Transport 2000 Cambs and West Suffolk

Newsletter 71, June 2000


Due to the absence of the Coordinator it was impossible to send out a newsletter in March or April to cover the Budget. This is a pity, because we fear that the Budget represents a move away from the steps the Government has taken towards transport equity -- all the more regrettable as the steps have been so hesitant that no significant effect could reasonably have been expected.

The Budget statement included:

1. A freeze on the real rate of fuel tax -- just when the Government had given a commitment that any increases would be hypothecated for transport improvements.

2. A freeze or (for some vehicles) reduction in Vehicle Excise Duty -- particularly worrying because it is the heaviest lorries that will benefit most.

3. A statement that the weight limit for lorries will be increased to 44 tonnes (provided they have 6 axles) -- without any protection for the railfreight industry which these lorries may undercut. It is true that they will do less damage to roads than 5 axle 40 tonne vehicles -- but there will be more damage to bridges.

Now, in advance of its comprehensive spending review which is due to be published at the end of July, there have been rumours of massive increases in spending on trunk road upgrades, to cater for the extra traffic which the Government appears to have given up hope of stopping. It is true that there is also expected to be significant new spending on public transport, but will this go where it is needed, towards providing a comprehensive countrywide network where both rail and bus will play an expanded role? Or will improvements be confined to the largest cities (which is not where population growth is concentrated) and London's radial routes?

Unfortunately it's not quite clear what one can do about it. You can try writing to Lord Macdonald at DETR, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU, with copies to your MP and/or local councillors, saying that ever increasing traffic threatens your quality of life and that we should be giving priority to reducing the need to travel by improving local facilities, and improving public transport to provide an integrated network, with priority for the areas where population is expected to grow.

This leads on to another key issue -- the decline of rural facilities. Whatever its advantages, the car is destroying many aspects of village life. If people can drive several miles to an edge of town superstore in as many minutes as it would take to walk to their village shop, they are far less likely to use the latter. The latest service whose decline has hit the headlines is banking. Barclays, in announcing a closure programme for rural branches, blamed the increase in telephone and internet banking. But exactly how does one get cash, or pay in cash or cheques, by these means? Even a village cash dispenser won't help local businesses which afford to close down to drive to their nearest town to deposit their takings.

Branch news.

Please note that there will be an Extraordinary General Meeting at 7.00 on Mon 10 July at the Friends of the Earth office, 1a Felton St, Cambridge. Felton St is parallel to and south of Mill Road and west of the railway, and the office is only a short walk from the railway station and a slightly longer walk from the bus station.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the licensing agreement for local groups which Transport 2000 headquarters has sent to us. If we are to comply with it there will have to be some changes in our committee structure and constitution, which require a general meeting. However, it is unlikely that our day to day work will be seriously affected.

The meeting will be followed by a discussion meeting, probably joint with Cambridge Friends of the Earth and possibly also with the Cambridge Bus Users Campaign (CAMBUC). This should start around 7.30.

Branch membership is now due for renewal. All branch members, and former National Supporters who have not paid up for the current year, should have a renewal slip with this newsletter. Former national supporters who may have been deterred by the cost should note that local membership, at our usual rates of 3-50 (ordinary), 2-50 (concessionary), or 5-00 (household or affiliate), is a lot cheaper.

We believe that we have picked up all the recent postcode changes. But if not (and assuming the newsletter gets to you) please inform us of your correct postcode. Similarly, we need to be kept informed about any new addresses, telephone numbers, or email addresses.

We are offering the "add on" for receipt of Transport 2000's national newsletter Transport Retort at a discounted rate of 6-00 for existing subscribers only. This is in compensation for the delay in sending it out so far this year (due to the Coordinator's absence), and the possibility that an issue might have got lost.

A further "add on" is included in the renewal slip: CAMBUC is offering half rate membership for at least the current year to our branch members, including National Supporters in our area. To save you postage we suggest that you send the two subscriptions together, but please make your cheque for CAMBUC membership payable to the "Cambridge Area Bus Users Campaign" and not to "Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk" to avoid confusing the two accounts. The T2000 C&WS Coordinator, who is Treasurer of CAMBUC, will pass your name onto the rest of the committee.

If you fill in this form you need not send off the CAMBUC membership leaflet which is also enclosed with this newsletter. Apart from telling you more about the aims of CAMBUC, this leaflet is intended for you to copy and distribute where appropriate.

Please note that Peterborough, Fenland and the northern part of Huntingdonshire are considered to be outside CAMBUC's area. People from these areas are of course free to join CAMBUC, and T2000 C&WS branch members may do so at the discounted rate by using their renewal slip. If you have not received either a renewal slip or CAMBUC leaflet but wish to join please contact one of the CAMBUC Committee (see head of this newsletter for who's on the committee).

