Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 77, Sept 2001

Disclaimer: contents of articles do not necessarily reflect Transport 2000 policy at either national or branch level. Please give us your thoughts on any transport related topic, however small. This will help us develop our policies. We will try to pursue any complaint or suggestion or advise you how to pursue it yourself.


The original date for the submission of responses to the Cambridge-Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study (CHUMMS) report, for consideration by the Regional Planning Panel (RPP) at their October meeting, was 31 Aug. However the publication of the report was delayed and didn't happen until around 21 Aug. As a result of pressure the deadline for responses was extended to 10 Sept. [...] Responses should be addressed to ``CHUMMS Letterbox, Box ET1010a, Cambridgeshire County Council, Shirehall, Cambridge CB3 0AP'' (and may be posted or dropped in the Shirehall mailbox), or emailed to <>.

With this newsletter is the text of a leaflet being produced by STEER, which offers guidance on how to help our campaign in other ways. Please note that in order to get this newsletter out promptly this version of the leaflet is being circulated without the formatting and graphics that will appear in the version to be published by STEER.

We also reproduce here a summary of the conclusions of the STEER response, and a slightly abridged version of our own preliminary response (which was compiled before we had a chance to study the full report properly and largely based on a set of policies agreed by relevant STEER affiliates at a meeting at the end of July) which goes into the issues in more detail. (Note: some of the relevant issues are covered later in this newsletter.) The former is as follows:

STEER urges the Regional Planning Body, in its recommendations to the Secretary of State, to stress:

And the latter is as follows:

The urgency of dealing with the problems of the A14 corridor do not justify haste which is likely to lead to waste. The RPP should postpone its decision to allow more time for us and other organisations to inform our members of key issues before they submit their own responses, and to organise public meetings.

This isn't our first complaint about the consultation process. In the main consultation exercise four packages were presented. We believe the response was distorted because it wasn't made very clear that it was possible to ``mix and match'' the options -- and there was no attempt to re-run the consultation in a more satisfactory manner.

1. We believe public transport is getting too low a share of the budget. Have the consultants taken note of the difficulty in delivering public transport improvements under the present structure of the industry? The purpose of Multi-Modal Studies to examine all possibilities for improvements on an equal footing. A modal shift to public transport won't happen if improvements have to be financed by the private sector, and ultimately by the fare paying passenger, while highway improvements are financed by the taxpayer.

We are also worried that public transport improvements in the package may be dropped if finance is not available, or (see below) if they turn out not to be feasible. We therefore hope that the RPP will insist on a high proportion of Government support for improved public transport -- including the East-West Rail Link for which funding for Phase I was recently refused by the Strategic Rail Authority -- rather than opt for a package which emphasises highways spending because they believe that that is all the Government are prepared to support.

2. We fully endorse the report's suggestion that public transport improvements should precede any increase in road capacity. For one thing, we need to get motorists off the road to reduce disruption during the period of construction. Indeed we go further and say that road construction should not start until there is in place a rapid transit system on the A14 corridor which is seen to be able to attract people out of their cars.

Is there a risk of public transport improvements being dropped because of feasibility problems -- specifically the accommodation of the tram-like vehicles in the central area? If such vehicles can't be accommodated without (for example) ejecting long distance coaches from the central area, then part of the CHUMMS budget should be used to provide extra bus capacity in connection with the redevelopment of the Bradwell's Court area (assuming this can't be financed commercially).

3. We also endorse the use of road user charges as part of demand management, but believe the revenue should be hypothecated for public transport improvements. We believe either a daily usage charge (as planned for London) or a workplace parking tax must be in operation before road construction starts, so that motorists have a positive incentive to switch to the rapid transit system. Care should also be taken to make the area of charging large enough to avoid an exodus of businesses from Cambridge City Centre (and other places with good public transport/cycle access) to surrounding areas which employees may need cars to access.

4. We believe that the needs of freight and longer distance passenger traffic merit greater consideration. In particular:

(a) The Felixstowe to Nuneaton upgrade, as currently planned, is intended not so much to remove lorries from the A14 as to enable trains to be diverted from their present route via London which has its own capacity problems. More will need to be done to increase the number of trains running out of Felixstowe port.

