Transport 2000 Cambs and W Suffolk

Newsletter 60, November 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.


We are still waiting for signs that the new Government is doing anything to clean up the mess caused by the policies of the Thatcher/Major era. So far, just about the only positive moves on transport have been the cancellation of the Salisbury by-pass and A40 scheme in London; in particular there has been no sign that the Government recognises the seriousness of the rural transport crisis, even though transport minister Glenda Jackson did say at a Cambridge conference that she was horrified at what people in many rural areas have to put up with.

On land use planning things seem to be even worse. There has been a projection of 4.4 million new ``households'' within the next few decades. This has been interpreted as meaning that we'll need that number of stereotypical, mostly suburban, family homes, even though much of the increase is because households are reducing in size to one or two people, for whom smaller in-town properties are more likely to be suitable. The Government has also dropped the target for reuse of already developed land (``brownfield sites'') from 60% (or 70% as recommended by environmental groups) to 50% -- that's an increase of 25% (or 66.66 %) in the number of edge of town houses needed.

Nor are the signs any better on shopping developments. The best way to shift shopping back to town centres is to do the following:

  1. Impose a tax on private non-residential parking -- and signal one's intention to do so to developers so that they will take account of this in their profitability calculations. (This approach offers just about the only hope of stopping developments that already have planning permission.)
  2. Democratise the planning system. Local authorities should be able to raise funds from local taxation to fund needed developments rather than having to rely on a few crumbs of planning gain from an unsustainable private development. Objectors should have the right of appeal against planning permission for major developments, and the developers should have to pay the local authority costs whatever the outcome. Local opinion should be a relevant factor in determining planning permission.

Maybe the tide will turn in due course. The question is, will this happen in time before we are totally dependent on cars. Already, retail chains are claiming that new edge of town superstores will actually reduce driving because people will have the option of going to one nearer their home; but what about those who live in in-town locations because they want to avoid having to drive at all? Or those who work in central areas and prefer to buy their food on the way home?

As we write this newsletter preparations are being made for the Climate Change summit in Kyoto. Scientists have warned that we need an immediate cut of 60% in greenhouse gases and deeper cuts later if we are not to preempt the resources of poorer countries. As far as transport is concerned, this can only be achieved by a combination of reducing the distances we travel, shifting from cars (and aircraft) to more efficient modes of transport, and making all our vehicles -- both private and public -- more energy efficient. Those who prefer to muddle along until super-efficient cars come along are not only treading on the rights of people who suffer from increasing car dependence, they are jeopardising our whole ecological future.

Branch news.

We announce the AGM on Sat 13 Dec at 2.30. The venue for this has not been definitely settled -- we are hoping to use the new Cambridge Friends of the Earth office at St Michael's Church, Trinity St, Cambridge. Ring one of the Committee (Coordinator, Chairman, Minutes Secretary), or Elizabeth Arndt of Cambridge FOE (01223 570884) from the middle of next week to confirm. If we cannot secure this venue, we will try to redirect any people who come there to wherever the meeting is -- so don't be put off coming if you can't confirm the venue.

The main business of the AGM will be to reelect the Committee and to discuss our annual report (including our financial statement) which is in this newsletter below. Please note that our Minutes Secretary has expressed his intention of standing down -- a volunteer is urgently needed! The post does not require much work, and being on the Committee means that meetings are more likely to be arranged for your convenience. If you are willing to volunteer, please inform the Coordinator as soon as possible -- our Constitution requires 2 weeks notice but we may, of course, have to accept a late application. As usual, the AGM will be combined with an ordinary meeting, and both will afford an opportunity to discuss any issues members may wish to raise.

Here is a diary of events:

We welcome the following new members. In addition to Labour MP's Anne Campbell and Helen Brinton, we are glad to say that our membership now includes a third, Conservative, MP: Andrew Lansley (S Cambs), constituency office at 153 St Neots Rd, Hardwick; other new members are J Sheppard of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge; plus national supporters J Ayres, Community Technology (a representative of this organisation addressed our AGM several years ago on the subject of real time information for buses) and G Matthews. We also expect to enter into mutual affiliation (exchange of newsletters etc. but not money) with the Peterborough to Norwich Rail Users Group.

If you have not yet renewed for 1997-8 a renewal form is enclosed with this newsletter. Please note that this will be your last reminder.

Annual report and financial statement (25 Sept 1997)

Our activities have been limited because the Secretary has been away for much of the time.

