Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 70, Jan 2000

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.


We start not only by wishing all our members the best for the new Millennium but by actually examining three of the threats to our well-being.

The first is the Millennium Bug. As you now know, this has proved to be harmless. Take your pick whether to believe that the threat was averted by crisis action, or that it was exaggerated by the computer industry to drum up business.

The second threat is now in the past, but it symbolises how our society treats those who depend on public transport. Out of the 11 days between 24 Dec 1999 and 3 Jan 2000, three had no buses at all in our area (except some express coaches), on five only a Sunday service was operating, and on one day many services finished early. This is unsatisfactory both for those who have to work during public holidays, and for those who aren't working then but wish to make leisure trips. And surely people shouldn't be expected to get a car if they want to do more than curl up in front of the TV for four days on end (25-28 Dec or 31 Dec-3 Jan)?

Talking of the TV, the Millennium celebrations in a Cambridgeshire village on the Greenwich Meridian (Swavesey) were covered nationally. But anyone dependent on public transport who wanted to take part would have to arrive by 30 Dec and stay till 4 Jan. Even those prepared to walk from the A14 would still be marooned in the village for nearly two days.

The third threat is a consequence of the car dependence which has been fostered, inter alia, by those who decide we don't need public transport at this time of year. It is also relevant to the Millennium, as this is surely a time to think what the next 1,000 years will bring. The prospect is for ever more natural disasters due to climate change. However, one won't have to wait 1,000 years for disasters to spread from faraway countries like Bangladesh and Honduras to our own back yard -- think of the Christmas storms that wrought havoc on France, as well as lesser effects in this country. In the longer term -- but people are probably already alive who will see it -- sea level rise may force the abandonment of homes in low lying areas, including Cambridgeshire.

Here is a fairy tale to illustrate the situation. Please note that the local authority that inspired the 8th paragraph is not one of those in our region.

Once upon a time there was a poor but happy country called Britain. It was poor because it had fought (and won) a war against the Forces of Evil. It was happy because people were looking forward to returning to a Land Fit for Heroes. They wanted cleaner cities, so they banned dirty fuels from their homes.

However, new Forces of Evil appeared. They had begun in a Land Across the Pond, where they had inactivated one kind of machine, known as a ``railway'', in order to persuade people to buy another, known as a ``car''. People were urged to love their cars more than their motherland, and bow down to them -- those who didn't bow down were liable to die under a scheme known as ``accidents''.

Britain's rulers said of those used railways, ``Let them use Buses'', referring to another kind of machine. Railway land was sold to stop the railways being put back. Buses use the same tracks as cars, nobody knew where they went, and nobody bothered to ensure that buses linked with one another or with such railways as were left. People thought: ``if we have to use the same tracks as the cars, we may as well use cars, so we don't have to worry about whether buses link up.''

Soon there were so many cars that they got in one another's way, and made the air dirty again. People decided to flee the cities, saying: ``We don't need to live in the cities now we have cars.''

Some people said: ``Cars are poisoning the world and the land would be better without them.'' But others said: ``Who cares about hurricanes in Honduras or floods in Bangladesh? Britain will last out our lifetimes, and what have our children done for us that we should worry about them?''

In the Battle of 1992 the Forces of Evil persuaded people not to use their spare money to buy more cars rather than to clean the land. But soon people realised the rulers had tricked them, and the Forces of Evil decided the rulers would lose the Battle of 1997. So they persuaded the leader of the other group that he could only win with their support, and to promise people more money to buy cars and a cleaner land as well.

The person appointed to clean the land said: ``The land would be cleaner if people used buses instead of cars.'' He said that he would persuade people to switch. But those who had fled the cities were outraged, saying: ``We love our cars more than a clean land. We won't travel in buses with the Great Unwashed.''

The rulers gave money to local communities for more buses. The community leaders said: ``We will add buses, but we will also take some away. We won't tell people about the new ones, and later we'll remove them because nobody is using them. If the Great Unwashed come out of the cities and find our buses have stopped, serve them right, we don't want them here!''

The rulers then said: ``We now believe people will continue to use more cars. To ensure people have room to use them, we will build new houses over vast areas of land, where they will all need cars. As we will need to build tracks for these cars, we won't have enough money to bring back the railways.''

Those who loved the land were still outraged, but those who loved their cars lived happily ever after -- at least during their lifetime.

Branch News.

At our AGM on 4 Dec 1999 the main discussion was on networking with other groups. To promote this in specific localities we elected John Ratcliff as a fourth member of our committee, the Community Liaison Officer. It may be helpful here to list some of the organisations with which we are closely involved, with relevant forthcoming events.