(b) Running the East-West Rail Link via Huntingdon, with interchange with Inter-City trains at this station, would reduce operating costs by partly replacing existing services from Ipswich and Stansted Airport to Peterborough, and by avoiding the need to run separate trains from Bedford and beyond to Peterborough and to Ipswich/Norwich via Cambridge.

(c) We believe that any new town in the Cambridge area -- e.g. on the Oakington/Longstanton site -- must have its own main line station if it is to be considered as a place of significance in its own right, rather than just a satellite of Cambridge. In view of proposals recently put forward by Gallagher Estates, we therefore ask the RPP to reject any proposal linking the construction of the guided busway with a new town, unless a cost-effective way is found for putting the new town on a Cambridge-Huntingdon main line. Gallagher should be asked either to put forward such an option or to modify their plans to enable this to be done.

(d) The current aspirations of train operators may lead to a bottleneck in the Ely area which an East-West Rail Link via Huntingdon would help to relieve.

(e) A combination of guided buses (or light rail) with conventional rail is likely to be much more effective in taking traffic off the roads than either of these modes on its own.

(f) An express bus service on the A14 corridor (e.g. between Haverhill and Rugby) would provide improvements for public transport users which could be implemented very quickly. In the longer term there would be opportunities for bringing villages near the A14 into the network, e.g. in conjunction with the proposed Brampton-Thrapston grade separation scheme.

5. Provided the needs of buses and non-motorised users are served, we accept the idea of widening the A14 to dual 3 lane between Bar Hill and Fen Drayton, with a parallel local road (which should be to the south, to serve Cambridge Crematorium, Bar Hill and Lolworth).

6. We believe insufficient attention has been paid to the effect which widening the Cambridge Northern By-pass to dual 3 lane will have on the radial roads which intersect it. Similarly the planned dualling of the A428 will increase pressure on Madingley Road. Therefore any increase in road capacity in this area should incorporate rapid transit or bus priority routes enabling buses and cyclists to by-pass any pinch points. We are also worried about the environmental impact on villages such as Histon, Milton and Fen Ditton.

7. We believe that the Huntingdon Southern By-pass proposals should go ahead only as part of a more comprehensive transport strategy for the Huntingdon area. Here are some ideas for other elements of such a strategy:

(a) Convert the redundant carriageway of the existing A14 to rapid transit (rail or guided bus).

(b) Use the section between Godmanchester and Huntingdon Rail Station as a local by-pass for Godmanchester enabling the closure of Town Bridge to traffic (except buses, cyclists, and possibly selected other classes).

(c) Develop a quality bus route between Huntingdon Bus Station and Alconbury via Huntingdon Rail Station, Hinchingbrooke (school, hospital, country park, housing estate and business park) and the Spittals interchange. This would require signalisation of Spittals (as proposed) and changes to the Huntingdon traffic system so buses can access the bus station from Brampton Road without going all the way round the ring road.

(d) Improve rail facilities in the area. New stations at Offord and at either Abbots Ripton or Wood Walton (with bus link to Ramsey) would help relieve traffic problems caused by park & ride rail traffic at Huntingdon. Upgrade of the station to be served by Inter-City trains would underscore its importance as a key nodal point in Eastern England's public transport network.

Also, we do not believe that dual 3 lane is justified west of the A1198; and the section west of the A1 (close to Brampton Wood Nature Reserve) should be replaced by on-line improvements to the relevant section of the A1. Furthermore, we oppose the Huntingdon Eastern By-pass (suggested for implementation at a later date) because of its impact on the town's riverside environment.

8. More short term measures are needed. Here are some ideas:

(a) Reduce speed limits to improve safety and traffic flow, and make it easier for vehicles, including buses, to join at junctions.

(b) Longer distance park & ride using upgraded conventional bus services to provide links from several car and cycle parks along the relevant section of the A14 to Cambridge, Huntingdon and St Ives. The upgrade should include longer operating hours, more direct services between Huntingdon and Cambridge, links with trains at Huntingdon, and a more regular frequency throughout the day.

(c) A Green Transport Plan to be an integral element of any development of the Cambridge Northern Fringe.

Branch News.