The Transport Debate.

Our main activity at the beginning of 1997 was the compilation, in consultation with other groups throughout the county, of a report indicating how we believe local councils within the county should respond to the Road Traffic Reduction Bill. In fact there are still outstanding issues to be resolved, and the report in its present form needs a bit of updating, but we have had to suspend the launch of the report because amendments to the Road Traffic Reduction Bill during its progress through Parliament means that our response would no longer be appropriate to the Act as it stands, mainly because local councils do not have the freedom to propose changes in the institutional framework as originally proposed.

However we plan to recycle our ideas for use in other consultative forums, especially that on the Government White Paper currently under way.

We wrote to all the parish councils within the county which were listed as supporters of the Road Traffic Reduction Bill, asking them to support our work. Three have joined.


The main event of the year has been the attempt by the train operators to derecognise Network Cards on evening peak trains out of London. We have joined the universal outcry against this move, pointing out the plight of people who cannot use trains after the peak period because of lack of connecting buses; and we have used the issue as a lever to try to get WAGN interested in rail/bus links. However we were greatly relieved when the move was dropped, though the plan to increase the cost of Network Cards will still go ahead.

For the individual train operators we have the following comments:

WAGN: there have been improvements in the Cambridge to Kings Lynn service which have made it easier for daytrippers to North Norfolk (for example).

Central Trains: little change this year. Connections with WAGN at Ely and GNER at Peterborough continue to concern us. We await the return of through trains to Stansted Airport in 1998, and have asked the operator to coordinate the timetable with WAGN, to reenter the Network Card system (between Stansted Airport and Ely) and to allow the use of through tickets via Stansted Airport.

GNER: this operator has pulled out of Huntingdon. As it had hitherto been running just one train a day, this is perhaps not very important, but we believe that Huntingdon should be developed as a major interchange for trains to the North, and that now is the right time to do it because of extensive roadworks on the A1 north of Huntingdon.

Anglia: little change -- the first train to Ipswich still misses an important connection to East Suffolk and there's still no late night train back on Saturdays. And the operator has neglected Cambridgeshire in its promotions. Two significant changes have been the recasting of the Harwich service in conjunction with Stena's new fast ferry -- which has made journeys to Europe far less convenient because of the loss of the night sailing -- and the new bus link between Stansted Airport and Colchester (though there are two other operators on this corridor).

Eurostar: we are still waiting for through services from Peterborough to continental Europe. We are concerned at the dropping of the night service, partly because of the loss of alternative routes (see above); we believe that the reason the night service has been deemed non-viable is largely due to the segregation of domestic and international travellers.

We have voiced concern about the National Routeing Guide. Unfortunately this is not available for public inspection at the time of writing, so we cannot make any detailed comments.

We have also voiced concern about the proposed route of the east-west rail link (via Cambridge, Letchworth, Sandy, Bedford and Oxford) as we consider that the benefits to Cambs will be much less than under the option via St Ives and Huntingdon (the last being an ideal location for rail connections to the GNER line). We have suggested that a good first step would be the provision of a train service from Oxford to Bedford with bus link to St Neots station and Cambridge city centre and station, which would be replaced by a bus link from St Neots off a service to Huntingdon and Peterborough as soon as the Bedford-Sandy line reopens.

We are also concerned that the rail forum for the West Anglia Line has been set up in such a way as to exclude the Cambridgeshire section. We are trying to get representation on the forum through a rail user group which would cover the whole line between Bishops Stortford and Cambridge, for which the existing user group SENTA would be the nucleus. Among our priorities remains the restoration of a Sunday train service to Whittlesford connecting with buses to surrounding villages and the Imperial War Museum.

We welcome the spread of improved cycle carriage facilities and the plans to provide real time information at stations.


Here the news is almost all bad. Cambridgeshire CC has continued to withdraw support for various tendered services, which have as a result disappeared. The most important of the daytime cuts was the loss of the midday service between Gamlingay and Longstowe, which together with cuts to Whippet's commercial (and former tendered) service between Cambridge and Biggleswade makes journeys to East Beds very difficult. Changes to the Sunday network have cut off a large number of places of interest for a day out, as well as denying the residents of many significant communities access to the network. The best day out opportunities now involve travelling outside the county, but the Council's Sunday bus guide still doesn't offer adequate information on getting to places of interest outside the county.