Cambridgeshire Sustainable Transport Forum (CSTF) -- a (mostly electronic) discussion group bringing together groups campaigning on transport and related issues county-wide, (but, in practice, mainly in the Cambridge area). Renamed from ``Cambridgeshire Transport Forum'' when this name was taken up by the County Council for its discussion group. We have agreed to contribute to the running costs of the CSTF if necessary.

Cambridge Area Bus Users Campaign (CamBUC) -- still in the process of formation, but watch for press articles and leaflets. There will be a launch public meeting on a Saturday in March (possibly 18th). Contact details for up to date information: write to CamBUC c/o Cambridge FOE office, 1a Felton St, Cambridge CB1 2EE, email or tel/fax John Ratcliff on 01223 527028. We have agreed to contribute to the start-up costs.

Sustainable Transport & Environment in the Eastern Region (STEER) -- a coalition of campaign groups spanning the six Eastern Region counties (Cambs, Suffolk, Norfolk, Beds, Herts and Essex) including the associated unitary authorities for Peterborough, Luton, Southend and Thurrock. We are formally affiliated to STEER. Next meeting 12 Feb in Cambridge, including an address by Ian Hudson of Alconbury Developments Ltd., who are proposing to convert the air base at Alconbury into a multi-modal distribution centre.

Cambridge-Sudbury Rail Renewal Association (CSRRA) -- campaigning to restore the rail link, initially between Cambridge and Haverhill with extension to Sudbury in due course. We voted at the AGM to affiliate to them, in conformity with the Transport 2000 policy of seeking restoration of rail links to towns of over 25,000 people.

National Federation of Bus Users (NFBU) -- with whom we have been affiliated ever since our 1986 start-up as the Cambridge Area Bus Campaign.

Cambridge Friends of the Earth -- holds Transport & Planning meetings, usually at 7.30 on the 2nd Monday of the month in the new Cambridge FOE office (details above), but check with John Ratcliff (details at head of newsletter).

Cambridge Cycling Campaign -- local campaign group which meets on the 1st Tuesday of the month at 7.30 at the Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge. Contact details at head of newsletter.

The Coordinator will be away until 23 May (except between 16-25 March) -- the Committee will have full contact details in due course. We welcome one new member: D. Soames of Peterborough.

Roads news.

We start with some gloomy news, presaged in the penultimate paragraph of our Fairy Tale. The Government have decided that traffic will continue to increase in the forseeable future, even if its White Paper measures (such as taxing workplace parking) are fully applied. Quite coincidentally, it has given the go-ahead to new road schemes -- while public transport users still wait for equivalent generosity towards their needs. (Major public transport schemes are concentrated in the big cities, with very little for counties like Cambridgeshire.)

We have no particular objection to the one new scheme in Cambridgeshire (the Fordham by-pass), but its cost would pay for 15 years of Rural Bus Grant, or about 50% of the St Ives line reopening costs. Both these schemes have potential to benefit far more people.

We do strongly object to the plan to dual the A428 west to Caxton Gibbet, as mentioned in our last newsletter. In fact, we are alarmed at its potential effect on traffic problems in Cambridge's western approach, especially in view of major development proposals throughout the corridor. We have suggested that if the widening goes ahead then we'll need to shut off possible rat runs between the A14 and A428 via Papworth, Conington, Elsworth, Boxworth and Knapwell; to relocate the Madingley Road park & ride site at least as far west as the Madingley roundabout; and to provide new slip roads between the A428 and M11, while banning turns between Madingley Road West and the M11. (If we get both the A428 dualling and a Papworth by-pass, there will be no stopping this corridor turning into an ``overspill A14''.)

The part of the A428 widening funded by the Cambourne developers is already proceeding. We are objecting to their proposal to delete a bridge over the A428 from the plan. This bridge would carry a bridleway which will give Cambourne people direct access to the countryside north of the A428. The bridleway also forms part of a circular route for horse riders. Furthermore, we believe the bridge could be used to provide pedestrian access to a bus stop on the north side of the A428, to be used by services (such as Stagecoach Express X5) which don't go through the village.

Some of you will have copies of the Ramblers Association's petition on this issue. If you haven't had one and want one, please contact Roger/Janet Moreton, tel. 01223 356889.