For those members who have still not renewed their membership for 2001-2 we enclose a renewal form. We do not undertake to give any further reminders. The rates are still unchanged: GBP 3-50 ordinary, GBP 2-50 concessionary, GBP 5 household or affiliate. Add an extra GBP 8 to receive copies of Transport 2000's quarterly ``Transport Retort'', and GBP 2-50 (GBP 1-25 concessionary) for new members of the Cambridge Area Bus User Campaign (CAMBUC). Existing CAMBUC members should not send this as their membership has not yet expired; for those that have already sent such money, it has been treated as a credit towards their CAMBUC membership for next year.

A date for your diary: our branch AGM is expected to be on Sat 15 Dec at 2.00 at 1 Fitzroy Lane, behind the Grafton Centre. Date, time and place will be confirmed in the next newsletter, which will probably be sent out in the first half of November.

CHUMMS related news.

We deal here with issues that were alluded to in the CHUMMS feature above but of which members may be unaware; also other related issues.

East-West Rail Link. Funding for Phase I, involving the reopening of the line between Bicester and Milton Keynes to passengers, was refused by the Strategic Rail Authority. It seems that they believed that the maximum speed on the reopened section of route would not be enough to encourage motorists to shift. There is a bit of Catch 22 here, as the specification for the proposal was reduced partly to increase the likelihood of funding.

Guided Bus proposals. Following the Cambridge Rapid Transit proposals for converting part of the old Cambridge-Bedford line to provide a guided busway between the City Centre, Trumpington and Addenbrookes, Gallagher Estates have produced a scheme for a guided busway using the St Ives line.

Their map seems to suggest that access to the city centre will be either from Milton Road via Emmanuel Road, or from where the St Ives line crosses the A14 via Kings Hedges Road, Histon Road, and Magdalene Bridge. Two other options are suggested for the longer term: from the west end of Histon via Girton village, Huntingdon Road, and Magdalene Bridge, and from the Science Park to join the main line railway en route to the station at a ``Multi-Modal Interchange''. We find it hard to believe that their tram-like vehicles will be able to traverse the constricted area of the historic centre, or the Drummer St/Emmanuel St area which is already full up with bus stops and taxi ranks, without a lot more thought and planning than seems to have taken place so far. And we believe that using existing main line corridor for a guided busway, even if feasible, will destroy an opportunity for a cycle and pedestrian route on the same corridor.

The Gallagher map shows a third potential extension: from St Ives to Huntingdon along the A1123. This contrasts with the CHUMMS map which suggests that this extension would be via the A1096 and existing A14.

The proposal is centred on a new settlement of up to 6500 new homes in the area around Longstanton and Oakington Airfield. As stated earlier, we believe that any new settlement must be on the main line rail network. We would be surprised if most residents of the new settlement regarded a hypothetical guided bus link to Cambridge station, or to Huntingdon via St Ives town centre, as adequate for their long distance travel needs. Furthermore, the car traffic generated by this new settlement will wipe out all the gains from diverting existing motorists to guided buses.

The map also shows several feeder services, from which people would presumably be expected to change to the main network. These are Cottenham to Histon, Bar Hill and Willingham to Longstanton, and Over and Fen Drayton to Swavesey (also serving the central areas of Histon, Longstanton and Swavesey). It is not clear what would happen to existing buses serving these villages. The route from Bar Hill to Cambridge or St Ives would be very circuitous and we find it hard to believe that users would find it attractive.

One of the points stressed by Gallagher is that the scheme could be implemented quicker than any other option (they give a date of 2006). In view of problems in Cambridge City Centre, we doubt this, but, in any case, we would not regard it as worthwhile to opt for a solution for purely short term reasons.

Is the scheme compatible with heavy rail between Cambridge and Huntingdon? At the western end it would seem possible (and maybe desirable) to run the railway south of Oakington Airfield and along the existing A14; and at the eastern end the guided busway would have to leave the railway corridor if it is to serve a ``Multi-Modal Interchange'' at Chesterton Sidings. But what about the bit in between?

Alconbury public inquiry. At the time of writing this is well under way but we have not yet given our evidence, the theme of which is that it is a good opportunity to curtail road traffic growth but that stronger conditions are needed if we are to ensure that this opportunity is realised.

