Disclaimer: contents of articles do not necessarily reflect Transport 2000 policy at either national or branch level. As exchange of ideas is how solutions to problems are developed, we want to hear from members on any transport related topic, however small. This includes objections to opinions expressed here on matters within our remit becoming branch policy. We will try to pursue any complaint or suggestion or advise you how to pursue it yourself.
Changes to Sunday buses in September/October inflicted a ``quadruple whammy'' on Cambridge people, who now have very few choices for a good value Sunday out in the region. And there's no indication that things will be much better next summer. Much of the deterioration can be attributed to failure of cooperation between local authorities. The relevant changes are:
1. Cambridge-Yarmouth 200 has disappeared completely, as has the section west of Mildenhall on the Ely-Norwich corridor. The alternative, Cambridge Coach Services 74, has fewer pick-ups and costs a lot more. Also lost are the summer only contracts for routes 640 (Cambridge-Clacton) and 649 (Haverhill-Lowestoft).
2. The Stour Valley now has regular 2 hourly buses between Cambridge and Haverhill, connecting at the latter for Clare, Long Melford, Sudbury, Lavenham, Hadleigh and Ipswich. But the last return from Ipswich at 16.25 is too early for a visit to Felixstowe or other seaside resort. Nor is there any connection whatsoever at Sudbury for Colchester. Kedington has lost its service altogether, and there are no buses by either route between Haverhill and Saffron Walden.
3. The Granta Valley now has more buses to Saffron Walden, replacing the former evening journeys to Haverhill via Sawston. But now evening passengers from Harlow will miss their connection to Cambridge by just a few minutes.
4. On Northampton-Bedford route X2 the last eastbound service, at 20.25, has been withdrawn, so there is nothing after 18.05. The first arrival by the Sunday Rover network is later than it used to be, thanks to the rerouteing of an Oxford-Northampton service which removes a former connection at Milton Keynes. So one now has just over 5 hours in Northampton as opposed to 8 and a half before -- making visits to the attractions of the surrounding countryside much harder. This cut will also hit people returning from weekend trips to the West Midlands, for which Northampton is the most direct railhead. To make things worse, the cost of such trips has been increased by the removal of through ticketing between Cambridge and Northampton.
Nor are these the only cuts in the region. The ferry between Harwich, Shotley and Felixstowe has been withdrawn -- Suffolk County Council took so long deliberating over whether to offer a subsidy that by the time they did the boat was no longer available. (Ironically, in view of this item and 2 above, Felixstowe is currently consulting on ways to attract more visitors.) Route 51 between Buckingham and Milton Keynes has disappeared, as has the Henley-Heathrow section of the X39 from Oxford, and the Norwich-Blofield service. And that's just on Sundays... (though the X2, X39 and ferry cuts also affect weekdays).
It is no accident that Transport 2000's campaign leaflet ``Getting out of Neutral'', whose contents we summarised last time (before the leaflet had been published under that name), includes the improvement of evening and Sunday services among its ``Quick Win'' recommendations. If we want to sell a sustainable lifestyle to our society we need to ensure that people can get about (for whatever purpose) in the evenings and on Sundays, and that they don't think that one needs to acquire a car in order to enjoy oneself.
Our AGM will be held on 4 Dec at 2.30 at the new Friends of the Earth office at 1A Felton St, Cambridge. This road parallels Mill Road west of the railway bridge, on the ``station'' side. There is likely to be someone waiting outside to show the way. The FOE office is on the first floor. There will be a discussion on the topic of developing an effective bus campaign in conjunction with the planned Cambridge Area Bus User Group (see below), and also on the agenda will be the subject of the A428 dualling (see ``Planning News'' below).
Sat 20 Nov, ramble organised by John Ratcliff. Meet Waterbeach on arrival of 09.36 train from Cambridge (destination Kings Lynn). Ramble ends Cambridge station, probably between 15.00 and 15.30 (train back to Waterbeach leaves 15.32). If starting at Cambridge, buy single to Waterbeach (ticket machine should be available to avoid queues). Ring organiser (01223 245533) if you want to use someone else's Network card or are prepared to let someone else use yours -- up to 4 adults can travel on one card. Route may be muddy, waterproof clothing advised, pub stop planned but you may wish to bring food and drink.
Also on 20 Nov, the Peterborough-Norwich Rail User Group will be holding a meeting in the Maltings, Ely from 11.15. Later that day will be the AGM of the Fen Line User Association.
The same venue will also see the meeting of the so-called Cambridgeshire Transport Forum (CTF) on 25 Nov from 2.00. This is not to be confused with the umbrella group convened by local transport campaigners, which has now been renamed the Cambridgeshire Sustainable Transport Forum (CSTF). If you want to attend the CTF meeting contact council officer Lisa Newman on 01223 717862.
On 27 Nov the Railway Development Society will be meeting at Little St Mary's Church Hall, Trumpington St, Cambridge from 2.00, with a guest speaker from WAGN.
On 26 Feb 2000 a 13 mile walk is planned from Shepreth to Cambridge starting with 08.54 or 09.54 train. Contact John Ratcliff for details nearer the time.
If you live in Cambridgeshire (excluding Peterborough) and are not known to be involved in CSTF, you will receive with this newsletter a copy of the County Council's summary leaflet on the Local Transport Plan. Please send in a reply to this -- it is vital that the Council gets a good number of replies supporting a sustainable strategy. Some guidance on the reply will be given later.
The CSTF has resolved to set up campaign groups for bus users and walkers in the Cambridge area. The first will recreate our predecessor organisation, the Cambridge Area Bus campaign; the second will recreate the Cambridge branch of the Pedestrians Association which folded up a few years ago for want of an organiser. More on these groups in future newsletters.
In addition there are the regular meetings of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign (Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane, 8.00, 1st Tuesday) and Cambridge Friends of the Earth Transport & Planning Group (7.30, 2nd Monday, ring 01223 245533).
