Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 72, Sept 2000


Some people have commented that the protestors in the fuel crisis have achieved in a few days what environmentalists have sought in vain for years, and what the Government has given up trying to achieve -- a reduction in traffic.

Maybe, but we take no pleasure in this. Traffic reduction should be achieved by people reducing their car mileage without putting essential journeys at risk, i.e. by switching to public transport, walking or cycling, or by car sharing, reduction of journey length, or replacing travel by telecommunication.

We believe the Government was remiss in failing to safeguard essential services from the outset of the crisis. These include buses. We understand Huntingdon & District suspended their evening service between Cambridge and Huntingdon (though this was nowhere publicised in Cambridge, where Stagecoach managed to maintain a full service). Was any thought given to people returning to Cambridge from Peterborough by using trains to Huntingdon (the evening buses having been axed several months ago) not knowing they would be unable to complete their journey? More cogently, how could people be expected to switch from cars to buses when they were unable to rely on printed bus timetables and any default might lead to them getting totally stranded?

In Warwickshire the main operator, another Stagecoach subsidiary, did indeed impose a 7pm curfew. This means that anyone coming from London -- well within day trip distance normally -- would have to leave before 5.30 for the last train to Rugby or Leamington with an onward bus connection!

The reaction to the fuel crisis provides one of the best counter-arguments to the protestors. If a few days' interruption to our fuel supply can paralyse a nation, then surely diversifying our transport system away from dependence on cars and lorries, a consequence of cheap fuel, should be a matter of urgency? This is in addition to the familiar environmental and social arguments. There are also economic arguments -- it is just because we are unwilling to moderate our use of fuel that OPEC is able to impose on us its price rises -- and as money paid to them is taken out of our economy this increases the risk of recession. Environmental adviser Prof. Pearce said that the reaction to the crisis showed that people seemed to put cheap fuel above clean air and climate stability. Maybe, but do they also put it above economic prosperity?

It is not clear how our farmers and fishermen came to be involed in a campaign to bring down the rate of fuel tax. Fuel for use on farms or in fishing vessels has little or no tax levied on it. As for the hauliers, yes, they are taxed, but if they are unable to pass the tax onto their customers this is a signal that there are too many hauliers chasing too little work, not a reason for lowering taxes.

As for the private motorist, we wonder at the ability of relatively small changes in petrol prices to ignite passions. As the Government has pointed out, a 2p cut in fuel duty would save the average motorist a mere GBP 2 per month. Our roads are festooned with garish placards announcing the price of petrol so that motorists can choose the cheapest place without even slowing down. If places offering overnight accommodation were required to display their prices one could save as much in a single night! In the last 25 years the cost of motoring has changed little in real terms -- but trains cost over 50% more and buses nearly 100% more! In 1986 the cost of public transport in South Yorkshire soared by about 300% overnight -- virtually all regular bus users will have been hit harder than motorists have been by the recent petrol price rises.

Rather than repeat arguments we have used many times before, let us write a speech for the Prime Minister to give to the forthcoming Labour Party conference.

As we think about the recent fuel crisis, whose effects have still not fully abated, one thing stands out: the need to reduce the dependence of our transport system on oil. This will help defend us against OPEC price rises and reduce the risk of their causing a recession, quite apart from the social and environmental benefits of diverting traffic from cars and lorries to more sustainable modes.

We have been urged to think again about our transport policy by the hauliers who precipitated the crisis. This rethink has led to several important changes of policy.

It would be totally irresponsible to reduce the taxation of unsustainable modes of transport when this is the very cause of our present predicament. Can one really claim that fuel is too expensive when the roads are full of lorries taking agricultural produce to factories in distant parts of the country, only to return to their home area for sale? Of parents drivng their children to school because of the danger of traffic, much of it other parents driving their children to school? Of cars taking people to distant supermarkets for food instead of using their local shop or taking advantage of a visit to their local town centre which will normally be easily accessible by bus? Of people on shopping trips to towns chosen solely on the basis of cheapness of their parking? Of people ignoring public transport, even when it provides an adequate service, simply because it is too expensive?

However, we shall be looking for alternatives to fuel taxation. Here are some of the initiatives which we will be progressing which may in due course replace fuel taxes.