Parts of Suffolk, Essex, Herts and Beds that are within Cambridge's "catchment area" are considered as part of CAMBUC's area, and members who live in such areas will therefore be receiving CAMBUC leaflets.

Forthcoming events:

28 June: Possible CAMBUC meeting in Waterbeach, where the recent bus changes in the area will be under discussion. Contact Martin Thorne or John Ratcliff for details.

4 July: Next Cambridge Cycling Campaign meeting, 7.30, Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge. These meetings are normally held on the first Tuesday of the month.

10 July: T2000 C&WS branch EGM (as described above), 7.00, Cambridge Friends of the Earth office, 1a Felton St, Cambridge. The subsequent general meeting will occupy the "slot" of the normal Cambridge FOE Transport & Planning meeting, which is generally on the second Monday of the month.

We should also mention the Millennium Festival of Cycling (July 17-25) which, however, will be half finished by the time you get this newsletter! For details of Cambridge events contact Simon Nuttall (01223 500902) or visit the Cambridge Cycling Campaign website (using the link from ours).

The weekend of 24/25 June will also see events in Peterborough focusing on its Millennium Green Wheel. For details of this, and other cycling events throughout the region on the weekend of 5/6 Aug, ring the Cycling Discovery Festival on 01473 825621.

New members: We have one new branch member, P. Chattwood of Somerville, Peterborough. He is active in the Yorkshire Dales Public Transport Users Group as website maintainer. In addition, we also welcome several new National Supporters: one is Guy Dangerfield, secretary of the Eastern Rail Passenger Committee (formerly the Rail Users Consultative Committee) and former secretary of Transport 2000 Ipswich & Suffolk branch. The others are S. Bearpark (Waterbeach), R. Burgess (Cambridge), D. Ellis (Cambridge), P. Foster (Deeping St James), A. Nock (St Neots), M. Philbin (Sawston), E. Hughes (Huntingdon) and D. Thorne (Gamlingay).

Rail News:

Go to the end of this section for what is likely to be the most important news.

The new timetable sees considerably improved Sunday trains between Cambridge and London by both routes, including the much needed reopening of intermediate stations on the line to Bishops Stortford. There are also slight improvements to connections at Peterborough between Cambridge and the East Coast Main Line.

One of these is the last train from Peterborough to Cambridge on a Sunday. However, we noted that at the end of July, when timetables are changing to allow for major work at Leeds, this train is shown as leaving 7 minutes after an arrival from the North, whereas the "official" margin for a connection is 8 minutes. We wrote to Central Trains who said they would retime the train 1 minute later.

We have been less successful in securing decent connections at Stansted Mountfitchet for passengers travelling between Stansted Airport and Cambridge, especially in the evening when there are no Central Trains services. At present, for example, if one gets the 21.30 bus from Chelmsford which arrives at the Airport at 22.23, one will then transfer to the 23.33 train which arrives at Stansted Mountfitchet just 1 minute after a Cambridge train has left! We believe that Stansted Airport to Cambridge should have a half hourly service covering both WAGN and Central Trains, with the former continuing when the latter has ceased.

We now mention two important developments further afield: Anglia has opened its new Crosslink service between Norwich and Basingstoke via Stratford, Highbury, West Hampstead and Feltham. Network Railcards and Travelcards are valid on appropriate sections; and the long awaited reopening of the Huddersfield to Halifax line has now come on stream, with a new station at Brighouse.

We now turn to another important issue in the Cambridge area: WAGN's announcement of a cycle ban on trains arriving Cambridge between 07.45 and 08.45 Mon-Fri. They have tried to mitigate the effects by offering free hire bikes to commuters who register with them, but this is not suitable for all cyclists, e.g. those travelling through (rather than to) Cambridge and those worried about the security of their bikes at unstaffed stations.

WAGN has sought to meet the latter worry by promising to upgrade cycle parking facilities. But this promise has been undermined by a recent announcement that the Prism Group, who hold the WAGN franchise, are planning to give up part of their franchise from 1 Apr 2001 and are therefore unlikely to be interested in investing in improvements, especially as the reason for this move appears to be a financial crisis.

It is planned to split the WAGN franchise into two, with Prism retaining the West Anglia part of their network (the lines into Liverpool St) but giving up the Great Northern (lines into Kings Cross and Moorgate). We hope that this will not result in disintegration, e.g. loss of interavailability between the two routes.

Under the present system refranchising is the best time to press for improvements. So now's the time to write to the (Shadow) Strategic Rail Authority at its new address (55 Victoria St, London SW1H 0UE, 0207 654 6000) with details of improvements you want for our network.