We welcome two new members: V. Mayne of Duxford and J. Lodge of Whittlesford.
If a renewal slip is enclosed with this newsletter it means that we have not yet received a 1998-9 subscription from you. This will be the last reminder. We have identified the person who sent in a subscription but whose records were lost. If you have switched to becoming a Transport 2000 National Supporter please let us know.
Finally, please remember to notify us if there is any change in your contact details. If you have an email address and we don't already have it, or if you change your email address, please let us know (email address of the Coordinator is at the head of this newsletter). We understand that some area changes to telephone codes and postcodes are planned -- again please let us know. Also, of course, if you move house.
This is the issue that has dominated the year.
The most serious problem at the time of writing started in summer 1998 when serious staff shortages on Stagecoach Cambus led to unreliability of services in the Cambridge area. Transport 2000 branch member Cllr Amanda Taylor took the lead in collecting information which became the subject of a formal complaint to the Traffic Commissioners, as a result of which an inquiry was held in May 1999. Following this inquiry the Traffic Commissioners imposed sanctions on Cambus, whereby they were fined 20% of their fuel duty rebate, will have to give up two of their existing routes (4 and 103), which were found to have the greatest unreliability, and were barred from amending any of their other registered services for the rest of the year -- including the restoration of the routeing of their X11 via Kentford, which lost most of its buses when a weight limit was imposed on a local bridge pending repairs which are due to be completed in October.
Unfortunately, the remit of the Traffic Commissioners does not appear to include the welfare of passengers. Many will suffer serious hardship if the 4 and 103 are withdrawn without being covered by other operators, and at the time of writing -- just a week before the deadline -- no other operator has come forward. Neither has the County Council announced any steps towards an emergency tender. The Traffic Commissioners have refused to suspend the penalty pending the Appeal which Cambus are making to the Transport Tribunal, even though it is unreasonable to expect any party to make permanent arrangements until the appeal has been heard. It appears that every party is content to blame the others while the people at the centre of it are left to suffer.
The result can only be that no passenger group will dare to complain about its bus service in future, lest it lose it without replacement. Is this any way to run one of the most important community services?
However, we are glad to be able to report that the Transport Tribunal did remove the ban on operating the 4 and 103 and on introducing or changing other registrations.
The second bus related event has been the implementation of the Rural Bus Grant. This has provided some welcome relief to the County Council's budget and financed some worthwhile improvements -- especially to evening buses in the Cambridge area, which have brought direct benefits to some T2000 branch members in providing transport to/from meetings.
However, we are not convinced that the money has been used optimally. Compared with Norfolk and Suffolk, both of which seem to have been able to use their allocation to support complete integrated networks, the improvements in Cambridgeshire and its other neighbours have been relatively minor. Very little was done in the way of consultation -- we do not feel that our ideas were even considered properly. And only a few of the routes purged in April 1998 were replaced, even though the county's allocation was several times the amount ``saved'' in the County Council's 1998-9 budget.
In general, the more rural parts of the county have benefited relatively little. East Cambridgeshire District Council put some money towards saving some (but not all) of the services within its own area (as a result of which they became ineligible for Rural Bus Grant, thanks to an anomaly in the conditions for the latter) -- at the expense of concessionary bus passes for its pensioners (though these have now been restored, thankfully). Far too many villages are dependent on occasional market day services which have long wasteful positioning runs and are not interworked with other services.
As for the inter-urban corridors, just one -- Huntingdon-Chatteris -- now has a new regular service. On the A14 corridor west of Huntingdon cuts to a long standing and innovative tendered service combined with the withdrawal and non-replacement of a commercial service to provide an unprecedented vacuum on a route where the need to provide an alternative to driving is among the most urgent. Changes to the Cambus network have also led to a vacuum east of Earith towards Ely, and there has been no improvement to the poor services on the Barton Road corridor west of Cambridge, or in the villages near the triple border point with Hertfordshire and Essex.
Peterborough, too, has suffered from the decision of a commercial operator (Delaine) to divert one of its main routes away from two villages (Marholm and Ufford) while using a threat to withdraw the service entirely to prevent the Council from providing an effective replacement. We believe the Council should have called its bluff...
Unfortunately money ``saved'' by removal (or non-replacement) of existing services does nor reduce one's elgibility for Rural Bus Grant, and outside Cambridgeshire there have been major cuts to those Sunday services -- in all directions -- which provide long distance travel facilities from Cambridge. In particular it is now virtually impossible to make seaside trips at a reasonable price.
The third event has been the publication of the Government's consultation paper on buses, ``From Workhorse to Thoroughbred''. We believe that while this points the way to a major improvement on the continuing cuts on cuts that have been the lot of bus travellers in the past, it is marred by the failure of the Government to get to grips with the full implications of bus deregulation. We therefore called for the proposed ``Quality Contract'' system, whereby councils would be able to apply for powers to procure services throughout an area, to be replaced by a more flexible ``Quality Corridor'' system whereby councils would have powers to make operators cooperate to improve bus services on individual corridors. However, we believe that the Quality Contract approach could lead to the required improvements in many areas provided all the relevant local authorities are prepared to cooperate; our first priority would go to the area comprising the rural parts of Peterborough district (north of the A47) plus adjacent parts of Lincolnshire and Rutland; this would provide an opportunity to repair the damage to Marholm and Ufford referred to above.
During this period the report of the Transport Select Committee into the Transport White Paper appeared. We gave evidence to this Committee, and are gratified to see that it appears to have appreciated the inadequacies of the Government's approach, not so much in the general principles as in the details.
We have continued to campaign for a more integrated Sunday network, and for better marketing to leisure travellers. Within the Sunday Rover area performance of counties has been variable: there have been improvements on some local routes within Cambridgeshire: new commercial routes X10/X11; the replacement of 14, 19 and X56 by 122 and X59; slightly improved rail connections on route 102; and, in Peterborough, the restoration of links to places of interest within the district. Meanwhile, we have lost the route from Peterborough to Spalding and Sutton Bridge, including a short lived extension to Kings Lynn which would have had considerable potential to connect into the Norfolk Coast network had it not been axed in spring. Also lost is commercial service 38 which used to connect with Essex's 601, which has itself now disappeared.
