Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 79, Mar 2002

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.


As this is written there are a great number of issues coming up on which the public needs to make its voice heard, and we hope that all who receive this newsletter will do what they can and try to persuade others to follow suit. Here is a quick list. In most cases we will be adding our own views later. We start with a list of four web pages:

1. Government consultations. The Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is consulting on a noise strategy for England. The deadline for comments is 15 March; they may be mailed to Ed Beard, DEFRA, Zone 4/H16, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria St, London SW1E 6DF or emailed to <>.

More important than this is the consultation by the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions on proposed changes to the planning system, on which more below. See the second web page above for details, or write to DTLR, PO Box 236, Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 7NB, or telephone 0870 1226 236 for a copy. The deadline for comments is 18 March 2002; they may be mailed to Planning Green Paper Responses, DTLR, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU or emailed to <>.

There are also a set of ``daughter documents'' on planning obligations (deadline for comment 18 March), major infrastructure projects (22 March), compulsory purchase and compensation (27 March), Use classes and temporary uses (24 April), and land affected by contamination (15 May). Some of these are also very important, and we shall be referring to some of these issues below in our discussion of what we want from the planning system.

2. Road schemes. The Highways Agency has published plans for the Great Barford By-pass (A421) and Thrapston-Brampton Grade Separation (A14). There will be exhibitions on the former proposal at Great Barford Village Hall (12.00-20.00 Thur/Fri 7/8 March) and Roxton Village Hall (10.00-16.00 Sat 9 March). On the latter there have already been two exhibitions at sites even less accessible than Ellington Village Hall (12.00-20.00 Tue 12 March), which can be reached by a 403 bus from Huntingdon at 15.00, returning on a 460 at 15.55. Details of both schemes are also available at various deposit locations, of which the most convenient are likely to be Bedford Central Library for the A421, and the headquarters of either Cambridgeshire County Council (at the Shirehall, Cambridge) or Huntingdonshire District Council (at Pathfinder House, Huntingdon) for the A14. The third web page above shows the A14 scheme, while the fourth shows a press release with summary details for the A421 scheme. Representations or objections to both schemes should be sent to the Highways Agency at Heron House, 49-53 Goldington Road, Bedford MK40 3LL; the reference HA 65/44/32 should be used in respect of the A14 scheme. Deadlines are 17 April for the A421 and 3 May for the A14.

3. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Structure Plan. Details of this should be available at any library in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. There are also a series of exhibitions planned. Comments due by 22 April.

4. Oakington Guided Busway. A series of exhibitions is being put on for the proposals for a guided busway between St Ives and Trumpington, to be built in conjunction with the proposed new town at Oakington Airfield. Places, dates and times are Longstanton Village Institute (High St, 14.00-20.00, Thur 7 March), Cambridge Station (07.00-20.00, Fri 8 March), Arbury Community Centre (Campkin Road, 10.00-16.00, Sat 9 March), Swavesey Village College (Gibraltar Lane, 14.00-20.00, Wed 13 March), Trumpington Village Hall (14.00-20.00, Thur 14 March) and Huntingdon Commemoration Hall (High Street, 14.00-20.00, Fri 15 March).

5. Network Railcard changes. The Association of Train Operating Companies has announced plans to impose a minimum fare of GBP 10 on tickets bought with a Network Railcard on Mondays to Fridays, where the railcard has been bought from 2 June 2002 onwards.

There will be an ATOC meeting on 29 March to decide whether to go ahead in the light of public reaction, so please send comments to the Customer Relations Manager, WAGN, Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2JW, or other Network South-East train operator, well before that date.

If the plans do go ahead, don't wait till 1 June to renew your railcard; the post-Hatfield ``15 months for 12'' offer remains open till 18 May, so a railcard purchased on that date will remain valid till 17 Aug 2003.

The prime movers behind the proposal appear to be Chiltern, Great Eastern, South Central and Thameslink; these operators threatened to pull out of the Network Railcard scheme altogether if their demand weren't met. It is noteworthy that all but the first are linked with groups which also run buses in the Network South-East area (First Group and Go-ahead); no doubt they will be complaining in future that their buses are getting bogged down in the extra road traffic that will be stimulated by the higher fares. (Other groups involved in Network South-East who also run buses in the area are National Express, who run WAGN as well as Jetlink, National Express Coaches and several other rail operators; and Stagecoach who run South-West Trains.)

