error and an omission in the draft: the word ``for'' is omitted from the title, and we forgot to suggest that trains and buses should include ``flexible space'' which can be used for wheelchairs, bicycles, parcels or standing passengers, and should allow communication with the outside world.

Incidentally, you may also use the above to test candidates in the forthcoming General and County Council elections. More on this in the next newsletter (if there is time for another before the General Election).


Here is a list of forthcoming events.

22 Jan: Rally in London in support of the Road Traffic Reduction Bill (see head of newsletter). Speakers include three MP's, Don Foster (Lib Dem), sponsor of the Bill, Joan Wallet (Lab) and Cynog Davis (Plaid Cymru) and Charles Secrett (Friends of the Earth), Daid Taylor (Green Party) and Joan Helme (Townswomen's Guilds).

23 Jan: Real World planning meeting in the Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge at 7.30. This is intended for people in the (new) parliamentary constituencies of Cambridge, S Cambs and SE Cambs. Members in Hunts or NW Cambs should contact Corrine Meakins on 01487 841538 for details of Real World activities.

4 Feb: Next meeting of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, 8.00 in the Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane. These are normally held on the first Tuesday of each month.

8 Feb: Meeting of STEER (Sustainable Transport and Environment in Eastern Region): 10.00-4.00, St Barnabas Church Hall, Mill Road, Cambridge (near rail station). Speakers include Tony Bird (Europe, Planning and Transport division, Government Office for Eastern Region), David Davies (Author of a report on sustainable local transpirt commissioned by CPRE) and Martin Fargher (CPRE Essex and Cyclists' Touring Club).

10 Feb: Next meeting of Cambridge Friends of the Earth Transport and Planning group, 7.30 in the FOE office at 110 Regent St, Cambridge.

18 Feb: Next T2000 branch meeting at 6.30 at 53 Abbey Road, Cambridge.

We welcome two new members: A. Quinn and C. Josephson, both of Cambridge. We wish our former European representative Nicholas Hammond all the best at his new home in Littleborough, near Rochdale.

Roads News.

The Budget was accompanied by the withdrawal of much of the longer term trunk roads programme. Schemes in or relevant to Cambs include the A1 motorway (Baldock to Alconbury and Peterborough to Stamford), M11 widening (various sections), A47 dualling (various sections, mostly in Norfolk) and A14 (M11 to A10 section).

This may seem good news for the sustainable transport campaign, but it was accompanied by continued cuts to local government finance which prevent it from supporting any adequate alternative to motoring. The Government has abolished support for ``minor works'' (mainly small scale schemes to benefit pedestrians and cyclists and improve street environments by measures such as traffic calming) -- apparently in order to finance the cost overrun on local authority road schemes. (No help was offered to London Transport when the Jubilee Line Extension -- a scheme far down the priority list of most Londoners, foisted on LT for political reasons -- ran into cost overruns.) Just about the only source of new local transport money in 1997-8 is the ``Capital Challenge'' scheme, which has been used to finance several transport schemes, mostly roads. (In Cambs the only money is its share of an East Anglia wide real time information system for the railways, but there are road schemes in Beds and Suffolk.) Last year the Government indicated that bids with a strong emphasis on road building were less likely to receive funding. This move was welcomed by environmental campaigns such as Transport 2000, but yet again the Government has said one thing and done another.

This is yet another of the ways in which the Government is mortgaging our future transport policy. Privatising the railways will make it more difficult and expensive to introduce integrated transport networks such as that suggested earlier. Private ``DBFO'' road schemes (such as the A1 between Alconbury and Peterborough, which looks like a ``road to nowhere'' as a result of the jettisoning of the upgrading of neighbouring sections, see above) are a very expensive way of financing new roads, but one which costs the present government nothing. And every road scheme financed by the Government this year will also absorb funds in forthcoming years, making it more difficult to fund sustainable transport schemes.

And unless we make a start quickly on developing a sustainable transport network through mechanisms such as the Road Traffic Reduction Bill, the problems which led to the road schemes won't go away. One must therefore emphasise that the withdrawal of a given road scheme does not end the need to campaign against a roads-based transport policy.

Council news.

In October the County Council cut yet more bus services, most of them shown in November's Travel Times. As usual they only considered two options: keep them as they are or cut them, whereas we believe that several of them could have been developed to attract more people. Specifically:

9 (Hilton-Papworth via Graveley, commuter service): this is one of several works buses to Papworth which should have been recast to connect with each other to provide commuter facilities to St Ives, Huntingdon, Cambridge and St Neots.

385/6 (Wisbech-Long Sutton, evening service): this is one of three evening services all tendered to different councils -- the other two are Kings Lynn-Terrington and Spalding-Sutton Bridge. We think they should all be coordinated to provide through services from Kings Lynn to Spalding and Wisbech. Kings Lynn is by far the best railhead for day trips to London, as with a Network Card discount the price is far cheaper than from Spalding.