1. Parking taxes. These will apply to non workplace as well as workplace parking, and will (subject to some exemptions) apply uniformly across the country. Property owners may or may not pass them on to the public who use the car parks; the real aim of this measure is to increase the competitiveness of locally based and town centre developments, in contrast to the rash of edge of town superstores and business parks, difficult to access except by car, which developers are continuing to put forward.

2. Road pricing. We will use this in towns and cities, on motorways and rural roads, as a sensitive tool to discourage traffic from using routes where traffic causes substantial environmental harm or congestion, and in such a way as to avoid the problems popping up again elsewhere.

3. A tonne-mileage charge for lorries will ensure that hauliers who get their fuel elsewhere in Europe will not be able to undercut domestic hauliers, or force them to run on a shoestring.

4. A programme of rail electrification will allow goods (and passengers) to be hauled without the need for oil. New trans-shipment depots will be provided to take goods into towns and villages, whether rail or road is used for the ``trunk'' portion of the journey. This will also enable the banning of heavy lorries in town centres and villages, with exemptions where it can be shown that trans-shipment is unsuitable.

5. We will bring our public transport under public control, even if the actual operation remains private. One benefit will be the introduction of lower fares on buses and trains. We believe that the vast majority of people, even in rural areas, will find that if they use public transport where possible the rise in their cost of motoring will be more than offset by the savings from a reduction in car mileage. Even if they live away from bus and train routes, they can drive to a bus stop or railhead, rather than to their destination, to take advantage of the fare cuts. We will be upgrading the bus and rail network to ensure that this will almost always be possible. The days when whole regions are cut off from one another by lack of rail links are numbered.

6. We will be asking the private interests who now finance the greater part of the trunk roads programme to look at alternatives. We have already approached the company seeking to build the Birmingham Northern Relief Road, for example, offering them an alternative, less risky, option in investing in rail improvement.

At the beginning of our term of office, my deputy said that if there wasn't less traffic at the end of our term he would have failed. The traffic reductions secured by the fuel crisis, with their disruption to everyday life, were not what he had in mind! While we have been slow in acting, we are determined that in the very near future the number of cars and lorries on our roads will start to fall, and that this will be done in such a way as to avoid jeopardising our standard of living.

Traffic, and developments which generate it, are a major threat to our quality of life -- the loss of shops and banks in villages, the lack of freedom experienced by our children, the ever present noise and pollution, and climate change as a result of the Greenhouse Effect. The last is not a prospect for the remote future but something that is already happening -- there is now considerable evidence that the increasing frequency of floods, droughts and damaging winds is the consequence of man's activity. We will work with our European partners and the rest of the world to try to prevent any further deterioration in the life support system for the only planet we know which can support human life.

Branch News.

At our last meeting on Mon 10 July, apart from reorganising our committee (see head of newsletter for full details) we agreed on most of the changes that would be needed to our Constitution in order to comply with the Local Groups Licence by which Transport 2000 local groups will be bound. These changes have been incorporated in a new draft constitution which can be seen at the end of this newsletter. Another meeting will be held on Mon 16 Oct, again at 7.00 in the Cambridge Friends of the Earth office at 1a Felton St, Cambridge (south of Mill Road, west of the railway line, and just east of the Live And Let Live pub). The following amendments came up in the aftermath of our last meeting, and will be debated on 16 Oct:

A: In 3 (a), replace ``the group'' by ``Transport 2000 Ltd or the Group''.

B: In 4, replace ``Chair'' by ``Chairman''.

C: Also in 4, replace ``Minutes Secretary'' by ``Secretary''.

D: In 5, in the paragraph on the AGM, (a) should be moved after (c) in accordance with the normal procedure of business.

E: Also in 5, in the paragraph on EGMs, we will be debating whether to change the numbers ``7'' and ``3''.

Please send any other proposals for amending the Constitution as it now stands to the Coordinator as soon as possible. Following the meeting we shall be sending a copy of the Constitution as there agreed to Transport 2000 HQ. In theory they are required to agree any changes before they come into effect, but they have already indicated to us that the Constitution proposed here would be acceptable with or without any of the amendments proposed.

There will be several other items of business at the meeting:

1. Name change. The issue of a name change for Transport 2000 has been on the cards for some time; the favourite proposal seems to be Transport 2000+. We argued that any concurrent name change for our group -- e.g. to replace ``W Suffolk'' by ``Peterborough'' -- should take place at the same time. It would be helpful if members could let us know their attitude to both name changes.