We hope to give evidence at a public inquiry into a new development west of Longstanton, which is being sold to local people as a means of financing a by-pass (though any relief caused by this by-pass will be offset by traffic generated by the new development). Note that this development is unrelated to the proposal to provide a ``new town'' on the airfield east of the village. We believe that for any new development, anywhere in the county, the prime consideration should be to procure improvements in public transport -- in this case, regular buses to Cambridge by the Airfield Road (in addition to the existing service via Bar Hill) and a contribution to the cost of the St Ives line reopening.

Unfortunately, partly due to lack of local contacts, we failed to give evidence at the recently concluded public inquiry into a new development west of Ramsey, where, again, the ``planning gain'' consists in road improvements even though the town's public transport is miserable (even worse than Longstanton's, even though the place is larger). The key need here is a new station on the East Coast Main Line (at Abbots Ripton or Woodwalton) with connecting bus link.

Other main roads in the region where upgrades are planned include the A120 and A130 in Essex, and the A6, A421 and A428 in Bedfordshire. There is also pressure to upgrade various sections of the A11 and A47. As for the A14...

...The Multi-Modal Study into the A14 corridor between Cambridge and Huntingdon was officially launched on 14 Dec at Hemingford Abbots Golf Club off the A14. We and other environmental groups were represented by John Ratcliff. We hope that the Study will lead to ``real money'' being provided for public transport improvements such as the reopening of the St Ives line through to Huntingdon. We have prepared a position paper on the problems of the A14 corridor (throughout Cambridgeshire) which will be used to feed not only this study but also the forthcoming public inquiry into the Alconbury development proposals.

Not specifically roads related, but this is an appropriate point to discuss the Alconbury issue further. We have recently met with the developers to discuss their proposed Quality Bus network. Our suggestions include regular services between Haverhill and Rugby (the ``A14 Express''), Bedford and Peterborough, Huntingdon via Alconbury to Ramsey (serving a new rail station as recommended above), Huntingdon to Peterborough via villages, and routes from Alconbury via Huntingdon to Wisbech, Cambridge (via Cambourne), and Ely (via Sutton). All but the last two routes are minor variations of what the developers are already offering, apart from the extensions Cambridge-Haverhill (part of existing Stagecoach Cambus 113) and Kettering-Rugby (which would need other partnership funding). They are prepared to consider the Cambourne route, but the most plausible finance for the Ely route would be a reallocation of Cambs CC money currently used to support services on the other routes.

As for freight, we are concerned that the development by itself won't take significant traffic off the A14 unless the Felixstowe to Peterborough line is upgraded to increase capacity (and linked to Alconbury).

Local Transport Plans.

We have submitted comments to both Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. The former includes as an appendix three separate schemes, for developing the rural bus network, developing the rail network, and implementing a new network of ``busways'', probably using guided buses, to by-pass pinch points in the existing road network.

Issues we have highlighted in our Peterborough response include the need for a comprehensive integrated bus network (which the Government's proposed Quality Contract legislation will provide a means of implementing over the heads of the operators). This is, of course, also relevant to (the rest of) Cambridgeshire. We have also mentioned the need to provide a new rail link through the Sugar Factory site to the proposed Alconbury depot if it goes ahead; the desirability of running a regular service past the new entrance to Flag Fen Museum when that opens; and the desirability of extending services beyond their present termini to provide new inter-urban links (again, also relevant elsewhere).

A key issue in both our submissions has been the promotion of Community Car Hire as an alternative to car ownership. We believe that in a sustainable society this would in fact be the ``default'' mode of access to motoring. Its advantage from an environmental viewpoint is that it shifts the balance of costs so that the car becomes the mode of last resort, rather than, as at present, the mode of first resort.

Rail news.

Recent months have seen quite a few improvements.

The Jubilee Line is now fully open (including Westminster station, the last to open), thus confounding the doomsayers who said that the line wouldn't be ready to serve the Dome when it opened. Those guests for the launch party on 31 Dec 1999 who travelled via Stratford did, of course, have difficulties (which spilled over to ordinary users), but this was due to security problems rather than anything wrong with the railway.

Also open is the Docklands Light Railway extension from the Isle of Dogs to Lewisham. This links the important interchange at Stratford (served by National Express from Cambridge) with the historic area of Greenwich as well as providing interchange with the Connex network at Greenwich and Lewisham stations.

The new station at Luton Airport Parkway is now open. This has been accompanied by the transfer of the shuttle link from Luton Town station to the airport to the new station. The shuttle is now free. However, the new station has very poor access from everywhere else, whether by bus or on foot (or cycle). Luton Airport now has a new terminal, on a site near the old one -- but the project has led to the closure of the road link towards Hitchin, which means that there is a signficantly higher time penalty on buses between Hitchin and Luton which serve the airport. This link with WAGN trains at Hitchin -- to serve both the town and airport -- is one of our priorities.