It is worrying to contrast the lack of publicity here with the widespread media coverage of plans for congestion charging for motorists. Why was so much more coverage given to the grievances of motorists at the more modest cost increases imposed on them by the fuel tax escalator?

6. The Roads Programme. It is disturbing that many of the multi-modal studies appear to be recommending major road schemes rather than imaginative public transport proposals, often on the basis that there is no way at present to finance needed rail and bus improvements. The Government must find a way to support the extension of local rail networks (not just the ``honeypot'' schemes on London's radial corridors) and ``strategic'' bus links (on corridors which are at present without a rail route, and which would be on a temporary basis if a rail route was to be provided at a later date). In our area our priorities for these are the East-West Rail Link including the St Ives line (between Oxford and Cambridge via Bedford and Huntingdon) and the ``A14 Express'' (between Haverhill/Cambridge and Rugby).

The Strategic Rail Authority's plan does not address this problem. Concentrating improvements on London's radial routes, where rail already has a large market share, won't solve the problems of growing traffic on other corridors.

There seems to be a ``Catch 22'' situation around whereby local government, multi-modal study consultants, and others, are not putting forward major rail development schemes because they do not believe they could attract financing, while central government is spending money on roads because only road schemes are coming forward, and there is a well oiled mechanism, called the Highways Agency, for progressing road schemes.

Branch news.

There have been a number of changes in the branch's committee and contact details; see the head of this newsletter for the new details.

The financial statement and annual report presented at last year's AGM can be seen below.

Subscriptions are not yet due for 2002-3, but members, including those transferred from CAMBUC, may wish to pay now. Send cheques, payable to Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk, to the Coordinator. The rates are unchanged: GBP 3-50 ordinary, GBP 2-50 concessionary, GBP 5-00 household or affiliate. When you subscribe for 2002-3 you may opt to get your newsletters at full size instead of being reduced on a ``2 pages into 1'' basis. Because of the extra cost of this, we can only offer this service to those who pay at least GBP 3-50 and who say explicitly that they want this service.

Roads and Planning news.

We now return to the issues of our headline article to give our own comments. We will not be saying more on noise or the general roads programme, and on Network Railcards we'd just like to ask whether it's coincidence that both Chiltern and South Central have recently concluded franchise deals, and whether the SRA was negligent in not protecting Network Railcard discounts until the operators come up with an alternative which is just as good.

Planning Green Paper

The website, in which Transport 2000 is a partner, is part of the campaign against the Government plans. A prime target is the ``Major Infrastructure Projects'' proposals whereby Parliament would agree the principle of such projects and the public inquiry confined to questions of detail.

These proposals were largely motivated by the length of the Heathrow Terminal 5 public inquiry. We take the view that the length of this inquiry was actually desirable because it gave the Government time to prepare adequate proposals for supporting infratstructure for which they could look to contributions from the developer (the British Airports Authority). The fact that they failed to do so does not affect our argument.

We intend to say in response to the ``planning obligations'' consultation that all major development proposals, especially in a ``boom'' area like ours, should have to contribute to sustainability. Either they must incorporate state of the art measures to reduce traffic generation -- for housing projects the priority would be to build in community car hire by not using scarce land for individual car parking -- or the developers should be required to contribute a set amount (per car parking space, perhaps) to a Traffic Reduction Fund, to be used in support of both capital and revenue spending to secure a modal shift away from the car, and in respect of which they would receive reimbursement linked to the amount of such modal shift.

The CPRE has also expressed concern at replacing Local/Unitary Plans with Local Development Frameworks (section 1 of the DTLR response form), basing LDFs on community action plans (section 2), replacing Structure Plans by strengthening regional planning (section 4), reducing the amount of national planning guidance (section 5), allowing statutory consultees to charge fees (section 8), and introducing Business Planning Zones (section 9 question 3). Here's why:

(a) People need the clarity of the comprehensive coverage provided by local and unitary plans.