2. Logo. Transport 2000 have asked that local groups should adopt a logo based on their own, but not identical thereto, as soon as possible. We shall be discussing both the form which a logo could take, and who will be responsible for producing it. (Postscript format is the one which the Coordinator would find easiest to incorporate -- any volunteers who know how to use it?)

3. Membership leaflet. This is something we have needed for years!

The business meeting will be followed, at about 8.00, by a discussion of transport issues, possibly in conjunction with some other organisation.

We welcome two new members, A. Frost of Mepal, and M. Kennerley of Cherry Hinton. We enclose renewal slips for those members who have not yet renewed for 2000-1. We do not guarantee to issue any further reminder. (Note for some members: we received your subscription for 1999-2000 so far in arrears that you may have it in your records as a 2000-1 subscription.)

Two apologies: sorry for making a mess of the copying for our last newsletter. We shall try to ensure that this does not happen again.

Another apology is due to those of our members who belong in the concessionary category and joined CAMBUC. When the last newsletter was compiled the Coordinator of Transport 2000 C&WS was unaware that the 50% discount for CAMBUC membership also applied to people who were already on the concessionary rate. This means that T2000 C&WS members in any concessionary category can join CAMBUC for just GBP 1-25. Cheques, made payable to ``CAMBUC'', may be sent to the T2000 C&WS Coordinator (who is also the CAMBUC Treasurer). Unless we hear from you with alternative suggestions, for those of you who sent a combined subscription in response to our June newsletter the extra GBP 1-25 will be treated as a credit towards next year's subscription; for any other combined members the extra will be treated as a donation.

10 Year Transport Plan.

In the summer the Government announced its long awaited 10 year Transport Plan, which included major spending on both road and rail. While this is an advance on what has happened so far (assuming that we don't have to put up with contiued stalling on the public transport bits while the roads go ahead) it is by no means a solution to the environmental and social problems of transport in this country.

The Highways Agency provides an established method of bringing forward trunk road schemes. There is no comparable method of bringing forward public transport schemes of similar status. The Rail Partnership Fund is too small for such schemes, and the division of responsibility between the public and private sectors on the railways has made it very hard to work out a successful formula for rail improvements (other than those which can be financed solely by the private sector). After all, profit maximisation for a rail operator is not the same thing as maximising relief for road traffic.

One formula which many are pinning their hopes on is franchise renewal. The company operating the Chiltern franchise have negotiated a long term extension to their franchise and have expressed varying degrees of interest in restoring passenger services to the lines from Oxford/Bicester and Aylesbury to Milton Keynes, and from Princes Risborough to Oxford and Leicester. (The last looks like an ``add-on'' to the planned Central Railway piggy-back freight link.) If all this comes off, it will be very creditable for a franchise whose existing network is quite small. Whether we can get other franchises to develop the St Ives line and East-West link without substantial Government input is a lot more dubious. And, remember, if we are renewing franchises for 20 years, if we don't succeed this time, we'll have to wait a long time for another chance!

One improvement which looks like going ahead -- assuming it passes the Public Inquiry now under way -- is Thameslink 2000, which will give Cambridgeshire through trains to places south of London. In preparation for this, WAGN has agreed to divest itself of the Great Northern network (trains to Kings Cross and Moorgate) which will be incorporated in the new Thameslink franchise. The remainder of the WAGN franchise (and others held by the Prism group) are being sold to the National Express Group, who already (in our region) operate Central Trains.

Well, let's hope that we do get substantial rail improvements, comparable to what has been invested in our road system in the past. But what about the buses? The fact is that, as with the railways, the mechanisms haven't been provided to enable them to play a more substantial role in our transport scene: the Transport Bill should have made the Quality Contract system the default instead of a last resort, and we also need a national network of Passenger Transport Authorities to plan regionally integrated networks. No wonder the 10 year plan only looks for a 10% increase in patronage for the mode of transport with the greatest potential for improvement.

We therefore call on members to write to their elected representatives, and to their local press, urging the importance of:

(a) Pricing motoring in such a way as to discourage over-dependence on this mode of transport.