Another new station in our region is Braintree Freeport which serves a factory outlet shopping centre. We understand that the centre has a regular free bus from Braintree town centre. We have suggested that the Colchester-Stansted Airport Anglia Rail Link, which uses the Braintree by-pass, should divert to serve the new station, as well as Marks Tey (which would provide a link with the Sudbury branch).

Still to come is the opening of the Croydon Tramlink which will take over the former Wimbledon line and provide additional serves to Elmers End, Beckenham and New Addington. Unfortunately not all trams will serve the interchange at West Croydon station, and we believe that the corridor eastwards from Croydon is important enough to deserve a through rail link to Bromley and beyond.

Improvements planned for May include Anglia's new Colchester to Basingstoke route and the reopening on Sundays of local stations between Bishops Stortford and Cambridge.

We were all set to commiserate with WAGN whose application to extend their network to Doncaster has been rejected, as we want through trains from Huntingdon to north of Peterborough, but it turns out they weren't planning to stop there anyway...

On a completely different issue, we have made representations to various organisations about land owned by Rail Property Ltd. (formerly the British Rail Property Board) which it is planned to sell off. Within Cambridgeshire there are three sites near new stations we have in mind (Barnwell Jn in Cambridge, Black Bank north of Ely, and Offord). The Barnwell site will probably not affect the potential for a station, but it may affect the proposed ``Chisholm Trail'' cycle route along the railway through Cambridge. The Black Bank sale, too, is unlikely to affect the potential for a station. Another important site is Whitemoor Yard north of March, but Sustrans have this in mind for part of the National Cycle Network, and have promised to release any land they buy for commercial rail operations should this prove necessary in future. (A restored link between March and Spalding has been proposed for freight to by-pass the bottleneck at Peterborough, though there are other options.)

We are also concerned about three other areas of land which may affect proposals for east-west links. These are the old Bedford St Johns site, which may be needed for through freight on the east-west link (but not for passenger trains which will want to serve Bedford Midland station); land which would be needed for a north spur at Witham, again mainly for freight using the proposed eastward link from Stansted Airport; and, most worrying, land which would be needed to link the two existing lines at Hertford and thus provide a westward link from Stansted.

Bus news.

There has been quite a lot of news recently, most of it bad. We start with Stagecoach Cambus.

City Shuttle: Stagecoach Cambus posted notices at relevant stops saying that it would resume its ``normal'' route (via Kings Parade) from 13 Dec 1999. In fact work on the bollards at Kings Parade hadn't finished then; however work looked complete on the 15th. But the buses were still going round via Queens Road after that -- we were told, because of problems with the St John's St bollards, though this wasn't evident on the ground. We thought everything had finished when we spotted a bus on Kings Parade, but just as this goes to press one has been spotted on Kings Parade. What's going on? (Let's remember the shuttle was introduced to provide compensating access to the Historic Centre following the erection of the St Andrew's St gates. Incidentally, we said at the time that this scheme would lead to congestion in the Emmanuel St area; now, despite the removal of cars from Emmanuel Rd, our fears have been realised -- see below.)

N1 and N2: the Newmarket town service is reduced from half hourly to hourly, which has considerably upset local residents.

5 and Myalls 115: some evening journeys on route 5 are likely to be extended to the Wilbrahams soon, leading to the withdrawal of the evening service on route 115.

X11: the reopening of Kentford bridge meant that Suffolk CC 306 is withdrawn -- but the X11 still doesn't serve Kentford. Only a few peak services go through the village. Westbound buses also continue to miss out Bottisham.

43/44: we mentioned the cut to 44 Cambridge-Haverhill last time. There have also been cuts to Haverhill town services, with partial replacement by a diversion of the 44 together with a new route 43.

108: arrangements have been made for the Cottenham school journeys to run as normal through roadworks, starting 17 Jan.

118/119: these route has been considerably improved, now providing a basic hourly service between Cambridge and Longstowe with occasional extension to Gamlingay. There is also an evening service. However no attempt has been made to use the higher frequency to provide faster journeys, or to integrate with other services west of Longstowe and Gamlingay (178 Gamlingay-Bedford, 188 Gamlingay-Biggleswade, 190 Longstowe-St Neots, and 200 Potton-Flitwick).

196: withdrawn and replaced by a Whippet service running nearly 1 hour earlier. No attempt has been made to make effective use of its positioning workings.