(b) What about the countryside where there are no communities to provide action plans?

(c) Regional government is not yet constituted democratically, and, anyway, regions are too large to undertake strategic planning.

(d) To take aviation as an example, if we had already consulted on a national aviation strategy, the length of the Heathrow Terminal 5 inquiry could have been reduced.

(e) Fees for statutory consultees would inhibit local authorities from seeking advice.

(f) Business Planning Zones look like a rehash of the principle of ``Enterprise Zones''. These didn't work in terms of creating new employment (rather than shifting it within a region). No developer should be allowed to avoid the sustainability test, or to cherry-pick greenfield areas for development when there is derelict land which needs to be reclaimed.

Here are some other ideas which we hope to include in our comments on either the Green Paper or one of the ``daughter documents'':

A: ``Third party appeal'' should be allowed so developers can't use compliant local authorities to bulldoze through schemes that contradict Local, Unitary or Structure Plans.

B: Developers of significant schemes (including supermarkets and new housing or employment areas) should be required to submit ``Non-motorist Impact Assessments'', analogous to the Environment Impact Assessments currently required for some planning applications. This is to ensure that sustainable transport is considered from the outset rather than bolted on to a car-based planning application.

C: Owners of land which has been out of use for a period should be required to tidy it up (without damage to wildlife) and, if this fills a public need, to provide public access. Otherwise local authorities should be empowered to purchase the land at a price which does not include the ``hope value'' for future development (and to sell it on if they so wish). There would be no requirement to incorporate such public access into any new development proposals, though local authorities may wish to seek to retain some degree of access as ``planning gain''. It is to be hoped that this principle might provide a route for ``brownfield'' sites to be reclassified as ``greenfield''.

D: In some cases landowners may be required to seek planning permission for a change of use even when the premises stay within a given use class. This is aimed at maintaining the diversity of shopping areas, so that local businesses don't get replaced en masse by chain stores.

E: Local planning authorities should be allowed (though not required) to refuse planning permission for a development proposal on the sole grounds that it is strongly opposed locally, and the extent of such opposition should be valid evidence in any subsequent appeal or public inquiry. This would make planning more democratic. Developers shouldn't claim a right to push through unpopular schemes even when they fall within the criteria of the Local or Unitary plan.

Road schemes.

While not opposing the principle of by-passing Great Barford, which suffers greatly from through traffic, we do oppose the dual carriageway proposals for the following reasons:

1. By inducing extra traffic it will exacerbate traffic problems elsewhere on the corridor, including on the A1 and the A428 in Cambridgeshire, and on the A428 east of Bedford.

2. It preempts the results of the London to South Midlands Multi-Modal Study.

3. It will undermine the economic case for the East-West Rail Link.

4. With other ideas which are currently the subject of a ``feasibility study'', it may form part of a ``superhighway by stealth'' between East Anglia and the A1 -- and maybe, eventually, beyond.

We support the principle of grade separation on the A14 between Brampton and Thrapston. This won't by itself increase road capacity, but it will reduce the severance caused to local communities by the A14. However, we will push for improvements with the following aims:

(a) To set up ``virtual stations'' for all villages close to the A14, to be served by an ``A14 Express'' bus route between Haverhill and Rugby. Note that if the Alconbury development, for which a decision is currently awaited following last year's public inquiry, goes ahead, the developers have promised to provide a bus route between Huntingdon and Kettering which could be incorporated into such an A14 Express. Any virtual station must have a nearby bridge to give villagers access to/from both sides of the A14.

(b) To provide safe off-road crossings for public rights of way which do not force walkers or other users to spend too much time in the proximity of the noise of traffic. (This objective will also be in our mind when we comment on the A421 proposals.)

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Structure Plan and Oakington Guided Busway. We are taking these two together because the proponents of the Guided Busway are a consortium which includes the developer behind the Oakington Airfield proposals, and the new town for the Cambridge area is likely to be one of the main points of contention in the Structure Plan.

We believe strongly that any new town must be built on sustainable principles if it is not to further exacerbate the traffic problems of our region. As stated in our comments on the Government's planning proposals, we believe that car-free housing (combined with community car hire) should be a mainstay of any major new development proposals, and that developers should take responsibility for ensuring that people can live their lives decently without a car of their own.