(b) Reducing public transport fares -- both to encourage people to shift, and to offset any increase in motoring costs as a result of (a).

(c) Recognising the real problems of rural areas -- but this does not mean keeping down the price of motoring, which has undermined the viability of local shops and other facilities.

(d) Giving local or regional authorities the power and finance, and the duty, to plan a comprehensive integrated network covering public transport, walking and cycling.

The address for your member of parliament is House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. The address for your county councillor (if you live in Cambridgeshire) is Shirehall, Castle St, Cambridge CB3 0AP.

Planning News.

We start with the Cambridge area, where the County Council has approved proposals for a huge park & ride site at Trumpington which will, we believe, undermine any prospects of reducing traffic on the A10 through Harston, especially if the level crossing at Foxton is replaced by a bridge.

There is consultation going on about minor changes to the Emmanuel Road traffic management scheme and improvements in the eastern part of the city. Neither will lead to any dramatic changes.

More might be hoped for from Railtrack's redevelopment plan in the station area. The headquarters of the regional office will be moving to this site. Buses serving the station will be able to continue towards Addenbrookes and Cherry Hinton (but not, as presently envisaged, Trumpington) without retracing their route on Station Road. There are opportunities for developing bus/rail interchange and improving cycling facilities on this corridor. But will they be taken?

We have objected to the closure of the bridleway crossing the A428 west of the Cambourne roundabout. We believe that a bridge on or close to this route would offer not only a safe route for horseriders and a pleasant route for walkers and cyclists, but safe access to a bus stop on the north side of the A428 which would give Cambourne people a direct service back from Bedford (having used a bus stop on the south side for their outward journey).

Two public inquiries are imminent. One relates to the plan for a distribution centre at Alconbury. We believe that this offers an opportunity to provide an integrated transport network for the area, and will be making representations to ensure that the developers are required to enhance their proposals to make the most of this opportunity. Our proposals would provide direct freight access to the site from Felixstowe without increasing the number of grade separated junctions required on the East Coast Main Line; an interchange station with a direct bus link to Ramsey (where we have objected to renewed plans for major housing development unless the developers are required to support this facility); and regular buses for every village in the area.

The other relates to the motorway service area at Duxford. In one sense we are grateful to the developers as the county council plan to block the route of some buses in the Duxford area has been put on hold pending this inquiry. But that doesn't mean we support the scheme -- we share the fears of villagers regarding extra traffic. Furthermore we have our own plans for the site which may not be compatible -- a transport interchange incorporating a park & ride site for Cambridge City Centre and Addenbrookes, a footbridge to the Imperial War Museum, and local buses (also serving Whittlesford station) and long distance buses, interchange between which would open up many new journey opportunities for the whole area.

Turning now to Peterborough, we welcome the official opening of the Green Wheel which provides a leisure cycling (and walking) route round the city. At the time of writing the route is not yet quite finished, but completion is expected soon. We understand that the access to Flag Fen Museum is now open, but that the ``old'' access from Fengate has not (contrary to what we were at one time told) been closed. In fact this access is used by the limited local bus service to the Museum (leaving Peterborough 10.20 or 12.20 Weds and Sats, 11.00 Suns, return facilities exist).

We would also like to mention another Millennium scheme outside our area, but which will have been seen by those who use National Express to get to London from the Cambridge area. This is the Green Bridge at Mile End which links two sections of park just east of the Regents Canal. The northern bit of parkland has figured in our pages before -- it was the site of the well publicised ``concrete house'' which stood as a temporary piece of sculpture several years ago.

Local Bus News.

We start by mentioning the new national enquiry line at 0870 6082608. National call charges apply and the line is open from (at least) 8am to 8pm.

Bridge St, Cambridge: Just before the temporary closure of Bridge St to northbound traffic, including buses, took effect, CAMBUC tried to ensure that adequate information was given to passengers in the form of leaflets and bus stop displays. In vain: several of the affected bus stops have nothing about the changes, and no leaflet was distributed. Roughly speaking, buses towards Huntingdon Road were diverted via Jesus Lane and Chesterton Road, while buses towards Madingley Road, except Park & Ride, were diverted via Queens Road.