There have also been cuts on the Sunday network in Essex and Suffolk, but the Norfolk network has improved (except for the loss of the bus via Ranworth which served an otherwise inaccessible part of the Broads).

We have also expressed our concern at the loss of the County Council's Travel Times, which gave people news about service changes. Whatever the replacement facilities the county is providing, they aren't reaching those of the general public who may wish to be reassured that the service they are planning to use (which may be outside their own area) hasn't changed, or who may wish to take advantage of any new services that have been introduced. In addition, if people don't know what's going on they will be unable to make informed comment, to the detriment of the democratic process.

Another backward step has been the increase in the cost of pensioners' passes. We are concerned that the Council are figuring on ``savings'' which are based on the assumption that 17% of pensioners will cease to buy passes. What is more, although these 17% will clearly be those who use buses least, the savings are based on the assumption that operators will not be demanding any more compensation per passenger. We have shown that on the ``revenue neutral'' assumption that underlines the 1985 Transport Act, such savings cannot possibly be achieved. We are further concerned that certain councillors seem to be making noises about depriving better off pensioners of passes altogether, which will only encourage them to drive rather than using the bus.

Yet another backward step has been the hive-off of the Huntingdon operations of Stagecoach United Counties to a new company, Premier Buses, following the intervention of the Monopolies & Mergers Commission after the takeover of Cambus by the Stagecoach Group. Since the hive-off Premier have introduced significant service cuts and fare increases, and network benefits have been lost. (Meanwhile we have yet to see any network benefits from the takeover of Cambus itself.) We believe the Monopolies & Mergers Commission should be required to consult passengers before deciding what is best for them.

Just about the only positive move has been the provision of a new Cambus network serving the villages north of the A14 between Cambridge and Fenstanton. But even this has not been without adverse side effects; in particular, the village of Fen Drayton has lost most of its services entirely, and a new ``missing link'' has been created between Over/Swavesey and St Ives.

We are also disturbed at speculations that the demand responsive bus service in West Hunts, originally launched under the name ``Stagecoach'' but having no connection with the bus operating group of that name, may be replaced by a conventional bus service serving fewer villages on retendering next year. We are planning to liaise with local parish councils to set up a scheme to relaunch the service, with a particular eye to developing leisure patronage.

As far as inter-urban travel is concerned, our top priority remains the A14 corridor, where there are now just 4 journeys per day on the two relevant routes (Cambridge Coach Services 71 and National Express 314). We believe that a frequent service connecting with rail at Cambridge, Huntingdon, Kettering and Rugby would open up major cuts in travel time for many cross-country journeys, e.g. from 2 hrs 50 mins (rail) or 2 hrs 35 mins (coach, just 1 per day) between Cambridge and Birmingham to 2 hrs 15 mins (bus to Rugby then train).


Not much news here. Work continues on the wasteful A1 motorway scheme between Alconbury and Peterborough, the rationale for which, even on traffic grounds, has been largely removed by the withdrawal of plans to widen adjacent sections of the A1.

Two of the schemes considered by the Government in its ``accelerated review'' relate to corridors which pass through our county. We were gravely disappointed at the go-ahead given to the Birmingham Northern Relief Road, part of the Felixstowe to Holyhead TERN scheme. The A421/A428 by-passes have been referred to the main review on which decisions have yet to be made.

We plan to urge that the Government scrap the entire roads programme. This doesn't mean that some road building might not be justified, but any scheme should be regarded as suspect unless it was designed with environmental considerations, rather than the increase of traffic capacity, foremost in mind.


Here there's one item of good news: the closure of Bridge St, Cambridge was implemented experimentally in January 1997. However we are concerned that the experiment might be abandoned because of congestion on alternative routes, and have been trying to set up an umbrella group to campaign for an initiative to encourage motorists on the Huntingdon Road corridor to switch to buses, including a segregated bus route to the City Centre.

We have submitted evidence to various public inquiries: we opposed the Lion Yard right of way closure (and lost) and are also opposing plans for major shopping developments in Cambridge's northern fringe and for a superstore in Trumpington (for which the inquiries are under way or soon to start).


We have continued to cooperate with Cambridge and Huntingdon Friends of the Earth and the Cambridge Cycling Campaign. New links have been forged with Wisbech Friends of the Earth, and have affiliated to regional transport campaign group STEER.