We suspect that many of these cuts have been caused by the desire of the operator to redeploy resources to the Cambridge area to improve timekeeping. However, if this means increasing layovers at Drummer St, it isn't a very effective way of achieving this end, as part of the cause of the delays is the lack of manoeuvring space at Drummer St!

Incidentally, we have been informed by Transport 2000 Notts of a bureaucratic barrier to staff recruitment -- prospective drivers now have to apply for a provisional licence before they can begin training. This process takes several weeks, giving plenty of opportunity for the prospective drivers to find alternative employment. So it isn't all the fault of Stagecoach Cambus!

There have also been major changes to Huntingdon & District -- in particular, the ``flagship'' route between Huntingdon and Cambridge has been reduced from 4 to 3 buses per hour off-peak, and Stukeley Meadows routes 578/9 have been completely withdrawn, with further cuts to Eynesbury, Little Paxton, Oxmoor and Godmanchester. However there is a new evening service to Godmanchester, one journey of which opens up the potential for a connection with Myalls 151 (one round trip of which terminates at Godmanchester), which we are urging the County Council to exploit.

Stagecoach United Counties have cut two journeys involving Cambridge -- the schooldays X3 14.30 Cambridge to Gt Barford (which runs out of service to ensure a punctual arrival at the school at Gt Barford) and either the 20.20 or 22.20 X51 Cambridge to Huntingdon, depending on whether one believes UC or Cambs CC publicity.

We also believe that the interavailability agreement with Arriva Shires for Explorers has ceased. Unfortunately we have been unable to find out exactly which companies still have agreements, though Stagecoach Cambus and Viscount, and Huntingdon & District, are certainly among them.

There have also been a number of minor changes to other routes. Our information is inconsistent, but according to Cambs CC publicity all buses have been removed from Snailwell and Chippenham. We believe that these villages should be served by an alternative route between Newmarket and Mildenhall, running every 2 hours as part of an overall half hourly service. Peak journeys on Stagecoach Viscount 46-8 linking Huntingdon and Peterborough have been modified.

Due to the redevelopment of Queensgate, Peterborough bus station will be relocated to a temporary site north of Westgate for most of 2001. We have called for the needed crossing of Bourges Boulevard near Westgate to be brought forward to be in place when this project begins, which would offer quite substantial time savings for people making bus/rail connections at Peterborough.

Cambridgeshire County Council have failed in their Rural Challenge bid to develop connectional networks serving 9 villages south of Newmarket, 5 between the A14 and A428, and 3 near Chatteris.

Outside the county, the cuts in Suffolk include routes 337-8 which link Bury and Stanton with Walsham le Willows. Incidentally, the main Bury-Stanton service, which runs through to Diss, serves the famed steam and garden centre of Bressingham in Norfolk. Another cut has hit Essex passengers -- route 93 between Colchester and Ipswich now runs every 90 minutes instead of hourly. There is better news further south in Essex -- the County Council's Rural Challenge project to bring regular hourly services to the Dengie peninsula has at last started. Buses are operated by Arriva Southend (not First Group).

Lincolnshire County Council has announced that, given funding, it wants to extend the principles behind its ``Connect 6'' network, which have brought integrated transport to the Lincoln-Skegness corridor, to the Lincoln-Boston and Spalding-Kings Lynn corridors. We would be particularly interested to see the latter developed (preferably with evening and Sunday buses), including connections to/from Wisbech. (Our rural package proposals include an hourly link between Wisbech and Spalding, covering several different routes.)

Further afield, contrary to the last newsletter, there was a service between Henley and Maidenhead. However, it has apparently been withdrawn as from this year, presumably due to low patronage. Could the lack of publicity be a factor? A temporary free bus is running between London Colney Savacentre (served by Cambridge Coach Services 75) and St Albans Sainsburys during office hours while the Savacentre is rebuilt. (Other one-change routes from Cambridge are by train to Hatfield, or other stations south from Hitchin, then bus; or X5 to Bedford then train; or CCS 78 to Hitchin or Luton Airport then bus.)

In the Midlands the Nottingham to Birmingham route X73 has been curtailed at Tamworth, where one now has to change, and reduced in frequency. Not a very passenger friendly approach to this important corridor! Why doesn't the route serve East Midlands Airport? And the Shropshire Sunday Network changes alluded to in the last newsletter include the extension of Shrewsbury-Ludlow to Hereford (replacing Herefordshire supported services) and a new circular route to the Ironbridge Gorge serving Wellington in one direction (with offsetting cuts to the Telford local network).

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