There have been lots of changes to buses in Cambridgeshire, most of them minor. We object to the way Stagecoach Cambus failed to register its September changes giving the normal 42 days notice, then asked for a dispensation on the grounds that the changes were required to accommodate changes in school times (which had been known about for a long time in advance). We mention the following changes in particular, some of which were in fact in place at the time of our last newsletter.

Ely area: As a result of pressure from people of Waterbeach and Landbeach, partly mobilised by CAMBUC, the County Council managed to secure an extension of certain journeys on route 9 (Cambridge-Waterbeach/Landbeach) to Ely. However the facility is very limited and we don't regard it as at all adequate. Our ``patch up'' proposal was to divert the 106 (Cambridge-Ely via Cottenham) via Waterbeach and Landbeach between Cambridge and Cottenham. We are also complaining about the reduction in service to Witcham and Mepal villages.

Granta Valley: Cambus has diverted some services on routes 102 and 103 via Addenbrookes between Trumpington and Cambridge. This means a longer journey for Cambridge bound people and a less regular service overall. Myalls also run a very limited service (1 return journey on Tuesdays and Fridays) between Whittlesford, Duxford and Saffron Walden, a facility formerly provided on a regular basis by Cambus. Soon there will be a new community bus between Saffron Walden and Addenbrookes, but it will only be available to members. Wouldn't it me much simpler to subsume all these ad hoc provisions into a regular network?

Newmarket area: New route 201, run by First Eastern Counties, links Kentford and Kennett End with Newmarket and Bury. Again, it would be far simpler just to divert the existing X11. There have also been changes to FEC's 200 which now for most of the day runs between Newmarket and Brandon, but with connections to Thetford and Norwich. Cambridge Coach Services/Jetlink will soon be replacing their 74 (Cambridge-Norwich-Lowestoft) with a more frequent service 747 (Stansted-Cambridge-Norwich) which, however, will not serve Lakenheath and Brandon. The former village will now be totally cut off on Sundays. We hope that the 747 will provide reasonable fares to Norwich as it will now be our recommended route from Cambridge. We also believe that there is a new opportunity to extend the 747 southwards to Gatwick Airport via the Eastern corridor, with interchanges at Harold Wood, Greenhithe, Swanley and Oxted rail stations, Lakeside and Bluewater Shopping Centres, and the town of Westerham (which has regular buses to Winston Churchill's Chartwell).

Cambourne and St Neots areas: Cambus 14 now links Cambridge with Cambourne village hourly 7 days a week. Route 190 between Longstowe and St Neots has been reorganised and now provides a service 6 days a week, but no longer connecting for villages towards Cambridge at Longstowe which, we presume, is considered to be catered for adequately by the improved 118/9 (though this does not serve St Neots). This has also led to cuts to the 406 which now runs on Thursdays only with no facility for people visiting the villages from St Neots. In our last newsletter we failed to note that eastbound journeys from Bedford on route X46 don't connect with the 130 for Cambridge. If you live in Cambridge and want to get to Huntingdon early, try the 06.35 journey (Mon-Fri) which gets to St Neots at exactly the time the X46 is due to leave. Yes, we'll be asking United Counties to advance the departure from Cambridge to make a secure connection into this bus and also the 152 for Kimbolton (due to leave at the same time).

Bedford area: Connections at Bedford with X2 to/from Northampton have also deteriorated further. We are hoping to work out a plan for a connectional network on the A428 corridor between Cambridge and Northampton on the lines of Lincolnshire's ``Connect 6'' (see Wisbech area below). Labour Party conference goers and others may be interested in a special offer: Bedford Tourist Office (only) is selling Thameslink tickets to Brighton at the discounted price of GBP 8 single or day return. Travel on Mon-Fri must be after 09.30. The Tourist Office opens 09.30 Mon-Sat and tickets can be bought in advance (including for your return journey) but must be dated.

Ramsey area: The County Council has been consulting on improvements to buses between the Nene and Ouse. Our proposals call for an hourly service between Cambridge and Peterborough via Bar Hill, Longstanton, Willingham, Earith, Somersham, Warboys and Ramsey (with some buses via Benwick); between St Ives and Somersham/Earith with 2 hourly extension to Sutton, Mepal, Witcham, Wardy Hill, Coveney and Ely; between Huntingdon and Chatteris via Warboys; and between Huntingdon/St Ives and Ramsey serving remaining villages in the area. This network may be modified in conjunction with the Alconbury ``Quality Bus'' proposals associated with the proposed distribution centre (see above).

