Transport 2000 Cambs and W Suffolk

Newsletter 58, Apr 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.


On the last day of Parliament the Road Traffic Reduction Bill finally cleared the Lords, after which it received the Royal Assent and became an Act. Both the national and local media ignored this momentous event. But it is only the first hurdle on the course to a sustainable transport policy, a course that seems to have more hurdles than the Grand National.

The Act empowers all local authorities down to parish councils to set local traffic reduction targets and set out the measures which in their opinion are required to achieve such targets, including (our emphasis) changes in government policy. County, district and unitary councils have a positive duty to do the above unless they can produce cogent reasons for not doing so.

It is possible for the County Council to set very weak targets, or none at all, and continue with its current policies which don't even keep pace with ever increasing car ownership in the county. It is also possible for the Council to say in no uncertain terms, following the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, that meaningful traffic reduction targets will only be achieved if the Government bumps up car taxation and uses the revenue to regenerate the public transport system -- starting in rural areas, which will otherwise suffer hardship. The principal aim of our Traffic Reduction Plan (currently in its final draft) is to persuade local authorities in Cambs to go for the latter course. If local authorities elsewhere in the country follow suit, the result will, we hope, be an unstoppable momentum for the changes we need at national level.

County Councillors lose no opportunity to explain how they favour public transport, walking and cycling against the car. In recent years they have also cut numerous bus services, (not unjustly) blaming cuts in government support. These cuts will magnify the cost of restoring a sustainable public transport network, and in that respect may be considered lousy value for money; but never mind, at least their heart seems to be in the right place, and we hope that the current reorganisation of the County Council (with a new committee covering the environment as well as transport) will help. A pity that just as this might have started to show results, they might be shoved aside by political changes as a result of the hive-off of Peterborough. At the County Council elections on 1 May, will you elect a county councillor who is prepared to give non-polluters a square deal?

To illustrate what a ``square deal'' means, we turn to a report called ``Making Tracks in Wiltshire''. This shows that spending on public transport in shire counties is less than a fifth of that in metropolitan counties -- where public transport still tends to fall far short of what is needed. In blunt terms, if you live in a shire county and either don't have a car or would rather not use it, you are being short changed. How much by? Well, according to 1993 figures, every week 6p of the average person's council tax goes on public transport instead of 32p. Can't we afford 26p in the name of fairness?

Mind you, as well as more support for public transport, we'll also need capital spending to resurrect our rail network; pump priming to generate new public transport users; and higher car taxes (of whatever kind) to give people a financial incentive to look at public transport and use it, if only for those journeys where it offers a reasonable service. These car taxes can also help to finance the improvements for public transport (and walking and cycling). We believe that once public transport looks to the whole population, rather than just non car owners, for patronage, it can really ``take off''.

The next question is, what will the next Government do? Whatever local authorities ask for under the Road Traffic Reduction Act, will it come up with the resources necessary to do the job, or allow local authorities to raise such resources for themselves? If the latter, will it offer matching funding to encourage them to do so? As you vote in the General Election on 1 May, these are the questions you should have in mind.

Meanwhile here are statements from the Liberal Democrats and Labour. (We haven't had anything from the Conservatives and Greens.)

Liberal Democrats

(by Geoffrey Heathcock, candidate for Cambridge City).

There can be no doubt that the issue of Transport and its place in providing a sustainable Environment is now a key one and rightly. Liberal Democrats have no doubt that the transfer of resources from the love-affair with the car to public transport is the number one item on any incoming Transport Secretary's desk.

If we are really serious about an integrated Transport System, new money from taxing pollution and those who create it would really make a significant difference to the survival of our Planet into the Millenium. We want to encourage people to drive more fuel-efficient cars by cutting the annual tax from GBP 145 to GBP 10 for cars to 1600cc funded by an increase of 4p a litre, reform tax relief for company cars to dissuade the use and give incentives to using public transport.

We have always supported the growth in rail freight and welcome some of the developments in the now privatised system -- specifically we want to treble the freight use and double the number of passengers on the system by 2010. We would give Railtrack much tougher targets to invest in the system and give the Rail Regulator much tougher powers to get higher performance for rail users and hit them where it really hurts. The customer must come first. We would enable Councils to introduce road-pricing in most congested areas and transfer the resources to improving public transport and thereby give a sustainable and green alternative. There is still more that can be done to introduce greener modes of transport -- and we would encourage more partnership in developing liquid gas buses etc., cleaner and quieter. If we want a clean, green, quieter and healthier transport network, we all have to bully politicians not to continue the mass production of cars, find alternative means of employment and move to real alternatives which can help us all in the long-term.