In Suffolk, there was little change this summer but a disastrous decline this winter. There have been a number of improvements in Norfolk; Northants has introduced several new local services but not done much to cover the main inter-urban links; Bucks has restored many of its cuts; and relatively little has happened in the other counties involved.
Not much has happened to the main routes serving Cambridgeshire. We have had a campaign success in that Network Railcards are now available on Central Trains between Ely and Stansted Airport (though this is still not shown in the Network Railcard leaflet). But there has been no progress on our other proposals, for Sunday trains to Whittlesford, and off-peak weekday trains to Manea.
On infrastructure, we have continued to support the reopening of the St Ives line and its inclusion in the proposed east-west rail link. We also expect to come out officially in support of the campaign to reopen the Cambridge to Sudbury line, even though we regard this as a lesser priority. We also believe that a rolling programme of new stations is needed, starting with the proposed station near Addenbrookes, to which, unfortunately, the Government has continued to refuse funding.
On freight, we have given conditional support to the Alconbury distribution depot proposal, which has potential to remove heavy lorries on the A14 corridor and also, if the developer's Quality Bus proposals are implemented and further developed, to remove cars from the area. The reason why our support is only conditional is that we believe that care will be needed to ensure that the promised reductions actually happen. The proposal was turned down by Huntingdonshire District Council at the beginning of the year; the developer is appealing, and at the time of writing the public inquiry has been postponed to allow consultation with Railtrack on the rail link.
We have taken part in two workshops on the A14, which we have used to promote a variety of ideas for developing alternatives to the car on this corridor.
The A1 motorway between Alconbury and Peterborough is now complete. This has had relatively little effect on anything because it was a case of gross over-building, being dependent on the upgrade of other sections of the route which has now been abandoned. Nearing completion is the M11 link road in East London, which will have unknown effects on traffic conditions on the corridor between Cambridge and London.
We have continued to campaign against the proposal to impose restrictions on traffic movements on part of the A505, on the grounds of the detours that will be imposed on local bus routes in the area -- especially the 103, which is one of the routes with a high level of unreliability (see above). Surely the Council must now be sceptical of Cambus when it says that the diversions could be incorporated within its existing schedule?
We have also expressed concern at the continuance of weight restrictions affecting bus routes. Suffolk CC was quick to assign resources to repair the bring at Kentford affecting route X11 -- though it is not clear that Cambus will resume serving the village when the work is complete. But in Essex Littlebury continues to be cut off from the bus network because of the restriction on the bridge formerly used by route 112 (now 102).
The good news is that the County Council is continuing to proceed with traffic restrictions in Cambridge City Centre, with Emmanuel St proposals shortly to come on stream.
Both good and bad is the completion of the park & ride site at Babraham Road; this is far more suitable than the current site at Clifton Road which it will replace, but the latter car park is not being closed, merely changed into a charged for car park. Meanwhile we continue to worry that the Council is placing too much stress on park & ride as part of its transport policy. However, it has at last made moves towards integrating park & ride buses into the rest of the network.
The bad news is the approval of a superstore at Trumpington which will attract traffic on this already busy corridor. Also approved is a supermarket on Cambridge's Gasworks site. Meanwhile proposals have been put forward for a factory outlet centre at Sutton (which we oppose) and for a Grand Arcade in Cambridge city centre (which we broadly support).
We joined together with other environmental groups within the county, mostly in Cambridge, to form the Cambridgeshire Transport Forum, which changed its name to the Cambridgeshire Sustainable Transport Forum when the County Council announced the setting up of a group with our original name. This has led to concerted action on various issues that have sprung up in the last year, including the apparent reluctance of the County Council to include environmental groups in its consultation.
The CSTF has set up an email newsgroup. Our campaigning has also been helped greatly by the fact that almost all our active members have access to email.
Moves are also afoot to set up a bus user group for the Cambridge area; we hope that it will have more influence over decision makers than we have been able to wield, and look forward to cooperating with it.
We have continued to attend meetings of the Peterborough Environment City Trust's Transport Working Group, enabling us to network with groups, both official and otherwise, in Peterborough.
We have also been trying to develop relations with Cambridgeshire ACRE, the rural communities charity, and have attended meetings of a similar group in Bedfordshire.
This is the title of the centrepiece article of the Autumn 1999 issue of Countrygoer News, which we reproduce with permission. Countrygoer sends a quarterly newsletter and other information to subscribers, which contain indispensible information for those wishing to make leisure trips to the countryside. Subscription costs GBP 5 (GBP 6 from 1 Jan 2000) -- send cheques to Countrygoer, c/o Transport Marketing, 15 Station Road, Knowle, Solihull, West Midlands B93 0HL. Further information (but not the text of their newsletter) can be seen on their website, which has a link from ours.
Countrygoer News editors Colin and Fleur Speakman revisited the Harz Mountains, in Germany, this summer to see how integrated rural transport has, in a very short time, been made to work. They report as follows (our comments in square brackets):
When we were last in the Harz Mountains in former East Germany in 1994, the region was still reeling from the shock waves of unification, when free market capitalism replaced a crumbling Communist regime. Local transport, like many other aspects of life, was in transition, with the new Regional Government or Land of Sachsen-Anhalt only just drawing up new strategies for transport. The now celebrated Harz narrow gauge steam railway had just been privatised, and after fierce political battles the controversial reopening had taken place of the branch to the summit of the Brocken mountain, in the heart of the Hochharz National Park.