Wisbech area: Minor changes have been made to Emblings service between March and Wisbech on Saturdays. Unlike Stagecoach this route actually runs past March station. Unfortunately, probably because of abstraction by Stagecoach, one journey has been removed. Lincolnshire County Council has gained Government funding to extend the principle of its ``Connect 6'' network centred on the Lincoln-Skegness corridor to the Spalding-Kings Lynn corridor: we hope that this will lead to the restoration of through evening and Sunday services, and that connections to/from Wisbech will be provided.

Stamford area: Barton has extended its Nottingham-Oakham service to Stamford, which is within walking distance of some outlying parts of Peterborough district. We have urged a further extension to Peterborough, restoring the through service provided by Barton before deregulation. We have suggested that the City Council could support a route via Uffington, Barnack, Ufford and Marholm, which would minimise duplication with the existing network.

Herts: The County Council has reorganised its market day network severing some long established links. Royston suffers particularly badly, losing the Saturday morning bus to Bishops Stortford (which is replaced by a service turning round at inaccessible Anstey), the Tuesday service to Saffron Walden (which now starts at inaccessible Chishill), and the Friday service to Cambridge via Elmdon (which now starts at Buntingford and can be connected from Royston). Improvements to route 386 between Bishops Stortford and Stevenage -- a corridor which we have long considered to be of strategic importance -- were flagged up as compensation, but these are actually confined to local journeys at each end, there still being only one through working. At the other end of the county, the Railair link between Heathrow and Watford has been restored, augmenting Arriva's 724 route which serves the villages in between.

Further afield.

At the time of writing there are still some seasonal services operating which are worth pointing out.

Don't forget the Cairngorm Chairlift which provides access for walkers to the mountain but is due to be replaced next year by a funicular railway leading only to a visitor centre. The bus to the lower end runs daily till 30 Sept.

The Tonbridge & Malling Hidden Heritage Tour runs via an interesting route within Tonbridge & Malling district serving many places of interest therein. Sundays till 1 Oct. Be at Tonbridge station at 10.00 or 12.15.

The North York Moors Moorsbus network runs on Sundays till 29 Oct (as do most of the ``summer'' buses in the Yorkshire Dales and Peak District). In addition to the Dalby Forest route mentioned in our last newsletter (which links Thornton Dale with East Ayton by Forestry Commission roads), we should also note a new route between Kirkbymoorside and Thornton via Fadmoor, Gillamoor and Hutton le Hole. The first two villages were also served by the ``Gipsy Roamer'' route, but this ceased on 10 Sept. Let's hope it runs again next year.

We also note the following services:

New demand responsive routes: Hard on the heels of Wiltshire's ``Wigglybus'' comes ``Doris'', a demand responsive service in the area between Midhurst and Petersfield, and the ``East Mendip Connector'' in Somerset.

Taunton Heritage Bus: This ran last year on Weds, Thurs and Suns to several places of interest around Taunton. This year it ran on weekends only.

Cumbria: Another ``Connect 6'' type network is being developed on the A66 corridor between Penrith and Workington, using the Stagecoach/Virgin link route as its nucleus. Remote Wasdale now has its postbus running twice a day Mon-Fri and once on Saturdays.

West Midlands: Virgin are withdrawing the Birmingham International to Redditch and Bromsgrove link which, as many predicted, has failed to attract passengers. First Midland Red have put on a new express link between Redditch, Bromsgrove and Kidderminster. In Warwickshire there is a link between Birmingham International and Atherstone.

Worthing: Another route for recreation ran this year on Mon-Fris between Worthing and RSPB Pulborough (some distance from the town and station) with extension to Parham House on Weds and Thurs. If it runs again next year and you want to use it, Amberley is the best railhead.

Croydon: The tram network is now fully open but don't bank on getting a seat!

Settle & Carlisle Railway: This route is having another total shutdown for four weeks this November. Unfortunately yet again the replacement buses are totally inadequate. People are being offered the opportunity to ask for ``alternative transport'' (presumably taxis) if the replacement buses don't run at the right times, or at all; but this is unsuitable for people who just want to see the scenery of the area -- surely a high proportion on this route.

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