(by Anne Campbell, candidate for Cambridge City).

Britain desperately needs an efficient, integrated transport strategy after 18 years of Tory mismanagement. Their legacy can be seen in Britain every day: congestion, pollution, deteriorating public transport, commuter misery and limited mobility for those without cars, especially in rural areas. The Conservative road building policy merely produced more traffic and proved to be unsustainable. The Government abandoned it, but without developing any viable alternative. Their chronic under-investment in transport systems have left us with maintenance backlogs in the whole railway and road infrastructure.

Labour recognises that transport is vital both to the future of the economy and the everyday life of citizens and we want to see an integrated planning and transport system which offers people and businesses real choice, helps the economy and protects the environment.

Here in Cambridge we live in a beautiful historic city that cannot sustain current levels of traffic, let alone an increase. And yet we must maintain and improve the viability of the town centre for shopping and leisure, rather than encouraging the development of out of town centres, accessible only by car.

In Cambridge both city and county councils have tried hard to tackle traffic problems and I fully support the provision of park & ride facilities, cycle and bus lanes and the free, gas powered city shuttle. The councils have been prepared to try experimental schemes such as the Bridge St closure, and continue to explore possibilities, such as the Addenbrookes railway station, to encourage the use of public transport. However, there will always be a limit to what local government can achieve alone and there is a great need for a government sympathetic to their aims, which is willing to work in partnership with councils as well as local communities and businesses. I believe that Labour would fulfil that role. A Labour government would devolve more transport decision making to the local level, whilst providing the strategic framework that genuinely challenges our excessive car and lorry dependence.

Transport cannot be seen in isolation from environmental policy and land use planning. We would include transport in planning for land use so that new developments do not add to car dependence and traffic growth. Planned road schemes would be reviewed and would be judged in the context of our transport priorities, not least a respect for the environment.

Labour's aim is to tackle congestion and pollution and give real choice by the availability of convenient and accessible public transport facilities, encourage walking and cycling and attracting more passengers and freight onto rail.

The Tories' privatised and fragmented rail system doesn't work, as the wholesale cancellations on SW Trains have shown. Labour will use the full powers of the Rail Regulator to ensure that the network is run in the interests of passengers and establish a strategic rail authority to ensure value for money from the public subsidy, including through ticketing, accurate train information, good connections and coordination with other modes of transport, such as buses. Labour will establish a new regulatory framework for buses to encourage partnership between local authorities and bus operators, more investment and better travel information. We would also encourage better provision for cyclists and pedestrians, and promote safe routes to schools.

I personally use the train and bicycle for as many journeys as possible and neither my husband nor I own a car. I have campaigned for a Commons cycle allowance to encourage MP's to use their cars less often. We need to make the alternatives to car use more attractive and then actively promote them to create a genuine shift in attitudes. I believe that MP's can contribute positively to this process by their own transport choices.

Branch News.

As the Coordinator is going away between 29 April and 24 July there are no meetings planned for this period. We hope to hold a meeting on either Tuesday 22 April or Thursday 24 April, but details (including the venue) remain to be decided. If the former, the meeting is likely to be immediately before the Charter 88 Democracy Day to be held at the Unitarian Church in Emmanuel Road, Cambridge starting 8.00. Cambridge constituents in particular may wish to attend this meeting anyway.

Two events that may interest you: on Sat 26 April, 9.30-3.30, Sudbury Town Hall, a stall by a group promoting the reinstatement of the railway between Cambridge and Sudbury (ring 01787 228429 for more details). This is in our Traffic Reduction Plan, though only as a long term option involving light rail. And on Sun 11 May Cambridge Cycling Campaign are running a Grand Cycle Ride -- contact CCC for details.

During the Coordinator's absence, correspondence about Transport 2000 should be addressed to Basil Bonner at the address at the head of this newsletter. The Coordinator can be contacted as follows: [internet users please use email -- webmaster] If you have access to email (and there are public facilities available in Cambridge Central Library), send email (these will be forwarded to Canada automatically).

Subscriptions are now due -- if you haven't yet paid for this year and are due to do so you should have a renewal slip enclosed.