We are planning to attend a conference organised by the Government Office for the Eastern Region as part of the consultation process on the Government White Paper. We have already attended a meeting organised by the East Midlands Office in Northampton on the theme of ``Making Public Transport Effective'', in lieu of the Leics Transport 2000 representative who was unable to attend.

The absence of the Coordinator means that we have had to bow out from Peterborough Environment City's Transport Special Working Group, but we are hoping to rejoin that.

We were represented at the initial meeting of the Cambridgeshire Rural Forum in Ely in March, when we were able to put forward the ideas of our Traffic Reduction Plan (see above).

After a long period of failure to secure a liaison with the Lib Dem group who ruled the County Council in cooperation with Labour, we finally made progress just before the county elections. However the Tories regained power so our efforts may not bear much fruit. We also improved liaison with the Council at the officer level, though the impression we got was that the officers felt almost as helpless as we did to achieve anything positive. The withdrawal of Travel Times (see above) and reduced availability of the Council's area timetables mean that we are now more dependent than ever on the officers for information.

We attended meetings of the Cambridge Real World Coalition; we hope that they will renew their activity this autumn.

We have participated in various Local Agenda 21 meetings relating to Cambridge City, and plan to participate at county level too.

During the last year we received several requests to address groups. These include a summer school at Lucy Cavendish College (already done), the construction company Mott McDonald and the US-based International Honors Program which will be holding a seminar in Cambridge in November.

Financial statement

(This is not available online, look at the paper edition or contact the coordinator -- Webmaster.)

Update on the above.

We have now sent off our contribution to the Government's White Paper consultation. The main elements of our strategy are as follows:

  1. Higher motoring taxes, to discourage car use and fund the rest of our programme.
  2. Minimum standards for public transport in all areas, and a ban on developments (other than for strictly local needs) in areas with sub-standard service (i.e. less than 2 hourly daytime, and/or no reasonable and safe pedestrian or cycle access to evening and Sunday buses or trains).
  3. Lower bus and train fares, not only to encourage their use in preference to driving but to ensure that those who do switch whenever possible will save enough to offset the increased cost of essential motoring.
  4. A Travel Allowance for the less well off in areas with sub-standard public transport as defined above, to contribute towards the extra cost of driving or using taxis. The development ban will ensure that the cost of this doesn't escalate.
  5. Special schemes to encourage the use of alternative modes for particular types of journey (Safe Routes to School, Green Commuter Plans, shop deliveries...).

As mentioned above, we have attended two of the Government's consultation meetings: one in Northampton organised by the Government's East Midland office, and the Eastern Region conference in Cambridge at which Glenda Jackson made the comment referred to in our headline article.

Other speakers at the latter meeting were Malcolm Buchanan from Colin Buchanan & Partners on ``What is Integrated Transport?'', who started off by describing a situation where buses serving a common destination use different stops, similar to what the Coordinator had experienced in Yorkshire only a few weeks before; Denise Carlo of STEER calling for an end to road based strategies; the Government office saying that they were ready to look at alternatives; speakers from Norfolk and Herts county councils, the former saying ``don't stop the roads yet'', though their record on public transport has in recent years been better than that of other counties in the region.

After lunch we had speakers from the Potter Group (who run the inter-modal distribution centre at Ely), Anglia Railways, Suffolk County Council (whose Superoute 66 and 88 initiatives we have previously referred to, though we erroneously said in our last newsletter that the 88 used a guided busway -- it actually uses rising bollards) and a transport consultant on ``who pays'', a question we have tried to answer in our transport strategy.

Planning news.

The County Council has recently issued an update leaflet on the experimental traffic scheme at Bridge St, Cambridge, and will be taking a final decision on its future early next year. We believe there is a real risk that the Council may abandon the scheme and re-subject pedestrians and cyclists who have to use the route to concentrated pollution. Please write to Richard Preston, Environment & Transport Dept, Cambs CC, Castle Court, Shirehall, Castle Hill, Cambridge CB3 0AP stating your support for the scheme even if you believe that modifications are needed to mitigate its side effects (in which case say what you believe is necessary). We've sent postcards, printed by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, to some Cambridge area members; if you haven't had one or need more contact the CCC at PO Box 204, Cambridge CB4 3FN.

We attended a meeting organised by the ad hoc group campaigning to keep the street closed, the Bridge St Environment Group. The Council outlined its consultation plans, and this was followed by a discussion. There was a consensus that the scheme was a step in the right direction, and that the way to deal with side effects, such as the increase in traffic levels in Victoria Road where some participants lived, was to introduce traffic restriction measures over a wider area.