Any new town, if it is to have an identity of its own rather than be just a satellite of Cambridge, should have its own railway station. This applies at the Oakington site, and also to the sites previously considered (Abington, Six Mile Bottom, and Waterbeach) whose developers may well be looking for a comeback in the Structure Plan examination. (We may remind readers of what happened to the last but one Structure Plan, where the County Council originally proposed a site on the St Ives line linked to reopening of the railway, later moved its proposals to a site north of Waterbeach which already has a railway, but the then Secretary of State, Nicholas Ridley, imposed a rail-less site west of Cambridge which has now become Cambourne.)

The public transport network must be at the heart of any new town. If we are building from scratch, we should avoid the mistake of providing a station (or other public transport facility) at some distance from the town's shopping area -- as has happened at places like St Neots and Ely, to the detriment of the utility of their railway. Even if we have a guided busway, the town would be served better if through buses passed by the town centre without having to divert to do so.

We also believe that the Cambridge-Huntingdon route is essential to the success of the East-West Rail Link. It will provide interchange facilities with the East Coast Main Line at Huntingdon, which should account for a very high proportion of patronage. (Interchange with the other inter-city routes should be provided at Bedford Midland and Milton Keynes Central.)

We have no intrinsic objection to a guided busway, however. Rail alone will not solve the problems of the A14 corridor. But we suggest that the guided busway should follow the A14 itself rather than the old railway line. Bar Hill could then become a crossroads with branches to Oakington Airfield (continuing, perhaps, to Rampton, Cottenham and Waterbeach) and Cambourne (which would enable the route to serve the A428 corridor as well as the A14 corridor).

Annual report 2001

See separate page. The Financial statement is in the printed newsletter or available on demand.

Cambs bus news.

A miscellany of news in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Cambridge's Citi 4 service has been rerouted within Cherry Hinton to avoid a difficult turn.

Cambridgeshire County Council has introduced a new Saturday bus service between Isleham and Newmarket. This isn't shown on either the Cambridgeshire or Suffolk websites but a timetable is included in Suffolk CC's new West Suffolk area book.

Thornhaugh has joined the list of villages which have lost bus services due to A1 access problems. Eastbound buses via Wittering ceased serving the village some time ago when right turns to the A1 were banned, and now westbound buses don't stop at the village turn after dark due to safety problems. Incidentally, there have been several changes to the times of buses on the corridor between Peterborough and Stamford.

The new Rural Bus Challenge East Beds Link route has started. While it doesn't serve Cambridgeshire, we are pushing for changes under which it would do so. The route currently runs hourly off-peak, 2 hourly evenings and Sundays between Biggleswade and Sandy via Wrestlingworth, Cockayne Hatley, Sutton, Potton and Everton, with peak services providing local links from each end to Biggleswade or Sandy. Stagecoach and Arriva Explorers are both valid, and there is through ticketing with the rail network. We would like to see the route diverted to serve Gamlingay instead of Sutton, with a new hourly service between Biggleswade and Cambridge via Sutton, Potton, Gamlingay, then by one of various routes to Bourn or Arrington, then as existing 118 or 119.

The inhabitants of Clapham, near Bedford, were promised that they would have access to the special bus serving the Yarls Wood asylum centre when the latter opened. It made the headline article in a local paper when the operator reneged due, allegedly, to insurance problems. We believe that the bus is still running despite the fire at the centre. Why was no similar promise made to the people of Longstanton regarding the asylum centre at nearby Oakington Airfield? We believe that amalgamating the asylum centre service with the existing network would allow the village to be given an extra half hourly daytime service to Cambridge via Oakington, half hourly evening buses via Oakington or Bar Hill, and an hourly Sunday service via Oakington.

There have been a number of changes to buses north of Wisbech. Apart from a new Thursday service from Downham Market, these include improvements to the Long Sutton route, operated by Carnell, to provide 5 journeys per weekday at regular times, and to connect at Long Sutton with the new Lincolnshire County Council ``Interconnect 505'' which serves Spalding and Kings Lynn, and incorporates local demand responsive connections at Long Sutton to villages in the area, including Gedney Drove End which is no longer served from Wisbech. Unfortunately there are still no evening or Sunday buses between Long Sutton and Kings Lynn (or Wisbech).