14 (Mildenhall-Shuttleworth, summer Sundays): this is the fourth Sunday service to disappear in Cambs, the other three being Ely-Welney, Huntingdon-Littlehey Prison and Ely-Wisbech. We are particularly concerned that the launch of the Sunday Rover brand name last summer and the increasing interest of the National Trust in non-car access should be blighted by this decision, which cuts off two NT properties (Anglesey Abbey and Wimpole Hall). We believe that the gaps left by these withdrawals should have been filled by diverting other services. Specifically:

X3 (Cambridge-Northampton): part diverted via Arrington (for Wimpole) and Gamlingay, thereafter using route 176 as far as Bedford.

19 (Cambridge-Ely via Stretham and Soham): divert south of Soham via Anglesey Abbey, Bottisham and Burwell and extend to Littleport.

156 (Littleport-Ipswich via Ely and Mildenhall): except for first and last journeys (which would be diverted via Soham), divert to start Chatteris and run via Sutton, Haddenham, Stretham, Downham (connects 19). Milton, Landbeach and Waterbeach would be served by diverting 104 (Cambridge-Cottenham), and 92 (Oakington-Fulbourn) diverted to provide replacement buses to Histon.

337 (Peterboro'-March via Wisbech): runs Wisbech-Chatteris connecting with 156. Peterboro'-Wisbech section covered by diverting X94 (Peterboro'-Norwich). An extra X94 journey is needed in summer to provide a day trip facility to the Norfolk coast.

473/7 (St Neots-St Ives via Huntingdon): extended to St Neots Tesco's to connect with X5 to/from Cambridge and Bedford, and at the other end to Somersham and Chatteris (alternate journeys). Further diversions on some journeys to serve Eaton Socon, Offord, Littlehey Prison and/or Brampton Wood Nature Reserve.

Other Sunday proposals would improve the Cambridge and Peterborough bus networks, part divert 151/3 via Warboys and Ramsey, extend Yarmouth service 200 to start Huntingdon, and provide a new summer link between Cambridge and Hunstanton via Welney.

In January the Transport Services Committee met just as this was being typed. The agenda included the following items:

  1. Report on the progress of the Public Transport Action Plan -- which, however, fails to incorporate any of three key Structure Plan objectives: to improve interchanges, fill in missing links and provide journey to work services from NE Cambs to Cambridge and Peterborough.
  2. Outline of a proposed cycleway network suggested by Sustrans -- quite different from their original proposals. We hope that they do not intend to use the railway trackbed between Cambridge and Huntingdon and between Sandy and Bedford -- both essential for developing cross-country rail links. We have suggested that if the Ouse Washes embankment between Ely and March needs to be widened for electrification in connection with upgrading the lane as a major freight route, then a cycleway might be worth incorporating.
  3. Consideration of a new station at Sawston -- the recommendation is to put it on hold until Addenbrookes goes ahead. Still no overall plan for Cambs railways. The Action Plan (above) says that Werrington station is being put on hold pending consideration of the alternative at Walton; we much prefer the latter because it can serve Bretton and be used by trains to/from Stamford and Grantham as well as Spalding.

Other planning news: we have been involved in consultations over improving Westgate in Peterborough (we want a better pedestrian link to the rail station) and a possible new taxi rank in Emmanuel St, Cambridge (we object as the space mighe be needed for buses, and anyway there are enough taxi spaces already). We were represented at the public inquiry into stopping up the right of way through Lion Yard, Cambridge and hope to be represented in the forthcoming inquiry into the proposed Northern Fringe development, where we plan to suggest adoption of mandatory targets for car access (see Traffic Reduction Plan above). As you receive this Magdalene St and part of Bridge St will be closed to through traffic for an experimental period -- we hope that this is seen as successful in removing traffic from a grossly polluted street.

Cambs bus news.

Unfortunately we are short of copies of Travel Times, so here is a summary of relevant items (other than operator changes) in the October to December issues. Confusingly, the first of these was headed ``September''.

October: 797 (Cambridge-London via Stevenage) serves Duxford all year on Sundays. Cambridge Coach Services 38 (Cambridge-London via Haverhill) ceases to serve Bishops Stortford. CCS 71 (Cambridge-Bromsgrove via Rugby) times changed with just 3 services per day, also changes to 74 (Cambridge-Lowestoft). Changes to Myall's 91 (Bassingbourn-Hitchin), cuts to Enterprise 330 including one Chatteris journey, withdrawal of West Row 292, new Neals 160 (Fris) on much the same route as Cambus 122.

November: Cambridge Park and Ride split at City Centre, various changes to Peterborough city and Oundle services, new buses to Cambridge Beehive, changes to Delaine 201 (Peterborough-Stamford), and Norfolk Green 46/A. New Whippet bus from Elsworth, Boxworth and Conington to St Ives, diversion of Cambus 6, increase of Blands Oundle-Stamford to twice monthly, and other items below. At last a Cambridge City timetable has appeared.

Deecember: 342 (Thorney-Whittlesey) extended to Peterboro', 415 (Wood Walton-Peterboro') diverted via Ramsey, changes to Delaine 101/2 (Peterboro'-Bourne), Towler 3 (Wisbech-Kings Lynn) and Burton 202 (Newmarket area).