We believe that the increase in Victoria Rd traffic may be partly due to the park & ride sites on Madingley Rd and Newmarket Rd, because if motorists on these corridors switch from the Park St car park to park & ride, it will be motorists on Huntingdon Rd and Histon Rd, who have no easy access to either site, who are likely to take their place, and their access to Park St is now via Victoria Rd. To deal with this is we are trying to stimulate the bus operators on the Huntingdon Rd corridor into cooperating on a ``Quality Bus'' partnership to take people out of their cars, and incorporating restoration of the exemption allowing peak time buses to get to Bradwell's Court via the historic centre, thus avoiding Mitcham's Corner and Four Lamps Roundabout. It would also be desirable to signpost other routes for motorists and lorries between the A14 (west) and Histon on the one hand, and the City Centre, Grafton Centre and Elizabeth Way bridge on the other.

The other major planning item is the publication of plans to redevelop RAF Alconbury as a multi-modal distribution centre. At the time of writing we have not decided whether to support or oppose the scheme -- and we'd welcome input from members. (See the Hunts FOE meeting in our diary above.)

The developers plan to start with rail and road access, and may extend to air later if this is a commercial proposition. For rail, where they hope for a 50% modal share, they propose sidings off the East Coast Main Line with access from both the north and south; for road, the only main road access will be from the A1 and A14 at Alconbury (not the Spittals interchange), and traffic calming and cycleways through the Stukeleys are planned to reinforce this; for air, they anticipate that noise will be no greater than in the days of military operation.

They are also planning to provide a ``Quality Bus'' service which will run hourly from 06.00 to 20.00 (Mon-Sat), 09.00 to 17.00 (Sun), with extra buses during the Monday to Friday peaks. The following routes will be served:

Route 1: Huntingdon to Peterborough via the site, A1 motorway and Yaxley.

Route 2: From the site to Huntingdon then via the A141 to Chatteris, March and Wisbech.

Route 3: From the site to Huntingdon, St Ives and Cambridge (via Huntingdon Rd to Cowley Rd).

Route 4: From the site to Huntingdon, St Neots and Bedford.

Route 5: A circular route from the site to the Alconburys, Sawtry, Glatton, Holme, Ramsey, Warboys and Huntingdon.

Route 6: From the site to Huntingdon, Thrapston and Kettering.

It is not clear to what extent this network would supersede, rather than supplement, existing services; but it is certainly much more compatible with an integrated network than the Quality Bus proposals produced by Sainsbury's in conjunction with their Arbury Park shopping centre scheme. Our suggestions are as follows:

Routes 1 and 4: together these make up part of the existing United Counties route X1.

Route 2: this should divert via Warboys and serve March station.

Route 3: this should start at Drummer St and extend to the Alconburys, Sawtry, Glatton, Holme, Yaxley and Peterborough replacing part of Route 5 and existing Viscount 351.

Route 5: replace by a route from Huntingdon through the site to a new railhead at Abbots Ripton, continuing to Ramsey through the villages and giving this town, where new development is planned, direct access by this railhead to the national transport network.

Route 6: this should be incorporated in our proposed A14 strategic link between Haverhill and Rugby, serving rail stations at Cambridge, Huntingdon, Kettering and Rugby.

New route: from the site to Huntingdon, St Ives, Somersham, Earith, Sutton, Witchford and Ely.

There should also be ``journey to work'' facilities from villages in W Hunts.

Finally, we are suggesting use of the Peterborough Sugar Factory rail link to enable trains from the East Coast to reach Alconbury without reversal. This could be associated with the Crescent Link project to take the Nene Valley Railway into Peterborough main line station.

Two other planning issues. Transport 2000 nationally have joined with other groups in an campaign, which we strongly support, to stop the sell-off of former railway land which may be needed in the future for line reopenings or freight depots.

And recently the Coordinator travelled by bus to Peterborough. Thanks to the much publicised demolition of the Alconbury flyover and the lack of signposting of the alternative route the driver lost his way. Was this also the reason for a 40 minute delay to another bus used later that day?

W Hunts bus services.

According to the County Council's W Hunts timetable, dated September but issued in October, the Council is consulting on proposed changes to route 400 serving villages in the area. We are far from clear as to what is going on, but the signs look ominous. The sample timetable the Council sent us shows considerable service cuts and abandonment of the ``demand responsive'' principle. We were told that because of adverse reaction the timetable was unlikely to be introduced in that form.