CHUMMS: This is the acronym for the Cambridge-Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study now under way. Those living near the A14 may well have had their two newsletters. John Ratcliff is representing the interests of environmental groups on its steering committee, and several other member groups of the Cambridge Sustainable Transport Forum, including T2000 C&WS, are represented on the Technical Consultative Group, who had a meeting on 6 June.

At present one of the main issues is to ensure that all the options are fully studied, including reopening the St Ives line all the way to Huntingdon, which we believe to be an essential part of any plan to tackle the problems of the corridor. To further this campaign, please write to Judy Howlett, Mouchel Consulting Ltd., The Colonnades, Beaconsfield Rd, Hatfield, Herts AL10 8YJ, for the consultants, and/or John Brown, GO EAST, Heron House, 49-53 Goldington Rd, Bedford MK40 3LL for the Government office overseeing the study. This issue might also figure in your letter to the Strategic Rail Authority (see above).

Meanwhile, as we've said before, the Government's plan to widen the A428, and the County Council's plan for a Papworth By-pass, threaten to intensify the problem by providing an "overspill A14". We hope that this problem will be tackled before it becomes acute.

In this section we may also mention that the Public Inquiry into the proposed Alconbury distribution centre, which we have featured in this newsletter before, is now scheduled to start on 3 Oct; we hope to give evidence there.

Also, the Cambridge & Huntingdon Health Authority has moved from the Fulbourn Hospital site to Hinchingbrooke Business Park. Public transport users can access the Business Park by means of a short walk from the Hinchingbrooke Hospital bus stop, and it's not too far to cycle from Huntingdon; but neither of these options is likely to be helpful to employees living in the Cambridge area (as would be attracted by the Fulbourn site), given that the first bus arrival in Huntingdon is after 08.30.

We would like to see a through road route from the Spittals roundabout to Huntingdon via the Business Park and Hospital, so that buses from the Alconbury direction can come in via this route and run direct to the Bus Station (which would require a change in Huntingdon's traffic system). There is also potential for using this as part of a scheme to provide major environmental improvements for Godmanchester, with Town Bridge closed to "general" traffic, Huntingdon town centre approached by Park & Ride from the A14 Godmanchester junction, and areas beyond (including the Hinchingbrooke complex and Huntingdon station) approached via the Spittals roundabout.

The people -- what will they wear?

This is the title of an article by Simon Fairlie in the Nov 1999 issue of Town & Country Planning, which we reproduce with his permission, He is the author of "Low Impact Development: Planning and People in the Countryside" (Jon Carpenter, Charlbury, Oxon, 1996), and is currently coordinating a new campaign called "Chapter 7" (after that chapter of the Agenda 21 document agreed at the Rio Earth Summit) at The Potato Store, Flax Drayton Farm, South Petherton, Somerset TA13 5LR tel. 01460 249204. The aim of Chapter 7 is to campaign for a planning system which actively encourages sustainable, low impact and affordable developments.

Sir Peter Hall's monograph, "Sustainable Cities or Town Cramming?" rightly draws attention to the apparent links between household income and car travel. These links are graphically illustrated on p57 of the recent publication "A Better Quality of Life", where it is shown that the highest paid 20% of the UK population travel nearly three times as far as the lowest paid 40%.

Peter Hall observes: "Crudely, the problem may be that London, Birmingham and Manchester use less energy not only because they are built at higher densities, but because they contain quite high proportions of poorer people who can't afford cars."

He then goes on to add (somewhat crudely): "There are doubtless some hairshirt environmentalists who would wish that everyone were as poor, but it's not an argument likely to appeal to many people, or to the politicians that represent them."

As an environmentalist of the "hairshirt" persuasion, I encounter this argument quite frequently, and I usually pass it by. The hairshirt position, I agree, is not one that appeals to people or politicians, and it pays me to be diplomatic. However, in this case, where the gauntlet has been thrown down by so respected a thinker [Ed: Sir Peter Hall was until recently Chairman of the Town & Country Planning Association], and in such a discerning forum, I think it's about time I picked it up.

If, for the purposes of this discussion, we define "poor" as "unable to afford a car" then most of the world is poor. Even more disturbing, the world is getting poorer. The number of cars being manufactured is increasing, but not as fast as the number of households. Every year there is a growing number of families who do not have access to a car. Meanwhile the industrial car-owning nations continue to emit approximately 10 times as much CO2 into the atmosphere as the "poor" nations.

Conceivably, one day, population may stabilise, and cars may become so cheap, non-pollutant and energy-efficient that every family can have one, or even two. But this is hardly a prospect that any responsible policy-maker should found a platform upon.