The November issue also mentioned the council cuts referred to above (except 14, which does not take effect till May as it's a summer only service). Other services cut are Viscount 4 and Delaine 303 (early morning journeys), Enterprise 358 (Chatteris local service) and Saffords 412 (Gamlingay-St Neots). It also mentioned that the W Hunts Postbus wouldn't start till March because of problems in Royal Mail, and referred to roadworks on the A1 and in St Ives.

Not mentioned, however, were significant changes to National Express 11 (Cambridge-London) which now uses different stops at Stratford and Embankment and also calls at Mile End. We hope the last does not presage the withdrawal of the Stratford stop when the M11 link road opens. Also not mentioned were roadworks on the A14 which, according to a notice spotted at St Ives, lead to some villages being cut off on some days. Anyone have further details?

Other new developments include a local bus timetable for Huntingdon and extension of the Saturday service on route 175 to restore a link to Biggleswade and serve Wimpole Hall. According to the notice at Drummer St, this is a ``shopping facility'' but are there enough shops to justify a 6 hour stay? We'd therefore like to see the intermediate journey extended to Biggleswade (or Gamlingay with connections thereto) to provide alternative facilities, and adaptation of the 120 (threatened with withdrawal but reprieved) to provide a later return journey for day trippers to London.

Comments on the above: we hope that Essex CC will adapt their summer Sunday 631 (Saffron Walden-Burnham on Crouch) to maintain connections with the revised 38. 71 is slightly improved but still fails to offer adequate day trip facilities to the Midlands. The 74 is also less convenient for those wanting an evening in Norwich but at least there's now a rail alternative. We don't like the split-up of park and ride (which should offer facilities from north of the city to Station Road Corner).

Miscellaneous travel news.

Stagecoach has put on a new express service between Leicester and Doncaster, via Nottingham, Mansfield, Worksop and Blyth. The timetable mentions connections with their 909 to Hull and Grimsby, but not their X61 to Oxford. Tilbury ferry has been withdrawn on Sundays, leaving no cross-Thames service east of Woolwich. We hope Essex and Kent CC will provide a substitute bus soon. Norfolk CC has produced a bus map, but Suffolk CC is still neglecting to update roadside bus displays. Is it appropriate for this council to lead a (successful) Capital Challenge bid for money to develop real time information for trains when low-tech bus information is so appalling?

Last time our headline article was about the National Routeing Guide for rail ticketing. We were given the impression at a Platform meeting that it should have been distributed in public libraries. Anyone seen one? And an on-line rail journey planning service is at last available (See link page). Unfortunately, unlike the German equivalent, it doesn't show fares -- so no help in navigating the National Routeing Guide! Remember our own (website) from which the Austin Analytics site, which has links to this and other sites with public transport information, is accessible.

STEER news.

Since our last newsletter the umbrella group STEER (Sustainable Transport and Environment in the Eastern Region) has been set up to cover Cambs, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Herts and Beds, following on from a similar group in SW England. Their first newsletter features the Government Office for the Eastern Region, the post-budget trunk road programme, the proposed Sudbury Western by-pass, a discussion of problems in Essex, a decision withdrawing a cycling ban in Ipswich, a list of contacts for networking and a list of successful Capital Challenge bids in the region.

Channel Tunnel news.

(By Nicholas Hammond, using the coverage provided by Peterborough based ``Rail'' magazine) At 8.45 GMT on 18 Nov smoke was seen coming from a UK-bound lorry shuttle disappearing into the tunnel. The control centre told the driver to continue so the fire could be dealt with at Folkestone, but a warning light in the cab told the driver to stop. The driver was told to uncouple the engine and club car and continue to England, but the power supply had failed, probably because the fire had melted or distorted the overhead wire.

The 3 staff and 31 passengers were evacuated to the service tunnel and transferred to a car shuttle going back to France, arriving within the 90 minutes specified by Eurotunnel's safety procedures. All were taken to a Calais hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, but nobody was killed.

Both countries' fire brigades fought the blaze which apparently reached $1000^o$C, causing the concrete segments to split. The fire was fought well, but the tunnel may take up to 6 months to repair.

Railfreight started to use the tunnel 3 days later using single track working in the middle of the tunnel. However it was not till early December that Eurostar through trains were restored, with car shuttles returning a week later and coach shuttles at the beginning of January. Was this delay justified when air and sea operators can continue running after an accident with no change in operating procedures? After all the failure in safety was peculiar to the lattice-sided lorry carrying wagons, and it is only lorries that are liable to be heavily loaded with inflammable matter.

There must also be suspicion that when the lorry-carrying wagons were first approved, safety was being skimped. It is not unlikely that new wagons will need to be designed and built, taking another 2 years and further affecting Eurotunnel's already precarious finances. However Eurotunnel's share price was hardly affected by the incident (it went down from 84p to 80p) as the tunnel is heavily insured, allowing the tunnel to be repaired and lorry firms and Eurostar compensated. Eurotunnel chairman Patrick Ponsolle said that losses could be up to GBP 7m.

Action Line.

Ask your MP (immediately) not to obstruct the Road Traffic Reduction Bill, and write to your county councillor asking him/her to think how the Bill might change county transport policy, using the material in this newsletter. This may also be used in the run-up to the General and County Council elections.

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