At the time we were researching a walking guide to the region, and also undertook some work for the Hochharz National Park Authority. One of the problems we found was the rapidly disintegrating network of bus services, as privatisation took place, bringing many of the identical problems suffered in the UK. There had been no investment for many years, and ancient country buses, recently privatised, rattled along the roads. Timetables were scruffy and semi-legible, route maps non-existent, fares incomprehensible, services sproadic, and there was absolutely no integration of services, modes or ticketing. Sounds familiar? [Yes]
Five years later we returned to discover a dramatic change. The little historic town of Wernigerode now has two smart new bus stations, one (by the rail station) for out of town buses, another smaller one in the town centre close to the now largely pedestrianised central streets, for local town buses. [We believe that this model would not be appropriate to Cambridge because the rail station is too far from the city centre.] Gone are the oldest buses (though we noticed one or two rotting away in the back of a bus depot) to be replaced by new fleets of low floor, low emission gas powered buses operating on the rural routes we happen to use in the Harz hinterland. Unlike the British system of competitive cut-throat tendering, which produces low quality, unreliable buses, in Sachsen-Anhalt bus companies hold franchises for a network of routes which operate on regular clockface schedules. [This is what we hope the Quality Contract proposals of the Government's White Paper will lead to, but to achieve this the model has to be applied as the default rather than just in exceptional cases, as the Government seems to envisage.] Instead of the chaos of widely differing fares, standard fare structures are agreed, and there is an elaborate system of zoning, so that commuters can buy tickets, for a given number of zones, with complete interchange between modes and services. Not only is the local rural German Rail service a full part of the system (operating with modern lightweight trains), but the privatised Harzer Schmalspur Bahnen, the narrow gauge steam railway, also using modern diesel railcars on some routes, also forms an integral part of the network.
The network is controlled not directly by the local authorities but by the local Verkehrs & Tarifgemeischaft Ostharz (the East Harz Transport & Fares Authority), an official body which includes local authority members as well as representatives of the operators. The nearest [mainland] British equivalent would be a rural form of a pre 1985 Passenger Transport executive, before the disasters and political dogma of deregulation took over, to the detriment of everyone, particularly the passengers.
And, Mr Prescott and others please note, a fully integrated system actually works. The buses we travelled on between towns and from a small village to the nearby city of Halberstadt were clean, quiet, and very well patronised.
Even more interesting were the bus stops which not only had lists of clear, easy to understand, single dimensional railway style departures at regular ``clockface'' intervals, but a clearly understandable road and rail network map, showing interchange points and area fare tariff zones. [We have been told that passengers can also obtain printed copies of this information.] Having the power to control fares allows for network ticketing, and one offer we noticed during our visit was that during the school summer holidays local schoolchildren could, for just 29DM (about GBP 10), have a runabout ticket valid on all the buses, trains and trams in their area for the duration of the holidays, giving children mobility and freedom to explore their local countryside, and access to sports and leisure facilities and interesting towns and museums for less than the equivalent of GBP 1-80 a week. [Could a similar scheme have saved our Sunday bus network?] Such an opportunity has a huge health-giving and educational value and will make rural young people far more public transport literate -- a far cry from British children who are increasingly car dependent, and have to be driven around at great cost in terms of fumes and congestion until they acquire their first car in their teens, and add to the problem, as well as being a high risk from death and injury accidents, many alcohol related. The cost of the summer holiday ticket to the VTO will be literally almost nothing, as these are journeys children would not otherwise make, and the bus services operate anyhow. It's a long term investment in people -- children acquiring the life skills of using the transport network are the commuters and rural bus travellers of the future -- almost unthinkable in rural Britain. We had to remind ourselves that this was not the suburbs of a wealthy city, but a relatively poor rural area of former East Germany, with high unemployment rates, and also rapidly rising car ownership.
The contrast with rural Britain could not be more stark. There's little in Sachsen-Anhalt that we can't do in North Yorkshire, Somerset, Powys or Fife [or East Anglia], but the difference in attitudes and approach is striking -- a logical, well planned system which puts the needs of the community and the environment first, not the profits of train and bus operators and their distant, wealthy shareholders. It also underlines the point that regional Government has given rural Germany huge benefits in terms of local transport provision, rather than as has happened in Britain, a still heavily centralised system and a plethora of small local authorities with neither the powers nor the resources to do anything about the situation [nor the willingness to cooperate]. There are huge lessons for rural England, Scotland and Wales from what is happening in other parts of Europe. It is time we stopped being so insular and realise we have much to learn from other countries, including the need to ditch our own forms of outdated and discredited political dogma about transport. There are no short cuts. Properly funded and properly planned rural transport should be high on the new Countryside agenda.
This is the title of a document the first draft of which we have just finished compiling. After a preamble which lists general initiatives to reduce car dependence (green commuter plans, safer routes to schools, community car hire etc.) it goes on to list 16 ``packages'' for improving bus services to villages in Cambridgeshire (including Peterborough). It then gives a complete list of villages with their existing and proposed levels of service, which shows that the number of communities with at least a given level of service will increase sharply as a result of our proposals.
The proposals are:
1. Cambridge Metro. This refers to our scheme for integrating conventional buses with park & ride services for the four existing sites. The more efficient use of vehicles within the City will allow the running of more services further out while reducing congestion in the vicinity of the bus station.
2. Cambridge Metro Stage 2. This refers to the extension of the scheme to cover further park & ride sites at Trumpington, Foxton, Duxford and Four Went Ways, in addition to new sites at Bourn Airfield, Bar Hill and Fenstanton.
3. Cambridge Villages Tour. This would be linked to the existing tourist bus service and give the villages of Fen Ditton, Madingley, Coton and Grantchester regular services 7 days a week.
4. Between A14 and A428. This would offer slightly improved services to the villages in this area.
5. A14 Express. This is our scheme for fast, direct, high quality buses between Haverhill and Rugby, connecting and inter-ticketed with the rail network, and with links to villages on the A14 corridor.
6. Alconbury network. This consists of modifications of the Quality Bus network suggested by the developers of the Alconbury Airfield site. It could be implemented whatever development eventually takes place there.