Reports, meetings and consultations. The last few months have seen considerable activity on the transport front. Our last newsletter mentioned the Round Table on Sustainable Development. Its reports are available free from the Department of the Environment (ring 0171 890 4964). ``Making Connections'' covered the issue of facilities for more complicated journeys by public transport (and intermodal freight). The former subject has been one of our concerns ever since our group started out (as the Cambridge Area bus Campaign) in 1985, and we welcome the outspoken tone of the report. The Coordinator attended a meeting in Huntingdon at which one of the contributors (Brian Welch of Northants CC) spoke about the report. A slight defect: the Round Table didn't do enough to consult public transport users; had it done so, its tone would no doubt have been even more outspoken!

The Round Table also produced another report, called ``Getting around Town''. One of the key issues was the problems caused by large companies on out of town sites, with Barclaycard (who is in the process of moving from the centre of Northampton to the edge of town Brackmills Business Park) as a case study. This seems to have many features in common with Cambridge's northern fringe -- could one solution for us (reopening of the St Ives line) be exported to Northants in the form of the reopening of the Northampton to Wellingborough line, which passes Brackmills? This line is on the priority list of the Railway Development Society; it is also in our Traffic Reduction Plan as it forms part of a route to Peterborough.

A report commissioned by Transport 2000 together with the Historic Burghs Association of Scotland is called ``Sustainable Transport & Retail Vitality''. The theme of this report is that environmental improvements and commercial prosperity go hand in hand.

On 13 March councils, councillors, businesses and pressure groups met in Ely to form the first Cambridgeshire Rural Forum. We used this as an opportunity to put forward the ideas in our Traffic Reduction Plan, which is very much rural oriented -- and felt that in doing so we were pushing at an open door, as there was general acceptance for the need for a more sustainable strategy. Is it the dead hand of bureaucracy that is preventing this from emerging into action?

We have also had meetings with the County Council at both the councillor and officer level. We are now prepared to believe that the Council's heart is in the right place (at least until the election) though, as we said before, everything is happening too late. Further cuts are still possible; possibilities are cuts to concessionary fares and the axing of Travel Times -- the latter would severely affect our campaigning and information role.

The County Council has issued a consultation document called ``Environment 2000''. This includes lots of policies and plans for action to move towards a more sustainable future. There is a commitment to start to revise the public transport strategy later this year -- time too, as the present strategy is so weak as to be meaningless. The report goes into ``environmental education'' in detail, but omits the subject of teaching young people (and others, for that matter) how to use public transport. We have driving lessons, so why not non-driving lessons? It is also notable that all the ``centres of environmental education'' mentioned in the report lie on bus routes where the Sunday service has been withdrawn in recent years, or soon will be.

We conclude this section by referring to our own Traffic Reduction Plan. As stated earlier, this is in the final stages of preparation. The current plan is for it to be launched by Cambridge Friends of the Earth in Green Transport Week (14-22 June). If you want to get involved, contact David Earl (telephone number at head of newsletter).

Goodbye Sunday Rover?

Well, not quite, but the reality is bad enough. As mentioned in our last newsletter, routes 14, 303 and 473/7 are to disappear (though it now appears that Anglesey Abbey will retain a service, presumably interworked with route 19). So after 18 May no Sunday trips by bus to the Hinchingbrooke country park and hospital, Edith Cavell hospital, Grafham Water, Paxton Pits or Brampton Wood nature reserves, Wimpole Hall, the Shuttleworth Collection (unless you go via Bedford), Barnack Hills & Holes, Burleigh House, Sacrewell Watermill (though the last can be accessed by the Nene Valley Railway and also, on some Sundays, by the Northants Saunterbus).

Access to the Northants Saunterbus, and anywhere to the west for that matter, from the Cambridge and St Neots areas will be hindered by changes to the X3. To be precise, the last through working leaves Northampton at 18.15 instead of 18.40 and 20.40. There is also a bus from Northampton at 20.15 connecting with the last X5 to Cambridge, but Sunday Rovers and United Counties Explorers aren't valid on the X5. Also, some of the Saunterbus routes return to Northampton between 18,15 and 18.40.

Go east? We were told by the County Council that the Sunday bus routes in Suffolk are likely to survive. But also that Suffolk CC is to drop out of the Sunday Rover scheme. It isn't clear whether there will be some more local replacement, but even if so it won't help Cambridge people wishing to use the improved Norfolk network we are expecting.