In other words, the world at present cannot afford motor vehicles. If we are to honour the commitments signed at Rio to tailor our comsumption to levels that are globally sustainable and equitable, neither can we. Privately, I have put this argument to a wide variety of different people. None of them -- not even a former Conservative Minister of Roads -- has ever disagreed. They all fall in line with Peter Hall: "Yes, but the British public would never wear it."

At the moment. they wouldn't. But it is worth investigating why. After all, there are other "hairshirts" that the British public has been persuaded to wear without any great difficulty. An obvious example is the relinquishment of the right to live where one chooses. As Peter Hall reminds us, most people would prefer to live in or near the countryside. Up until the first half of this century they had more or less every right to do so, provided they could afford it. But since 1947 the planning system has pursued a policy of deterring people from living and building in the countryside.

The catalyst for this policy was the arrival of the motor car. Anybody who earned their money in the town and could afford a motor car could afford to live in the country, and this, it was speedily recognised, would cause social and environmental chaos. As thomas Sharpe observed in the 1930s, with the arrival of the car "all the land in the country is being laid out as a gigantic building estate".

The decision made was to allow the car and to restrict rural dwellings. Restricting the right to drive where you want became viewed as draconian, but restricting the right to live where you want became viewed as perfectly normal. Why? Probably because restricting car production is of no benefit to the motor industry; but restricting land use has a miraculous effect on property values. Consequently people are not only told where they should live, they also have to pay a good deal more for the privilege.

The hairshirt argument is not, therefore, one of unmitigated self-denial. Restraints upon car use, say to the point where most people found it convenient to hire a vehicle from time to time, but not to use one regularly, would carry with them a considerable number of benefits.

Quite apart from the reductions in pollution, road building, traffic accidents, demands on police time, pressure to earn a "two-car income", childcare expenses, criminal opportunity, and so on, British society would return to the blissful state where people could live where they chose, because they would, in most cases, choose to live in a sensible place. An unfortunate side effect I can see in this is that about 50% of planners would become redundant.

None of this controverts the very sound conclusions that Peter Hall comes to concerbing urban density. The question is how do we achieve this optimum density. The topsy-turvy PPG13 solution is to try to persuade people to live in the right place so that they drive cars less. But it is motor cars that are the problem, not houses. Any rational society would cut vehicle use to globally sustainable proportions and then people would automatically live in the right place.

Local bus changes.

On 28 Feb Stagecoach United Counties transferred some of their Cambridgeshire operations to Stagecoach Viscount:

UC X1 (Bedford-Peterborough): Bedford-Huntingdon section replaced at increased frequency by Viscount X46. The X46 continues to Peterborough via the villages, replacing Viscount 46.

UC X3 (Cambridge-Bedford): during the operating hours of the X46, this is curtailed at St Neots and renumbered 130. Early morning, evening and Sunday buses run through to/from Bedford as route X30. Subsequent changes have improved access to Cambourne and Papworth Hospital, and also evening buses from Cambridge.

UC X51 (Cambridge-Peterborough): withdrawn off-peak. Two round trips are now provided by Viscount X48, serving the villages north of Huntingdon.

Huntingdon & District 565/6: probably as a result of the above, H&D withdrew their off-peak commercial operation of these routes in April, except for the section east of Brampton which now forms part of their town service network. Cambs CC have supported replacement routes 465/6, also operated by H&D, which do a bizarre circuit from Huntingdon via Brampton, Buckden, Offord, Great Paxton, St Neots, Little Paxton, Southoe, Buckden Roundabout then back direct to Little Paxton. This is presumably designed to avoid having to make right turns to/from the A1, but it means that any Southoe residents returning from Huntingdon now either have to go via St Neots or cross the A1 on foot. Also, the new service abandons the former clockface pattern of departures, so connections from the villages not on the X46 route to Cambridge, Bedford etc. are now trickier.

We may also mention here that Whippet has withdrawn the Sunday service on their London route 4.

The result of these changes has been to reduce the credibility of public transport on the A14 corridor by reducing the number of direct services between Cambridge and Huntingdon, and to deprive local bus users of any benefits in exchange for the taxes they are paying to support the builders of the A1 motorway. The last bus from Peterborough to Huntingdon, formerly at 19.15, is now at 17.45 -- a far cry from the 21.35 journey we had at deregulation. There have also been some reductions in local services in Huntingdon and St Neots.

The next major changes happened on 2 April when Cambridge Coach Services and Jetlink -- both now subsidiaries of National Express -- amalgamated their operations. The Cambridge operations are now run under the name Jetlink Cambridge. The changes are as follows:

74 (Cambridge-Lowestoft): No change.