7. Suffolk Border Villages. Integrate the 6, 44-6 and 115 to provide a half hourly service on the direct route between Cambridge and Fulbourn, extending alternately to Haverhill and Newmarket. The 47 would be replaced by diversion of selected Suffolk CC buses on the Haverhill-Nremarket route.
8. Mildenhall network. Half hourly from Mildenhall to Newmarket and Cambridge by 4 different routes, with some buses starting back from Lakenheath and Thetford. Hourly between Ely, Mildenhall and Bury by 2 different routes.
9. Ely local services. This revives the idea of a postbus, first suggested by the Council in 1998 in conjunction with its cuts program. This could serve some of Barway, Blackhorse Drove, Gold Hill/Welney (including the Wildfowl Trust), Little Ouse, Pymore, Soham Fen, Upware and Wicken. We would also like to see a loop via Ten Mile Bank enabling market day services from Blackhorse Drove and Gold Hill to Ely, Downham Market and Kings Lynn.
10. Manea Rail Link. Some trains on the Peterborough-Ely route would stop additionally at Manea with connecting buses to the village and to Welney, Christchurch and then as existing 360 to Wisbech.
11. Kimbolton area. Consolidate the Beds CC network to provide hourly buses between Bedford and Sharnbrook, extending to St Neots, Huntingdon, Spaldwick and Brington Turn, the last two connecting with the A14 Express and WHOW (see below).
12. West Hunts & Oundle Wigglybus. This is modelled on the Wiltshire Wigglybus (see Newsletter 68) and would serve all villages between the A1, A14 and A605 corridors, linking with the main inter-urban network at Sawtry, Spaldwick or Brington turn, and Oundle.
13. Peterborough rural network. Would serve all villages within Peterborough City Council's area and some others, providing more frequent services to Oundle, Stamford and Spalding.
14. Wisbech-Spalding. Hourly services by changing at Sutton Bridge or Holbeach, in addition to a direct route via Holbeach Drove.
15. Evening rail connections. Late night buses would be retimed to connect with incoming trains at a suitable railhead.
16. Sunday network. An integrated network serving all main villages within the county and providing external links.
One of the Government's transport policy initiatives was to replace the former system of Transport Policies & Programmes with Local Transport Plans (LTPs). Unlike the former, LTPs are supposed to cover all modes of transport equally, and to deal with the Council's plans for revenue as well as capital spending. Unfortunately this does not mean that the Government is now giving revenue aid to bus services -- there is as yet no indication of what will replace the Rural Bus Grant scheme after 2001.
Local transport authorities such as Cambridgeshire and Peterborough were supposed to produce provisional LTPs by the end of July 1999. Consultation on these will lead to full LTPs to be produced in 2000. The latter would be in force for 5 years -- it is not yet clear what procedure will be used for rolling them forward. What happens if the political balance of a council changes in 2001?
From looking at the two LTPs in our county, our impression is that a lot of paperwork could have been saved had the Government supplied a standard wording for the general policy background! But it tends to be the specifics that matter, and both councils are rather vague about their priorities for the public transport network, as contrasted with the amount of detail about roads spending (including ``good'' initiatives like bus priorities and traffic calming).
Here are our preliminary comments on the Cambridgeshire Plan.
1. Two vital elements -- bus strategy and traffic reduction targets -- have been explicitly left out of the provisional plan, with the rider that they will be in the full plan. But how will the consultation process work?
2. The Council has put forward a bid to be included in the pilot stage of the workplace parking charge scheme. An appendix to the plan gives suggestions as to how the money raised by it could be spent, under both ``low'' and ``high'' scenarios (GBP 3m and GBP 15m per year respectively). For example, comprehensive bus development (whatever the Council means by that) would be possible under the low scenario, and the high scenario would also finance comprehensive rail development. But is that enough to give us an impression on whether the Council will be targeting the revenue appropriately? We would like to see the scheme spread over the whole county, not just the Cambridge area -- and the revenue spent on other areas too. Meanwhile the main text just proposes two new rail stations and says that resources for buses will continue to be limited. (Not surprisingly, given that only 4% of revenue spending on transport is earmarked for buses, as compared with 58% for road maintenance.
3. The scheme to ban vehicles from making movements that cut across a section of the A505 at Duxford is there as a spending commitment for this current year. We wrote to the Government Office for Eastern England to explain that this scheme completely undermined the Council's stated policy of giving priority to buses, and asked them to withhold resources from the scheme. Unfortunately the system does not appear to work like that -- our present impression is that the Council can do what it likes if it can dress it up in appropriate language. There is a requirement on the Council to consult -- but it seems readier to listen to Stagecoach (even though they have made a mess of running the relevant route, the 103) than to bus users. The LTP contains not a word on the effect of the scheme on bus users, nor was any effort made to secure their views.
4. Four by-passes are mentioned: Papworth, Fordham, Longstanton and Ramsey. The last two will be fully developer funded and will therefore not be accompanied by any significant relief as the new developments will generate traffic to replace that lost to the by-pass. A Papworth by-pass (which may also end up developer funded if the Hospital closes) will result in the A1198 and A428 becoming a rat run for A14 traffic, especially if the A428 is dualled. Meanwhile the developers are not funding public transport improvements; it is disgraceful that Ramsey has no evening or Sunday buses. The other three have one or both of these, supported by the Rural Bus Grant except for Papworth.
5. Traffic calming for Fenstanton High St is mentioned. Its evaluation includes adverse impact on buses. As this is one of the county's showpiece corridors, would a bus gate be a better solution, with through traffic rerouted to the former by-pass?
6. The new station at Chesterton Sidings has been put ahead of Addenbrookes in priority. Why?
7. The Council states that reopening Cambridge-St Ives would cost 20m pounds, which seems reasonable. However it quotes a figure of 70m pounds for extension to Huntingdon, and says that an alignment north of the town would probably be necessary. This is not the view of the Railway Development Society who have done a study of the route.