We don't know the status of the Radwinter connection between routes 38 and 631 yet -- unless the 631 timetable changes there'll be no evening connection because of changes to the 38. Will Essex CC bother to deal with this problem given that usage of this link has been restricted in past years by Cambs CC's refusal to advertise it in their Sunday bus book?

Here are details of the Northants Saunterbus. There are six routes with just one running each Sunday (plus some weekdays). The Danetre Saunter uses a new route serving Daventry Borough Hill and Country Park, Braunston Canal Centre, Hellidon Vineyard, Althorp House (July/Aug only) and Holdenby House. Dates are 25/5, 6/7, 7/8 and 7/9. Leaves Northampton at 11.30 or 13.35 returning by 17.50.

The Stowes Saunter serves Stowe Landscape Gardens, Sulgrave Manor (home of the ancestors of George Washington) and Canons Ashby. Northampton 11.45 return 18.28 and Buckingham 12.27 and 14.37 return 16.20 -- the route also serves Brackley and Towcester. 5/5, 1/6, 12/8, 25/8.

The Brampton Valley Saunter serves the Northampton and Lamport Railway, Coton Manor Gardens, Kelmarsh and Lamport Halls, and the Carpetbaggers Aviation Museum. Northampton 12.30 and 14.40 return 18.23, 4/5, 8/6, 27/7, 24/8, 14/9.

The Heritage Saunter serves Summer Leys nature reserve (new) and Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum, Northampton 10.35 and 12.35, Wellingborough 36 minutes later, return to Northampton 17.05, 26/5, 15/6, 20/7, 17/8.

The John Clare Saunter serves many attractions on the Oundle to Stamford corridor, including (new) Ashton Dragonfly Museum. Northampton 10.40 return 18.45, Wellingborough 11.08 return 18.18, Rushden 11.24 return 18.02, Thrapston 11.44 return 17.44, Oundle 12.00 and 14.00 return 17.25, Wansford Nene Valley Railway 13.04 return 17.04, 11/5, 29/6, 10/8, 20/8, 31/8.

And the Rockingham Saunter serves Rockingham Castle, Kirby Hall, Deene Hall and Boughton House. Northampton 11.20 return 18.24, Wellingborough 11.48 return 17.59, Kettering 12.05 return 17.42, Corby Civic Centre 12.24 and 13.53 return 18.25, 27/4, 18/5, 22/6, 13/7, 3/8.

The only other summer Sunday bus service within the Sunday Rover scheme where we currently have details is the Ridgeway Explorer between Reading and Swindon. This year there are 4 buses running on the usual scenic route at 3 hourly intervals, with connections at Wantage to/from Oxford by Trames Transit (who run the service) and also a couple of journeys between Reading and Oxford by the main road. If you want to do this in a day you'll have to pay extra and use the X5 or 75 between Cambridge and Oxford. (Note: the Oxford to Wantage buses leave from St Aldates in Oxford, not the bus station.)

If you are visiting Epping Forest beware: the Ongar to Chelmsford Sunday service has been withdrawn.

Other local bus news.

We go through the main changes outlined in Travel Times (March and April issues).

Ramsey area: the new timetable is better in that it provides a more regular (about 2 hourly) service, but it's still far worse than a place like Ramsey has a right to expect.

CCS 75: we support the withdrawal of the Trumpington stop which improves reliability. We'd have liked to see some extra stops in the Shelford/Sawston area instead of the current operation via Four Went Ways.

Wisbech area: we haven't seen the new timetables for the 337 -- we hope that they offer decent connections to/from Wisbech with rail services at Peterborough and March.

The cuts foreshadowed in our last newsletter have all happened -- the main one not yet mentioned is the 118 between Longstowe and Gamlingay, where the potential of connections to Bedfordshire had never been exploited.

One other change worth mentioning: Stagecoach is about to divest itself of the United Counties operations around Huntingdon, following a requirement of the Office of Fair Trading as a result of its acquisition of Cambus. We are told that this will not include the Coachlinks services. But the 22.15 Cambridge to Huntingdon is interworked with the latter, and we urge members from St Ives and Huntingdon to protest strongly about the inevitable threat to this working. Nothing is likely to happen immediately, but watch out later.

If UC had to be split up, we would have preferred the loss of the Biggleswade area operations (including Bedford to Hitchin) together with the routes from Cambridge to Royston and Longstowe (plus extensions). These are far more self contained and this change might have led to the new links between Cambridge and East Beds that we have long been seeking. But as usual nobody bothers to consult those who actually use the buses... (the merits of UC divesting itself of the one part of its operations where there is intense competition is unclear). The acquiring operator comes from South Wales. Any political significance in an operator from the safest Labour area in Britain taking over the operator in the truest blue Tory seat?