There are a number of changes to the Jetlink network from 24 March. Here is a list including changes not affecting Cambridgeshire. All routes will be approximately 2 hourly.

707 (Northampton-Brighton) and 727 (Norwich-Brighton): curtailed at Gatwick.

717 (Brighton-Heathrow): extended to Stansted.

728 (Norwich-Stansted) and 737 (Ipswich-Stansted): withdrawn.

757 (Cambridge-Oxford): no longer stops at Hertford or London Colney.

777 (Birmingham-Stansted): rerouted between Luton and Stansted airports via Hitchin, Stevenage and Standon, instead of London Colney and Hatfield University.

787 (Heathrow-Norwich): curtailed at Cambridge.

797 (Cambridge-Brighton): no change.

On route 350, journeys to/from Clacton will run via Leicester instead of Stamford, Grantham and Bingham. These towns will still be served by coaches terminating at Cambridge.

Other public transport news.

The Downham Market Rural Links service has been severely cut. Note that the introduction of this service was itself a downward step because of the loss of services to Wisbech and Swaffham.

Hertfordshire County Council is supporting a new service between Stevenage and Stansted Airport. This is a route we have been concerned about for some time, but we would not have opted for the rather circuitous routeing which reaches Buntingford, Puckeridge and Bishops Stortford via Hitchin, Letchworth and Baldock. The service has 8 weekday journeys (at approximately 2 hourly intervals) and 4 Sunday journeys.

Norfolk County Council has opted out of the Sunday Rover scheme. We are still trying to find out the extent to which First Rangers are available on services run by other operators -- there does not appear to be any information readily available. The booklet for the Coasthopper service (which does not run on winter Sundays, but the summer timetable should be starting soon) shows that Ranger tickets are valid on this route.

The Bury to Norwich service no longer serves Norwich Airport. There have also been a number of changes to the Norwich City network because of the opening of the new out of town hospital. This is near the University, but there is no direct road link (though there is a footpath link).

Arriva has once again axed the Romford-Hornchurch section, and some evening journeys, on its Bluewater service, the only regular bus route to use the Dartford Crossing.

The new operators of the South Central rail franchise promised to maintain the direct link between Rugby and Gatwick via Watford and Clapham Junction. But they have now withdrawn the service north of Watford due to staff shortages (except on Saturdays) -- and apparently from June Railtrack won't be allocating them any paths so they can't start up again.

Unclassified news.

We are very concerned about proposals to expand the Haven Ports, especially Harwich in advance of capacity improvements on the cross-country rail route to Peterborough. The presently planned Felixstowe to Nuneaton upgrade is aimed at increasing loading gauge rather than capacity, thus enabling trains to use this route instead of the North London Line; but this diversion will lead to a bottleneck on the single line sections between Felixstowe and Ipswich, and between Soham and Ely. (The latter has been cited as a reason for not reopening the station at Soham.) To maximise the competitivity of rail transport, we would also like to see new spurs to eliminate the need for trains to reverse at Ipswich, and, if the proposed Alconbury distribution depot goes ahead, spurs at Peterborough so trains don't have to reverse there.

Amtrak, the (nationalised) American passenger rail operator, has threatened to withdraw all its long distance services unless it receives more funding from the federal government. Meanwhile the US government is considering ways of privatising the system. Will they never learn? (Amtrak was formed under the Nixon government -- hardly a radical socialist administation -- when private rail operators were found to be incapable of providing a decent service.)

Users of the Railtrack website were for some time diverted to a site called Total Journey. Then that site was withdrawn. But the Railtrack site still has journey planning facilities.

Since the last newsletter we have submitted comments on the Route Management Strategy for the A1 on both the London-Peterborough and Peterborough-Blyth sections. In both cases the reduction of severance for buses and non-motorised users was high among our priorities.

We have submitted responses to Cambridgeshire County Council's consultations on Market Town strategies for Ely, March and St Neots. These have included specific proposals for improvements to bus links with the surrounding rural areas.

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