75 (Cambridge-Oxford via Stansted): renumbered 757. Intermediate stops between the airport and the Oxford area were reduced to just two (Langleybury Church and High Wycombe) with the journey speeded up by half an hour. However, we believe that the new timetable cannot in fact be maintained; from 9 July most of the stops, including the Underground connection at Little Chalfont and the Chilterns Escarpment access at Stokenchurch, will be restored with journey time increased to 3 hours 15 mins.

76 (Ipswich-Heathrow via Stansted): renumbered 737.

78/79 (Cambridge-Gatwick via Luton/Stansted and Heathrow): renumbered 787/797 and extended to Brighton.

747: This number was applied to services from Brighton to Norwich (running direct Heathrow-Stansted), Milton Keynes (via Luton), and Stansted (via Luton). It is replaced by 707 (Milton Keynes-Brighton) and 727 (Norwich-Brighton) with the Luton-Stansted link unserved. We would like to see the Luton-Stansted section run by a through service amalgamating existing rail links Milton Keynes to Luton (Virgin) and Stansted to Colchester (see below). A change in route would have opened up opportunities for much better services to communities in NE Herts, such as Buntingford. Furthermore, the long standing rail link at Watford Junction is lost, though there is still an hourly Greenline service (2 hourly on Sundays) from Heathrow by a non-motorway route.

767: New route Cambridge-Oxford which follows the 787 to Langleybury Church (except for a diversion to serve Luton bus station) then the 757 route, giving an hourly overall service on both sections. Like the 757 this will be rerouted in the Chilterns area on 9 July.

777 (Gatwick-Stansted via London): Split into A5 (Gatwick-London) and A6/A7 (London-Stansted). Stansted services run alternately via Hendon and Stratford, providing an increased frequency (half hourly). Some night buses extent to Cambridge, presumably as positioning workings to/from the CCS depot. These routes are run by the Airbus subsidiary using London red buses, such as Airbus have long been using on the Heathrow route.

We should also say that Ten Journey tickets have been suspended, though this is expected to be only temporary.

The verdict? The 767 provides improved facilities for Cambridge people but some other areas have lost out. We would like to see some extra stops for interchange (especially Hitchin rail station on the 767 and 787) and through ticketing involving interchange at Langleybury Church.

The "big one", though, is the changes to the Cambus and Viscount Fens network on 30 May. This time we outline the new network:

X7 (Peterborough-March, hourly weekdays, 2 hourly Sundays): replaces part of X55 at increased frequency, and extends to provide a March town service. On Sundays runs through to Cambridge via Ely.

X8 (Cambridge-Ely-Wisbech St Mary-Wisbech, hourly weekdays, 2 hourly Sundays): replaces X55 (Cambridge-March section), X56 (Cambridge-Wisbech section), 336 (Guyhirn-Wisbech section), and 354 (March-Wisbech, but link to March station is lost). Together with the X9 it also replaces, at increased frequency, the 355 between Ely and Sutton -- but diversions via Witcham and Mepal villages are few and far between. In Wisbech it interworks with the town service, now numbered 66 and part provided by Norfolk Green. Connections between the X7 and X8 -- a facility formerly provided by through route X55 -- are poor. On Sundays doesn't serve Wisbech St Mary. Unfortunately Stagecoach "forgot" to tell National Express, with whom it had through ticketing arrangements for London passengers, of the changes, so NE still show the old timetables in their publicity.

9 (Cambridge-Waterbeach, half hourly) and X9 (Cambridge-Ely-Littleport, hourly): replace route 109 except for the journeys between Milton, Landbeach or Waterbeach and Ely (a point of much local concern). 5 journeys extended to Kings Lynn. Weekdays only.

X10/X11 (Cambridge-Lakenheath/Bury, 2 hourly each, less frequent evenings and Sundays): Short workings to Newmarket renumbered X12 (see below). All journeys serve Bottisham by a stop on the A1303 (at last!), but still no progress re Kentford.

X12 (Cambridge-Newmarket-Ely, hourly weekdays, less frequent evenings): replaces X11 short workings, 116 (Newmarket-Ely via Burwell) and 121 (Ely commuter service) at increased frequency. Interworks at Ely with new city route 22. There is no replacement for Isleham-Ely (121) or Burwell-Ely (122).

36 (Peterborough-Thorney, hourly): Replaces this section of 336. Wisbech now served in peaks only. The through facility is provided by First Eastern Counties X94, but unfortunately Stagecoach "forgot" to suggest that this limited stop service should make an extra stop at Thorney Toll on the "missing" section. It is expected that this stop will be introduced next month.

44 (Cambridge-Fulbourn-Haverhill): minor changes. The service is now hourly to Balsham but sparse east thereof. Such journeys as do run interwork with Haverhill town service 43.