A14 Route Management Strategy. This report into possible short term measures for the whole of the A14 reported soon after the CHUMMS preliminary report came out. We were involved in the workshop process some time ago. The report concentrates not so much on specific recommendations as on general strategies -- which means that it is more difficult for us to comment on it.

A1 Route Management Strategy. In February we attended an A1 Route Management Strategy meeting at which the consensus seemed to be that full grade separation on the A1 was unnecessary. We were therefore concerned to find that such grade separation seemed to be taken as a ``given'' at a July workshop intended to work out such a strategy in greater detail. At the workshop we were shown indicative layouts of grade separation schemes for various sections of the A1. These seemed generally satisfactory, except that we believe that while such schemes are being worked out the opportunity should be taken to deal with deficiencies in pedestrian, cycle and equestrian crossings. However no options were worked out for two particular sections -- around Buckden and Sandy. This is because the Highways Agency seemed to believe that no grade separated solution was possible without diverting the A1, which could only be pursued within the longer timescale of the London to South Midlands Multi-Modal Study. We believe that such diversions would be very damaging and have put forward our own alternative proposals for these two areas.

Countryside issues.

Virtually all foot & mouth restrictions have been lifted in southern and eastern England. The main areas where there are still extensive restrictions are Herefordshire and West Gloucestershire, and north of the Liverpool to Leeds conurbation.

Over the August Bank Holiday weekend the National Waterways Festival was held in Milton Keynes. Unfortunately, although the X5 bus from Cambridge passed near the site, our plea for a special stop did not seem to be heeded, and it was necessary to walk from the shopping centre. At the Festival there was an exhibition of options for the planned new canal between Bedford and Milton Keynes which will, all being well, open in 2010. It was generally agreed that the scheme, which will enable wide beam boats to travel between the Fenland waterways network and the Grand Union Canal, would also be of economic value to the area it passed through. One of the three options at the eastern end would involve traversing the proposed major housing development site at Elstow Depot, which it would substantially improve. At the western end one of the three options is a lot more expensive than the others. It is unclear whether the greater benefit it would bring to Milton Keynes would justify the extra expense. The 2002 festival will be held in Huddersfield, celebrating the reopening of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and Standedge Tunnel. Still within reasonable economic day trip distance of our region, if one can get an advance booking fare on the East Coast Main Line -- which one probably can't.

Bus changes

Not much to report this time. According to Herts CC information, Whippet route 4 (Papworth-London) no longer serves the county at all, though the Cambs CC and Whippet websites have not been updated to reflect this. Also disappeared is a school bus service from Bassingbourn to St Edmunds College near Puckeridge. A new school bus is starting on Tuesdays to Thursdays only in the afternoons from Saffron Walden County High School (16.45) and Audley End Station via Clavering to Chrishall, Heydon and Great Chishill. Guide Friday is running a minibus link between Cambridge station and City Centre. There is a new school bus from Wisbech to Long Sutton.

There will be extensive changes to the Airlinks network from 23 Sept. There will be timetable changes to most routes. Route changes we know about are as follows:

728: new 4 hourly route Norwich-Stansted supplementing 727. We hope this doesn't mean cuts to the 787 (Norwich-Heathrow via Cambridge and Luton) which would otherwise duplicate the 728 between Norwich and Newmarket.

737 (Ipswich-Heathrow): curtailed at Stansted.

757 (Cambridge-Oxford) and 797 (Cambridge-Brighton), both via Stansted: serve Trumpington instead of Addenbrookes -- we regard this as a retrograde step.

767 (Cambridge-Oxford via Luton): withdrawn.

777 (Birmingham-Stansted via Luton): new stop at Hatfield University.

A6 (Stansted-London): extra stops and improved night service.

Leisure Travel.

Here are some details of possible destinations for leisure visits. We start with three mentioned in previous newsletters but currently not available.

The first is ``Seahenge II'' near Holme next the Sea -- when last visited the site was re-covered by the sands. However maybe another time it will be exposed again! To get there get a train from Cambridge or Ely to Kings Lynn, then by bus to Hunstanton (through ticket available), then use the Coast Hopper to Holme next the Sea or Thornham, then walk along the coast path. Time your arrival for low tide. Near the Norfolk Wildlife Trust visitor centre there should be visible a shipwreck; Seahenge II is about 100 yards to the right of that. (The original Seahenge site is about 100 yards to landward of the shipwreck.)