8. The Council says Wisbech reopening is not viable. Given that Fenland was stated to be the district least enamoured of workplace parking charges, I would expect it to be politically desirable to offer that district a sweetener. In any case the original evaluation assumed that an extra train was required to run the service; I believe that this could be done by rearranging the existing pattern, especially if the St Ives line was opened through enabling Huntingdon to be the main East Coast Main Line railhead for Cambridge and Ipswich.
9. The Council's study of potential rail/bus links ignores the need for evening buses to connect with incoming trains to permit villagers decent days out in London and elsewhere.
10. It is questionable whether the Council has done its calculations of price correctly when discussing modal shift.
Now for Peterborough. Most of these comments are also applicable to the rest of Cambridgeshire, but one can't easily comment on the vacuum that is Cambs CC's bus policy.
1. The section on buses should include a commitment to provide minimum levels of service to all villages and on specified inter-urban corridors. We are dissatisfied with the efficacy of the Rural Bus Grant network, with Ufford and Marholm having service levels well down on last year. We believe it is possible to give all villages services to cater for work and school requirements, plus off-peak services at least every 2 hours and evening and Sunday buses within reasonable walking or cycling distance by a safe route. As for the inter-urban links, we believe it is possible to provide half hourly services to Bourne, Huntingdon, Oundle and Stamford; hourly to Spalding, Wisbech, and long distance routes to Bedford, Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and Norwich; and 2 hourly to March, Ramsey, Uppingham, and long distance routes to Leicester, Lincoln and Nottingham. The long distance routes would incorporate high quality specifications such as are currently in operation the X94 to Norwich and Yarmouth. In addition there should be adequate services to places of interest off the main network, such as Flag Fen and Peakirk Wildfowl Reserve, Sundays included.
2. For links between bus and rail station, we recommend an at-grade pedestrian crossing of Bourges Boulevard at the western end of Westgate (i.e. near the station's northern access). This would fit in well with proposals put forward by Stagecoach Viscount for a bus priority route in this location to give buses greater flexibility in accessing the rail station.
3. Rural buses. We wish the rural taxibus (supported by the Government's Rural Challenge Fund) well. We hope the Council will publicise it so as to try to attract demand from people who live in urban areas, e.g. for evening rambles (in summer) and ``pub crawls''.
4. Cross ticketing. The Council should seek to widen mutual acceptability of ``day out'' tickets. At present Stagecoach, First Eastern Counties and Delaine each have their own ticket. On Sundays there is the ``Sunday Rover'', but this is invalid on the Whittlesey (701) or Leicester services.
5. Cycling strategy in rural areas should include the provision of access to main public transport routes from villages which may have only infrequent services, or none at all in the evenings and on Sundays.
6. We welcome the Council's commitment to better public transport information as part of a network for the East Midlands. Traditional area timetable books should not be neglected as more ``high tech'' forms of information gain ground, and we would like to see region-wide timetables available at an information point in the City.
7. On railfreight, we believe the proposed development of Alconbury airfield as a multi-modal distribution centre will have a fundamental impact on the area's rail situation. Even if the developer loses the appeal the development is likely to resurface in another form. To maximise the competitiveness of rail as a link between Alconbury and East Coast ports, we would like to see route protection for the spurs that would be required to enable through running without reversal.
8. On rail passenger services, we support the Council's wish for any extra services to call at Peterborough -- and also Huntingdon, which might reduce the propensity for motorists to drive to Peterborough to catch northbound trains. We believe that Walton is a much better location for a new station than Werrington, as, with the proposed Werrington flyover, a single pair of platforms could serve all three routes (to Spalding, Stamford and Grantham). Other stations on our ``shopping list'' are Helpston and Peakirk. We also agree with the Council's support for Thameslink 2000. We believe that the economics of North of London Eurostar would be fundamentally transformed if passengers were allowed to use the trains for domestic journeys, and would then hope to see hourly services from Peterborough through the Channel Tunnel. The East-West rail link could bring Peterborough new trains if it runs by the presently planned route: a direct bus link from St Neots to Cambridge would provide a faster service from the west to Cambridge City Centre than through trains. But if the St Ives line reopens, then the main interchange should move to Huntingdon (though Peterborough would still be served by Norwich-Midlands/North trains).
9. We wish the Home Zone scheme well.
10. We support the Council's agreement in principle to workplace parking charges, which we see partly as a way of discouraging developers from putting forward plans for employment facilities in locations where large amounts of traffic would be generated. We believe it is important to coordinate the Council's policy with its neighbours (including Cambridgeshire) to avoid developers playing off one council against another.
11. We believe park & ride can be good for the City but only if implemented suitably. Our preferred option is for motorists to share vehicles with conventional bus passengers who may be travelling from further out (or from a limited number of stops further in). If at least 4 buses per hour can be provided from the City Centre to places such as Whittlesey, Eye, Market Deeping, or somewhere on the A1, one could then designate any car park (existing or new) on the relevant corridor as being usable for park & ride. Park & ride should be accompanied by a reduction in City Centre parking.
12. We are dubious about the benefits of a Stanground Relief Road, and oppose the Thorney by-pass unless it is planned with full concern for the interests of non-motorists, i.e. a guarantee that either the X94 bus will continue to serve the village (without undue time penalty) or that there will be good pedestrian access to a new stop on the by-pass. We call for a study of the A1 throughout the section between Alwalton and Stamford to identify problems and possible solutions in connection with the provision of regular buses to serve the villages, and rights of way crossings.
Phase 2 of Peterborough's Green Wheel was officially opened on 5 September, as mentioned in the last newsletter. This largely completes the northern half of Peterborough's planned network of cycling routes.
However, not yet ready is the access from the Green Wheel to Flag Fen Museum, which is expected to open Sept 2000, so don't use the route to visit the Museum till then. The access point remains off a long track from Fengate from grid reference 216991, which is some distance from the nearest bus route. (Note: the county bus map wrongly puts the museum further east.) When the new entrance opens, the existing one will close, making the walk even longer. We are therefore calling for changes to the bus network (involving upgrading the road towards Whittlesey if necessary) and improved footpath links to provide decent access for people on foot. How about putting a jetty near the Green Wheel bridge which could be served by local boat operator Key Ferry?