National Express is little changed for the summer. There are extra relief journeys between Cambridge and London, and a new fare structure with singles cheaper and returns more expensive. The only other change the compiler has noticed is the loss of day trip facilities from London to Eastbourne.

Round and about.

For a good day out (or longer) try a Wiltshire Dayrover, valid from Oxford on the improved services 65 and 66 to Swindon. The 65 runs 2 hourly from George St, connects with 75 from Cambridge, and serves the intermediate villages. The 66 runs hourly direct and connects with the X5. Beyond Swindon, and in the Marlborough area, there is lovely countryside served by several bus routes, and excellent walking. Dayrovers are valid as far as Newbury, including (we believe) the Hungerford route taken over by Newbury Buses from Swansdown. A visit to the countryside around Newbury will give you an insight into the reasons for all the fuss about the by-pass! The last bus back from Swindon is the 17.45 Thames Transit route 64 to Witney, with connections on to Oxford.

We believe, incidentally, that United Counties Explorers may be valid on Stagecoach Swindon & District and other Stagecoach subsidiaries in this area -- at least, Swindon & District have issued a leaflet saying their Explorers are valid on UC. All the other operators also issue day out tickets whose validity may cover operators in adjoining areas. But not the Newbury to Oxford route X34.

Also from Oxford, from 1 June Thames Trains will be bringing back the Cotswold Explorer ticket. This ticket, on which Network Card discounts are available, gives unlimited travel for 1 day (or longer periods) between Oxford and Worcester (not Malvern this year; this will be reflected in a price cut) including several bus routes such as the Cotswold Explorer which will be running on a new route linking Moreton in Marsh with Evesham via Hidcote Gardens, Chipping Campden, Snowshill and Broadway. However, the Cotswold Connection and Wye Valley Wanderer, Sunday services promoted by Hereford & Worcester county council, will not be running this year.

Derbyshire has a slightly modified Sunday network in the Peak District. The Hadrian's Wall bus will be improved. But the Surrey network has been cut back at the Kent end and now serves East Grinstead and Kingscote (for the Bluebell Railway) instead of Westerham.

North Weald Market, which claims to be the largest open air market in Britain, still runs free buses on Saturdays and Bank Holiday Mondays. The most useful one from this area is from Bishops Stortford at 53 past the hour -- for a scenic route thereto try route 26 from Royston at 08.50 returning by 17.40 on route 10 (connections by 146 or rail to/from Cambridge). Other buses to/from North Weald serve Waltham Cross, Hoddesdon, Hertford, Ware, Harlow, Epping, Loughton, Brentwood and Chelmsford. Timetables available from the Market Office in North Weald when the market is open.

Also in Essex, the Easybus network which caters for disabled people has been disbanded except for two new routes which run more frequently. Route 318 now runs through from Saffron Walden to Harlow on Saturdays -- a scenic run serving, inter alia, Hatfield Forest and connecting to/from Cambridge. A new service links Stansted and Gatwick airports via Central London, approaching the latter by Finchley Road -- between the airport it takes longer than Cambridge Coach Services. A pity there's no service via the Dartford Crossing, especially as the ``Lakeside specials'' that do run that way have been severely cut, while trains connecting with Tilbury Ferry offer appalling connections.


If visiting the Scottish Highlands and Islands you can pick up timetables in advance at the Scottish Tourist Board office in London (near Trafalgar Square). Try also the Royal Mail office in Moorgate for a complete set of Postbus timetables (in England, Wales and Scotland). For reference information, if you can't get what you want in Cambridge Central Library it may be in Bishopsgate Library near Liverpool St station. And don't forget the Great Britain Bus Timetable -- copies in most libraries and tourist offices, or subscribe by post (GBP 11 single copy, GBP 30 annually from Heather Hodgkins, Southern Vectis, Nelson Road, Newport, Isle of Wight PO30 1RD).

Some rail offers: the well publicised GBP 19 single fare between London and Scotland is also valid from Stevenage, provide your train stops there. This offer requires booking a week in advance. It's a response to discount fares by air and coach, so may not last forever. There are also cheap day return fares (GBP 24) between Peterborough and Edinburgh, again requiring advance booking.

Action Line.

Not so much in the way of lobbying this time (wait until we can see what the new government and county council are up to).

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