However, we understand that according to the agenda for the October meeting of Hunts District Council (which, incidentally, voted unanimously to support a motion about the inadequacy of the current bus network), the Council were planning to tender both the existing timetable and the proposed one before choosing between them. The timetable booklet includes a survey form for users of the service, but how do they plan to use the information gained thereby?

There seem to be three reasons why the Council has proposed the new timetable: loss of patronage on the off-peak services, the need to provide an extra bus to get pupils to Spaldwick primary school for their new start time 10 minutes earlier, and the apparent confusion caused by the ``demand responsive'' principle.

We are not impressed by any of these arguments. We believe that there is potential for increasing patronage by means of a visitor package (and have elicited interest in our ideas from the Countryside Access department of the County Council): at present people from Cambridge -- probably the largest potential market -- are denied access because the first bus to Huntingdon gets in at 08.37 and the morning departure is at 08.30. (This would change in the proposed new timetable, but then there'd be virtually nowhere worth going to anyway.) We believe that if the change in school times has undermined the economics of the service it is up to local parish councils, representing users of the service, to lobby the school governors. And while we accept the third argument to the extent that we would like to see as many villages as possible served by ``compulsory'' stops, surely an on demand service is better than nothing at all?

Our proposals are based on the existing network but incorporate the following improvements. We hope that local parish councils will show an interest in takng the initiative in campaigning for proposals along these lines.

  1. Daily (Mon-Fri) connections into the area from Cambridge, and from the area into Cambridge Coach Services 71 for Thrapston, Kettering, Rugby, Leamington etc.. The former provides inbound facilities to Hamerton Wildlife Park several days a week.
  2. New Tuesday shopping facility in Thrapston from villages north of the A14.
  3. On Wednesdays, the shopping services run alternately to Bedford and Wellingborough (via Rushden), with connections providing facilities to Peterborough and (usually) Northampton.
  4. On Thursdays, new connectional facility to Oundle and a route that takes over existing tendered service 416. The afternoon shopping facility to Huntingdon is transferred to Fridays.
  5. On Saturdays, extra shopping journey via Littlehey Prison taking over existing tendered service 399.

Other Cambs bus news.

The quality of information emanating from the County Council seems to have declined even apart from the loss of Travel Times (which means that there may be many changes we don't know about -- please tell us). We have spotted several cases of services not appearing in the appropriate booklets. However the latest St Ives booklet brings the welcome news that Myall's route 151 between Cambridge, St Ives and Huntingdon now accepts return tickets issued by other operators. We have also observed for the first time connections from Cambridge to villages in the area using the 08.32 St Ives to Ramsey (route 427) and suggested that route 435 be included. Also in Hunts, school bus 807 has been cut back to Old Weston.

Since our last newsletter we addressed a meeting of Fen Drayton parish council, which, together with the local (Tory) county councillor, agreed to support our proposal to ask for a diversion of Premier 73/74 or Whippet 1A/5 via Fen Drayton. But nothing has happened. This also applies to our proposal to divert the last 151 from Huntingdon station to connect with trains from Peterborough and London.

Several items of good news for Wisbech: extra journeys on the X94 from Peterborough to Norwich (but not on Sunday mornings when they are needed to provide day trip facilities to the coast); new school buses to Isle of Ely college; the return of a Saturday afternoon bus from Gedney Drove End which, when the days get longer, will open up the ``marshes walk'' from Holbeach St Matthew -- connect from Holbeach Church St at 12.20, Kings Lynn at 10.35 or Wisbech (via Long Sutton) at 10.45; and we also understand that WAGN plan to provide a bus link to Downham Market station. Plus the Alconbury Quality Bus referred to earlier.

Improvements to the Cambridge to London Express Shuttle -- but demand is also higher so one is still liable to be turned away at peak times. Now one can't even use Greenline 797 as an alternative since this no longer serves Cambridge. The only alternative is CCS 38 -- incidentally the times are given wrongly in the Winter Sunday booklet and should be 10 minutes earlier beyond the M11 (in both directions) as the bus no longer serves Bishops Stortford.

Rail News.