106 (Cambridge-Cottenham-Haddenham-Ely, about 2 hourly): this extends some journeys on Cambridge-Cottenham service 104/5 to provide a new link over Twenty Pence bridge to Haddenham (formerly linked to Cambridge by X55/X56) then as former 108 to Ely. The school facility between Waterbeach and Cottenham is no longer covered by a service bus. This also replaces former market day service 110 between Histon and Ely.

111 (Cambridge-Burwell-Newmarket, hourly): diverts to provide a Newmarket Town Service, and interworks with town service 110. These together replace N1 and N2. The 111 also replaces 116 (Newmarket-Burwell section) and, except on Sundays, 122 (Cambridge-Burwell section). The commuter service from Isleham (formerly 122) now runs via Chippenham and Snailwell to Newmarket and Cambridge.

The County Council also told us that Cambus would be diverting a couple of journeys on routes 102 (Cambridge-Saffron Walden) and 112 (Cambridge-Whittlesford) via Addenbrookes, in line with public requests, but this doesn't seem to have happened. There have, however, been changes to the Sunday service on route 102, which now runs later, and, with the advent of local train stops, no longer needs to serve Audley End station (though buses via Littlebury still have to go past Audley End house).

Also not yet happened is the amalgamation of the 155 (Cambridge-Willingham) and 157 (Cottenham-Willingham-Somersham-St Ives), which would provide an hourly service between Willingham and St Ives but lead to the loss of the link between Cottenham, Rampton and Willingham (except for Cottenham-Rampton journeys on 104-6).

The new network has brought many improvements, but the failure of Stagecoach to consult anyone has led to great anguish among the people of Milton, Landbeach, Waterbeach, Burwell and Thorney Toll, and probably other villages too. As long as bus operators are allowed to do this sort of thing public transport users will continue to feel like second class citizens.

Whippet made several changes on the same day, but we don't have details. There seem to be improvements to its Cambridge-Huntingdon routes 1A/5, and route 1 between Cambridge and St Ives now serves Cambourne. It now runs the Sunday services through Huntingdon, with routes 1A/5 providing a joint hourly service from Cambridge and St Ives. The Peterborough-Huntingdon service remains 2 hourly, connecting for Cambridge; it is extended to Hinchingbrooke Hospital, but connections to/from Cambridge are missed.

There were also extensive changes in the west of Cambridgeshire and beyond. The new network is as follows:

X2: Timetable adjustments. The last bus from Northampton is now 18.10 Mon-Sat.

X4: New Stagecoach Express between Peterborough and Northampton, hourly weekdays and 4-5 journeys Sundays, replaces X65 at higher frequency. Runs direct to Oundle (except Sundays when former X65 route is used), then to Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough and Northampton.

X5: Weekday buses run 5 minutes later in both directions. Connections to Northampton and elsewhere are now very tight.

X7: New Stagecoach Express Northampton-Leicester, hourly weekdays, 2 hourly Sundays, replacing X61 at higher frequency. The (faster) old A50 corridor route is no longer used. Connections towards Bedford on X2 are poor. For buses between Leicester and Nottingham see 777.

X38: The old number for Oxford-Northampton, until recently part of X61, is resumed.

39: This provides a regular hourly service to villages between Northampton and Kettering, replacing part X65.

X42: This replaces the Northampton-Daventry section of X64 (the Corby-Northampton section being covered by X4). The extension to Birmingham is lost except for 3 journeys on Saturdays. The United Counties website refers to a rail link at Long Buckby (by route 96 from Daventry) but in fact some of the buses are timed to miss trains in both directions! Daventry is also served by routes 40/41 via Kislingbury.

42/43: New local services linking Peterborough with Oundle and surrounding villages, replacing part of X65 and 365.

X52: Minor improvements to Sunday service -- in particular, southbound journeys from Rushden and Kettering now arrive before X5 departures for Cambridge, not after!

Stagecoach Express 757: Leicester-Nottingham section withdrawn and Mansfield-Doncaster section reduced from hourly to 2 hourly.

Barton 777: New hourly Leicester-Nottingham route replacing part 757.

There have also been numerous minor changes throughout the region. We should also mention the roadworks in Bridge St, Cambridge which are scheduled to begin on 3 July and which may cause widespread havoc to bus services in the historic centre and nearby Chesterton Road. We hope that full information will be provided by the County Council.

In June there were changes to Stansted Airport services. The "Diamond Service" between Southend and Bishops Stortford was split at Chelmsford, with the northern section resuming its former number of 33. Buses now run 15 minutes earlier fouling up connections with Village Link 5 between the airport and Saffron Walden, and connections with Cambridge trains are also worse.