Beware also of works on the Embankment just east of the outer ring road. These started a week after the official opening and may not yet have finished. When visited by the Coordinator on 28 Oct no diversion route was signposted.
According to a recent report in the Guardian (4 Nov), entitled ``A Century of Natural Disasters'', the Hadley Centre's new computer model of global warming predicts a temperature rise far greater than expected, amounting to no less than 8 degrees over the next century (for Europe). In recent years it is motoring that has accounted for almost all the increase in emissions by developed countries of CO2, the most prominent ``greenhouse gas''.
We are therefore especially disturbed the Government's pre-budget statement that the Fuel Duty Escalator will be replaced by a lower increase to be decided budget by budget, in spite of the welcome announcement that the money will be ring-fenced for transport (welcome, that is, if the lion's share doesn't go to new roads). It cannot be over-emphasised that motoring taxes fall far short of covering the social cost of motoring.
Those rural motorists who complain that the lack of alternatives means that they have been singled out by these increases will probably have missed the newspaper announcement of a 7% increase in London Transport fares, well above the rate of inflation.
The principle of fares regulation on our railways means that people may more when the service is improved. However the motorway programme has generated improvements for motorists far beyond any benefits that public transport users have received (especially when one takes into account the massive run-down of the rail network in the Beeching era and the bus network afterwards), so fairness, as well as environmental sense, demands much higher motoring taxes.
We therefore ask members to write to their MP at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA to ask that the Fuel Duty Escalator be retained at its present level until either there is evidence that traffic levels are falling, or alternative money raising mreasures, such as the Government's proposed workplace parking tax, are in place on a national scale, or the public transport system has transformed itself from lots of isolated routes to an integrated network. First call on money raised by higher motoring taxes should be the setting up of integrated public transport networks in both urban and rural areas.
We have put in an objection to the proposed Duxford Motorway Service Area east of the M11 and south of the A505. This occupies the site we had earmarked for our proposed public transport interchange and park & ride site. The two uses may be compatible, but we believe that the motorway service area is unnecessary and will increase traffic without compensating advantages for local people.
One effect of the application is that Cambrudgeshire County Council have withdrawn funding for their A505 ``safety'' scheme (to which, as regular readers will know, we object on the grounds of disruption to bus route 103). After all, they won't want to pay for the roundabout at Hunts Road, Duxford if the developers will provide it out of their own pocket! We have no intrinsic objection to the roundabout as such -- indeed it may be needed for our interchange scheme.
There are also various changes in the pipeline in Cambridge City. There has been consultation on changes to the layout at Bridge St which we generally approve (though we are concerned that the northbound bus stops will be separated). There are also proposals to improve conditions for buses in the Regent St area -- though this won't significantly reduce the congestion in the Emmanuel St area which we warned about when we opposed the refusal of an exemption for buses to the City Centre pedestrianisation. It has been decided to return the City Centre Shuttle to its former route when the roadworks finish -- they have been going on for well over a year now! There has also been consultation on redevelopment of the Station area which include a commitment to better pedestrian and cycle access. We have suggested that any new housing should be on a ``car-free'' basis -- where better than next to a station (especially if the rail companies have a stake in the development) where the complementary car hire facilities could be provided in combination with similar facilities for incoming rail passengers?
East Cambridgeshire District Council has turned down the scheme for a Factory Outlet Centre at Sutton. Despite the developers' offer of improved bus services we objected on the grounds of traffic generation and impact on Ely's shops -- but if the scheme did go ahead we asked for a bus service towards Huntingdon, currently the county's main ``missing link'', as a priority.
Finally, the Highways Agency has just begun consultation on the A428 dualling covering the remaining sections between the A14 and Caxton Gibbet. The estimated cost is GBP 20.1-21.4m. Leaflets are available at Cambridge Central Library, Cambs County Council and S Cambs District Council offices, and local villages, or from the Highways Agency at Heron House, 49-53 Goldington Road, Bedford MK40 3LL. The closing date for comments, to be sent to the above address, is 17 Dec 1999. We object to the scheme for the following reasons:
1. It will feed more traffic into the Cambridge area which is already congested enough.
2. It will encourage car dependence among the residents of Cambourne.
3. It will encourage the use of this road, together with the A1198, as a ``rat run'' by traffic seeking to avoid the A14.
4. Given that the role of the road as a rat run is actually mentioned in the document, the scheme surely preempts the forthcoming multi-modal study into the Cambridge-Huntingdon section of the A14.
5. It may undermine the economic case for public transport improvements such as the proposed East-West rail link.
In addition to this, we will also be calling for modifications to the scheme, if it goes ahead, to cater for the needs of non-motorists, details to be decided in due course.
Significant changes were made by Cambus in September. Among these are a change to the 103 route in Duxford which reduces the number of right turns to/from the A505 (though the route will still be affected by the proposed traffic scheme to ban such turns, see above); a new service from Cambridge to Ely via Waterbeach, Cottenham and Twenty Pence Bridge which caters for schoolchildren; and changes to the 31 which will make it easier for people visiting the villages on the route.
We know of three new peak hour services: Cambus 114 from Swavesey via Cottenham to the Science Park; Whippet X14 from Huntingdon, St Ives and Fen Drayton to Cambridge Regional College and the Science Park; and Saffords S14 from the St Neots area to Sandy including the RSPB headquarters.
Further north, there have been changes to some of Peterborough's Saturday ``village'' services, with new routes 352 and 353 replacing the 415. (The 415 Saturday service from Benwick, as well as the Wednesday bus from Wood Walton, is shown in the latest Cambs CC timetable but we think that's a mistake.)