For Stansted Airport see our annual report above. Harlow now has a combined rail/bus fare to the town centre. The package is better than that for Cambridge, but far worse than those for Ipswich, Norwich and Yarmouth. Some time ago, Oxford introduced an electric bus which was free to rail ticket holders. The latter concession was later dropped, but with franchising the new private operator linked up with Oxford City Buses run by the same group to offer a combined ticket. This ticket still exists, but will no longer be valid on the station link as this is being transferred to rival Stagecoach Oxford (alias Thames Transit)!

We are pleased to welcome improved services between Huntingdon and Peterborough. There are also more trains from Northampton to Birmingham, and a promotional offer till mid December -- so why not try this route using the X3 or X65 to Northampton? Sunday trains have reappeared on the Rainham line north of the Thames. We understand that there is some form of through ticketing between the Sunday Rover tickets and trains in the Tendring peninsula; anyone have details? The Clitheroe to Hellifield Saturday bus link is expected to resume next summer with an extension to Malham -- we hope that rail tickets will be accepted on the main route. And last but not least, we welcome the forthcoming opening of the Belgian high speed rail link which will speed up train journeys from London to Brussels. This contrasts with our own high speed line which is still bogged down in financing problems.

Ferry and foot news.

We regret the demise of local ferries at Great Yarmouth and Blyth (Northumberland), the latter being perhaps the town's sole claim to fame. There is, however, hope for the reinstatement of the link between Cromarty and Nigg, and the night ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland.

We also welcome the new permissive path between Views Common and Hinchingbrooke Hospital. To get from Huntingdon to Hinchingbrooke country park, take the public footpath northwards either side of the railway line, make for the footbridge under the A14, and carry straight on to a stile leading to the wood behind Hinchingbrooke Hospital. Turn right and you'll eventually get to the Country Park.

However, it is difficult to visit Brampton Wood nature reserve because, although there's a bridleway straight from near Brampton West End, which is served by bus, the A1 is now an impassable obstruction.

Within day trip distance.

United Counties X4, whose demise we reported last time, has in fact been renumbered as the 132. There have been improvements in Norfolk in the shape of a Burnham to Fakenham bus service which improves access to ``Nelson country''. Nearby, route 418 passes near Courtyard Farm, the estate owned by former Ramblers Association president Lord Melchett who has opened it up to walkers. In Essex route 132-3 now serves Stansted Maitland Road between Bishops Stortford and Stansted Airport, continuing to Braintree as before.

The Cotswold Shuttle between Stratford and Bourton on the Water, via Broadway, Moreton in Marsh and Stow on the Wold, is running daily through the winter. This is not to be confused with Thames Trains' Cotswold Explorer, which links Moreton, Chipping Campden, Broadway and Evesham on weekdays, but both can be used to link up with trains from Oxford or Worcester. There have been considerable cuts to Leics CC's Vale Runner service linking Melton Mowbray with the Grantham-Nottingham railway line -- and their new transport map now excludes Rutland.

And further afield...

Notts CC's Sherwood Forester Sunday ticket is now available throughout the year, and there have been improvements to the Peak District's winter Sunday network. Shropshire has been badly hit by cuts, and the Council has withdrawn all support for evening and Sunday buses, thereby isolating tourist honeypots like the Ironbridge Gorge, a World Heritage Site. In Devon a local operator went bust, and some of its routes were tendered by the Council, though not the prettiest (219 Tiverton to Churchinford). Since then, however, the operator has reemerged with new financing -- but still, we believe, no 219.

Up north Cumbria CC has sponsored a new comprehensive timetable published by Southern Vectis of Great Britain Bus Timetable fame (and to similar format). This shows everything except some schoolday only services -- unfortunately the latter are some of the most interesting, but they are shown on the county map and if you have Internet access you can find out their times on their journey planner. If you want to visit Bewcastle, get a bus to Gilsland and walk along the old Roman road; there's a school bus back to Carlisle at 16.20.

And, over the Pennines, the Kielder area is now more accessible thanks to a postbus service. There are proposals to provide rail access from the other end for timber trains, but a passenger service is more problematic because the route passes through Longtown ammunition depot. This summer, on Fridays the Harrier Scenic Bus followed an interesting route between Hawick and Berwick/Eyemouth via Town Yetholm, near the northern end of the Pennine Way; this route enters England from the south (or Scotland from the north going the other way). It is interworked with the Newcastleton school bus, with the afternoon journey continuing to Longtown for connections to Carlisle -- right across the country!

Action line.

This summarises ideas for action in the rest of the newsletter.

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