Also changed is the Rail Link service to Colchester. It's still hourly but westbound buses are 25 minutes later. The service was formerly operated by Biss Bros under contract to Anglia Railways; it is now run by First Airport Cocahes (who have taken over Biss), and we believe that it is no longer an "official" rail link. It runs through to Colchester town centre and makes an extra stop at Marks Tey, providing good connections for Sudbury to Stansted passengers (but not the reverse). The leaflet highlights "New Fares" but anyone thinking this means lower fares will be sadly disappointed. The new times make connections to Cambridge much worse.

Explorer news. We have obtained full details of the validity of Explorer tickets bought on Stagecoach United Counties buses or from their offices (the easiest to get to being Bedford). Their "Blue" tickets are valid except beyond Milton Keynes, Brackley, Daventry, Market Harborough and on the M1 to/from London. There is interavailability with the following Stagecoach subsidiaries: Cambus, Cheltenham & Gloucester (which has several marketing names including Swindon & District), Hampshire Bus, Midland Red, Red & White, and Viscount; also with Arriva (Shires and Fox) and Huntingdon & District. All tickets, from whatever company, require a surcharge if used on US buses beyond the "Blue" area -- this also applies to Sunday Rovers.

There is some good news for users of First Ranger tickets, valid on First Group buses in Eastern England (except London Transport services and, presumably, the Stansted to Colchester link). The anomaly whereby they were formerly not valid on contracted services in Essex, unless the main service was run by a First Group company, has been removed. They are also valid on all "Village Link" services except route 16 (see below).

Sundays out. We have already described all the changes in Cambridgeshire. The winter timetable for Suffolk is continuing essentially unchanged, so this year it won't be any use for visiting the Suffolk coast. Norfolk's Sunday guide is not yet out, but we believe things are much as last year except for the withdrawal of some local services around Kings Lynn and Norwich. The main routes in the North Coast area linking Kings Lynn, Hunstanton, Fakenham, Wells, Norwich, Cromer and Sheringham are intact, and provide access to the whole of this coastal belt and to attractions such as Blickling and Felbrigg Halls. Peterborough people can use the X94 to reach this area but Cambridge people will have to pay extra for a train to Kings Lynn.

In Essex the 631-3 continue to provide a summer service between Saffron Walden, Braintree, Maldon and Burnham on Crouch. Most journeys (but not the first) connect to/from Cambridge, though anyone returning on the last will have an hour to wait for the 102. Alternatively one can go via Bishops Stortford using the improved links on routes 302 (Saffron Walden-Audley End-Bishops Stortford), 510 (Harlow-Bishops Stortford-Stansted Airport), and 133 (Stansted Airport-Braintree). But the recommended route for a day out is to connect into the 133 by a train to Stansted Airport -- a day return plus an Essex CC Sunday Saver costs 7-90 and provides access to the coastline between Harwich and Burnham.

At Harwich the ferry to Shotley and Felixstowe has been restored (7 days a week till the end of September), but unfortunately the Felixstowe terminal is nowhere near a bus route (on any day of the week). But don't try the Wivenhoe ferry, which has ceased.

As in previous years the Northants Saunterbus provides a variety of routes with varying access possibilities from Cambridge and Peterborough. Here's a quick summary:

Stowe Saunter (2/7, Tue 15/8): from Cambridge use X5 to Buckingham. From Peterborough use X4 to Northampton then 38C to Towcester, returning from Northampton direct. Serves Stowe Landscape Gardens, Sulgrave Manor, and other attractions.

Brampton Valley Saunter (25/6, 13/8, 28/8): From Cambridge use X30/X2 to Northampton, return by train to Milton Keynes then X5. From Peterborough use X4 to anywhere between Corby and Northampton. Serves Holdenby House, Coton Manor Gardens, and other attractions (some also accessible by X7).

Danetre Saunter (9/7, Wed 2/8, 3/9): From Cambridge use X30/X2 (Suns), X5/X2 (Wed) both ways, from Peterborough use X4 to anywhere between Corby and Northampton. Serves Braunston Canal Centre, Windmill Vineyard, and other attractions.

Heritage Saunter (16/7, Wed 9/8): From Cambridge use X5 to Bedford, then X2 to Northampton on Wednesday, but on Sunday X52 to Rushden and 46 to Irchester (tight connection). Return from Olney by X2/X30, or, if visiting Stoke Bruerne canal museum on Sunday, 38C to Northampton then X30/X2. From Peterborough use X4 to Wellingborough returning from Northampton. Serves Castle Ashby Gardens, Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum, and other attractions.