The second is the Cairngorm Chairlift. For some reason we don't understand work started on dismantling the Chairlift after the end of the skiing season even though the replacement funicular railway won't open till the end of this year. The tourist industry may complain about the impact of foot & mouth, but it is still capable of inflicting injuries on itself! We hope that there will be a change of heart allowing users of the funicular to access the mountain, even if they have to apply for a permit to do so -- and that the bus service giving people access to the funicular from Aviemore will run again next year. If bus users had priority for permits there would surely be no problems with the viability of the bus service!

And the third is Warcop Fell -- still closed due to foot & mouth restrictions. We hope that if the MOD do decide to reduce access following the recent public inquiry then there will be a period when people can have a last chance at enjoying the existing rights of way network. (Nearest station Appleby on the Settle-Carlisle line.)

The main area where there are leisure buses still in operation which we have not featured in our newsletter is Shropshire. On Saturdays and Sundays National Trust sponsored buses link Church Stretton with Ratlinghope (as they did last year), Much Wenlock, and Craven Arms, serving various countryside sites en route. Warning: the Wenlock timetable is shown wrongly in the new Bridgnorth area book (there is a copy of this at Bishopsgate library near Liverpool St station in London), with buses leaving 15 minutes earlier than shown, but it is still possible to catch the 12.50 bus from Telford on a Saturday and make the connection.

Also in Shropshire is a Sunday bus service linking the Severn Valley Country Park, Hampton Loade, Dudmaston Hall (National Trust) and Bridgnorth till the end of September. Use this to link with the Severn Valley Railway at Country Park Halt (about 20 minutes walk from the Visitor Centre where the bus goes from), Hampton Loade (cross by ferry), or Bridgnorth. This timetable too is shown wrongly in the Bridgnorth book.

We confirm that the Ridgeway Explorer, whose introduction was postponed due to foot & mouth, is now in operation on Sundays till the end of October. This route links Reading, Wantage and Swindon and runs close to the Ridgeway National Trail. To visit the area on weekdays (all year), try the Four Valleys Taxibus (from Newbury 12.50 or Pangbourne 14.15, advance booking possible but may not be necessary especially on the latter run) or the run between Newbury and Swindon changing at Lambourn (Newbury Buses 146 and Thamedown 47, most journeys timed to connect).

We conclude with some services that have now finished operation but which are worth noting as possible trips for next year. Rexquote ran vintage buses on a rural route from Taunton (5 days a week, by a different route to previous years though still serving the main attraction at Hestercombe Gardens) and on a scenic tour in Weston Super Mare (3 days a week). Hampshire County Council sponsored a new Sunday network called the South Downs Explorer from Portsmouth, Havant, Gosport, Fareham and Petersfield. However, the main operators in the area refused to run this service over August Bank Holiday weekend because they wanted to cash in on the Festival of the Sea, so the County Council hired in buses from Rexquote!

We now discuss all-year Sunday services. Buckinghamshire CC has put on a route between Quainton, Waddesdon, Aylesbury, Long Crendon and Thame. This provides access to several attractions including the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre at the former Quainton Road station. On 7 Oct the station will also be accessible by a charter train service from Aylesbury. The resited station building from Rewley Road, Oxford (formerly the terminus of the line from Cambridge) will be complete by the end of this year. To reach Aylesbury get the 09.05 bus from Cambridge to Buckingham Tesco then 66 to Aylesbury; one has the option of returning the same way or using the X15 from Aylesbury to Milton Keynes. The Sunday Rover is valid all the way to Quainton.

Anyone have any information on whether Sunday Rovers -- also on weekdays Stagecoach Explorers and First Rangers -- are valid on Stansted Airport routes X6 (from Peterborough, Huntingdon and Cambridge) and X40 (from Bury, Haverhill and Saffron Walden)? One can connect at Stansted with the 133 to/from Braintree and 510 to/from Harlow. The X40 just misses summer service 633 at Radwinter -- we hope this will be rectified next year.

Finally, Travelcards of any type are now valid for 1/3 off Thames river trips run by most operators between Hampton Court and Woolwich, including Wednesday and Saturday trips from Greenwich to Gravesend.

Action Line.