The Suffolk CC website contains details of new timetables for routes X11, 44, 111 and 116 from 5 Dec, There are no route changes to the X11 -- bad news for the people of Bottisham and Kentford, who might have hoped that their villages would regain a decent service after the completion of the Kentford roadworks (currently expected a week later). Will Kentford have to put up with the miserable service it has ``enjoyed'' since the X11 was diverted last autumn?
There were significant changes to the X2 Bedford-Northampton route on weekdays. The 07.35 was retimed to 07.40. It looks from the timetable as though this was intended to connect with the 07.40 arrival from Cambridge, but does this work in practice? The 08.50 was retimed to 09.00, making the connection with the 08.45 arrival from Cambridge safer (except on Saturdays when it has always been safe) but at the risk of tightening onward connections at Northampton for those taking the train towards Birmingham. The 19.20 from Northampton on Fridays and Saturdays has been withdrawn, leaving the last bus at 18.20 six days a week. We have already mentioned the loss of through ticketing and the Sunday cuts. As a result of this we have lodged a complaint to the Office of Fair Trading that the link-up of Stagecoach with Virgin Trains at Milton Keynes should not be furthered by running down facilities connecting with other train operators such as Silverlink at Northampton, which is a significantly shorter (and therefore cheaper) route.
There have been minor changes to the X5. The extension to Cambridge rail station, which we understood to be scheduled for September, hasn't yet happened, though there are hints of it in United Counties' latest publicity. Due to traffic problems in Botley Road, Oxford the station there is not served by inbound journeys during the daytime -- which may prejudice the tight connections for buses towards Swindon and trains towards Worcester.
One of the two Saturday buses on route 94 between Peterborough and Northampton has been replaced by an X64 via Corby, and there are timing changes to the Sunday service (for which a change is still necessary at Corby).
All the changes listed here are in addition to the Sunday changes mentioned in the headline article.
There are improved services in North Bedfordshire financed by the Rural Bus Grant -- there is now comprehensive coverage of villages in this area. This means that the ``new'' villages like Knotting have overtaken those on the long standing 152 and 153 routes in terms of frequency. Another new service is the 112 which now runs via Chawston and Wyboston villages, giving them daily buses to Bedford and a market day link to St Neots. I am sure that such a service would have long existed if it weren't for the barrier to movement which the A1 represents!
Hertfordshire has used Rural Challenge money to fund a series of ``Rural Rides'' -- evening bus links from villages to towns with leisure facilities. Unfortunately they are poorly publicised, not even being shown in the Council's own timetable books or on their website. Some of them provide scenic runs, and, if they are still running next spring, they could be used as the final stage of a day out in the area to take one to a rail station.
In Essex the Rural Challenge scheme for the Dengie peninsula now seems to be operational, though it looks as if we are in for some wait for a county council timetable to show the new services. Saturday service 59 to Arkesden has been withdrawn as a result of a bridge weight limit (though the Haverhill to Audley End section still runs). Stansted Airport now has more trains to/from London during part of the day on Mondays to Fridays -- but that's no help to people from our area as none of the extra ones stop at Bishops Stortford (and anyway tickets are not valid by this route).
In Suffolk there have been severe cuts to several of the rural bus routes operated by Ipswich Buses. There have also been several cuts in Norfolk.
In Northants the Northampton-Rugby service, whose withdrawal we mentioned last time, has been replaced by non-connecting services Northampton-Crick and West Haddon-Rugby.
In Lincolnshire the County Council has been impressed by the success of its ``Connect 6'' scheme on the Lincoln-Skegness corridor and is planning a similar network around the Lincoln-Boston service, funding permitting. The latter has been improved to hourly during the main daytime period.
In North Lincolnshire Sunday trains to Barton on Humber have been replaced by buses.
In Surrey and Berkshire there have been cuts to buses linking Heathrow with Staines and Henley. The Henley-Oxford section of the X39 survives as an Oxfordshire County Council tendered service. Another lost airport link is that in Cheshire between Manchester Airport and Wilmslow, serving the National Trust mill at Styal. Styal has a station but few trains stop there either.
In Shropshire the County Council will be continuing its ``Stars'' scheme of Sunday buses linking at Shrewsbury, though with changes to the Ironbridge Gorge route and withdrawal of the Wellington-Bridgnorth link.
In Staffordshire there have been a number of new services around Stafford which are worthy of exploration if one is visiting the area.
In Powys there is a new day trip link from Oswestry to Lake Vyrnwy -- provided one can start at 08.05 in the morning. Shropshire County Council publicity says this is a link ``for Shropshire residents'' but even from Shrewsbury it isn't easy to get in then. The energetic can use the 08.45 Oswestry to Llangynog (Weds & Sats) and walk to Llanwddyn, the terminus of the new route.
In Cumbria two new services omitted from the last newsletter are those linking Kendal with Lake Windermere (by a scenic ``back roads'' route through Crosthwaite) and Penrith (with a change at Shap on some journeys). On Saturdays there is now a service between Shap and Penrith via Burnbanks at the head of Haweswater.
The North York Moors have a new group of scenic routes in the Esk Valley which supplement the train service. This is in addition to the Moorsbus (summer school holidays and Sundays Apr-Oct) which also used the section of route through Commondale, hitherto only served by train.
Finally, some services that ran last summer which, again, were omitted from the last newsletter. The Taunton Heritage Bus was a ``vintage'' operation on scenic routes round Taunton. In Clwyd there was a Sunday network centred on Loggerheads Country Park. The Sunday service between Newcastle and Kielder used a new route via West Woodburn; there was also a Wednesday service (during the summer school holidays only) which enabled a combined trip with the Postbus.
Just a few things:
1. Don't forget to comment on your Local Transport Plan (wherever you live).
2. Come to our AGM on 4 Dec if you can.
3. Write to your MP about the need for higher petrol prices to finance improved public transport and to provide incentives to use it, especially in rural areas (see ``National and International issues'').
4. Renew your subscription if you haven't yet done so (in which case there will be a renewal slip enclosed with this newsletter).