John Clare Saunter (6/8, 27/8): From Cambridge use X5 to Bedford then X52 to Rushden returning same way. From Peterborough use X4 to/from Oundle, or, if you want to cover the section of the route through Thrapston, Wellingborough. Serves Southwick Hall, Fotheringay Castle, Prebendal Manor (Nassington), Burghley House, Barnack Hills & Holes, and other attractions.

Rockingham Saunter (23/7, 10/9): From Cambridge use X5 to Bedford then rail to Wellingborough (walk to town centre) or Kettering, returning same way or by bus via Rushden. From Peterborough use X4 to/from Kettering or Wellingborough. Serves Rushton Triangular Lodge, West Lodge Rural Centre, Rockingham Castle, Deene Park, Kirby Hall, Boughton House and other attractions.

Rutland Saunter (30/7, 20/8, 17/9): From Cambridge as for Rockingham. From Peterborough use X4 to Corby. Serves attractions around Rutland Water.

The Chiltern Rambler will be running again from Hemel Hempstead. No news has emerged about the Lee Valley Leisurebus, but we suspect that this year it is being replaced by a Sunday service on the 505 between Harlow and Walthamstow, which serves part of the same area.

More Essex news: The Dengie Village Link, Essex CC's Rural Challenge project, is now in full operation and offers new opportunities to visit this peninsula (north of Burnham on Crouch). Go to Chelmsford then get 31 to Latchingdon which is the main hourly interchange. Or continue to Burnham for a 2 hourly service to Bradwell, then walking along the coast to St Lawrence which is linked to Latchingdon. Use a First Ranger from Stansted Airport -- but beware of poor connections on the return (see "Rail News").

New Village Link 16 runs 6 days a week between Finchingfield and Chelmsford. The 12.45 from Saffron Walden Common (Tue/Fri/Sat) gives you an hour to look round the village. The Saffron Walden postbus now provides a circular tour at 10.45 Mon-Fri from the post office. The 42 Royston-Saffron Walden is to be withdrawn -- a replacement may be provided.

For brand name shopping try Braintree Freeport (132/3 from Stansted Airport or 331/2 from Finchingfield (no connection from Saffron Walden Sats). There are free buses from Braintree Market Place every 15 minutes during shopping hours 7 days a week. If you want to continue to Witham and beyond the hourly trains on the Braintree branch stop there. How about stopping the Stansted-Colchester link there?

Further afield: Within day trip distance on Sundays is the South Downs where a new service, the Charleston Rambler, joins the Cuckmere Rambler and Devils Dyke service. The first two are both run by the Cuckmere Community Bus and connect with incoming trains at Berwick station.

Also within a day trip is the Cotswold Lion, linking Cirencester and Northleach and serving the Roman pavement at Chedworth, also doing a circular tour via Bibury. From Cambridge get the 06.00 to Oxford then 09.30 to Northleach.

The Belvoir Castle route of Notts CC's Sherwood Forester has been changed this year and now serves Grantham. However trains from Cambridge start too late for those wishing to cover the villages on the section from Nottingham within a day (except on Bank Holiday Monday).

In the West Midlands region there are improvements on routes through Ludlow, from Birmingham, Shrewsbury and Hereford, now all 2 hourly. A Shropshire Sunday Rover is now valid on services supported by Telford Unitary Council. The Long Mynd Shuttle is running again on both Saturdays and Sundays. To the west, there are numerous scenic Rural Bus Grant routes in Powys -- consult the timetables in Cambridge Central Library for details. However the North Worcestershire Wanderer from Kidderminster to Barnt Green isn't running this year.

Also in Wales, the Clwydian Ranger is running again on Sundays this year (it's accessible from Chester), and the Brecon Beacons Sunday network is much expanded, with a spectacular new route "over the tops" from Bridgend to Brecon.

The Yorkshire Wolds has a new Sunday service linking Bridlington, Driffield and Pocklington (connection from York). Further north the Moorsbus still runs every Sunday and daily during the summer school holidays: an innovation this year is that the Dalby Forest service runs right through to Scarborough. There are also some new long distance routes across the Yorkshire Dales.

To the west, most recreational routes in the Lake District still run; new options include a Wasdale postbus and a network around Dalton in Furness. In Lancashire there's the Pendle Witchfinder network including the Trough of Bowland route to Morecambe and Grange over Sands. Further south, as well as the extensive Peak District network, there's the Styal Shuttle which runs between Manchester Airport and Wilmslow, serving the National Trust's Styal Mill, 7 days a week.

Finally, if you are going to Scotland, don't forget it may be your last chance to use the Cairngorm Chairlift if the funicular railway (which will have no access to the mountain itself) opens next year. There are regular buses to the chairlift from Aviemore, including a service from Fort William.

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