Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 85, November 2003

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In Newsletter 84 we gave our headline article the title ``Death of a City'' in reference to the proposal to dual the A428 west of Cambridge, which we believe will exacerbate Cambridge's traffic problems. Now we update this article by describing our appearance at the public inquiry.

At the beginning of August we received a letter saying that the public inquiry would be held at the end of September, with a pre-inquiry meeting at the beginning of September to decide on the overall plan for the inquiry.

We immediately protested that we would certainly be unable to plan our strategy in time for the pre-inquiry meeting, because the people whom we might want to consult for assistance would be away in August, the traditional holiday month for politicians, activists and many other people. But such considerations are meat and drink to the anti-environmentalists who want to do everything they can to make it hard for people to object...

Our main hope was that we would get active support from Cambridge City Council, especially when we saw in the ``Cambridge Herald'' that the party that controls the Council were criticising the Government for dropping rail expansion schemes in favour of road widening. But no, as we said last time they didn't seem to be prepared to translate these admirable sentiments into action.

Eventually I wrote to the Programme Officer for the Inquiry saying that while we would be appearing at the Inquiry we wouldn't be represented professionally. This means, of course, that they would be free to exploit this by giving us impossibly tight deadlines for reacting to information.

The public inquiry opened on Tue 30 Sept. By then we had still received nothing from the Programme Officer giving us a timetable for the inquiry, or even any contact details. We rang the Highways Agency central office who said that they would get someone to ring back. Late that afternoon we did get a call back. Apparently the Highways Agency had not completed their rebuttal of our proof of evidence, but the Programme Officer wanted us to appear on Thur 2 Oct, i.e. just 1 day after we would be receiving the rebuttal. We pointed out that the guidelines said that objectors were entitled to have 3 days notice of the Highways Agency's rebuttals. However, the alternative that was offered to us was the very closing date of the Inquiry, which would mean that any answers we got could not be incorporated into the closing statement.

On Wed 1 Oct we received the rebuttal document. This, in our view, completely changed the Highways Agency stance in that, having previously given us the impression that they had ignored the problem of extra traffic on the local road network because that was the responsibility of the local authorities, they were now saying that the scheme would not in fact lead to any extra traffic. As our proof of evidence essentially concentrated on showing how the negative effects of this extra traffic would more than offset any benefits from the scheme, this meant that we had to rethink our strategy completely.

I agreed to come out to the inquiry venue on Thursday and decide then whether to make my appearance that day. Eventually I decided to do so. Meanwhile I spent a couple of hours studying the Highways Agency figures for traffic on various routes. Naturally these were not coordinated in such a way as to make it easy to gain an overall impression about the impact of the scheme, but eventually I discovered what I believed to be internal inconsistencies in the figures. During my appearance I tried to resolve these inconsistencies but in vain.

The rebuttal document also said that the Highways Agency saw no reason to even consider the cost implications of the scheme on the London-S Midlands Multi-Modal Study proposal for a rail link following the road between Cambridge and Bedford, even though as a member of the Multi-Modal Study steering group it had in effect endorsed the scheme, because the Strategic Rail Authority weren't pursuing it at the moment. If I had had time I dare say I could have worked out some questions which might have highlighted this issue, but as it was all I could do was to say in our closing statement why these cost figures were essential if the inquiry was to assess the road scheme properly.

Meanwhile Transport 2000 had commissioned a consultant to advise us, and such advice was indeed emailed to us before the deadline for submitting material to the inquiry, but by that time I was in bed recovering from my efforts. Noting that one of the suggestions was that the inquiry had actually contravened procedural rules by denying us enough time to respond to the Highways Agency change of stance, I faxed and emailed this to the Programme Officer, but he said that this had been received too late to be acceptable. In other words, our very grievance -- lack of time -- was used as a reason for not considering the grievance! We hope that we will be able to secure a remedy (e.g. by reopening the inquiry) by drawing the attention of the Planning Inspectorate to the procedural irregularities.

The advice given us was that with respect to the proposed rail link our case was actually stronger than I had thought -- see below. As we write we are preparing a post-inquiry letter to the Minister in which we will highlight the following four issues.

1. Procedural irregularities. As stated above, we plan to suggest that the least that needs to be done in the interests of fairness is to reopen the inquiry. In criminal trials the prosecution is discouraged from trying to cut corners by the prospect that the Court of Appeal might overturn a conviction, in which case because of the ``double jeopardy'' rule the defendant can't be retried; but in road inquiries the situation seems to be quite the reverse, in that the Highways Agency is encouraged to cut corners to get its schemes through, after which, of course, one can't expect the road to be ``unbuilt''. But one can always dream of getting justice without the expense of going to court...

2. Induced traffic. This was an issue which we went into fairly fully in our closing statement, but it needs to be put forward in a political context, because the Government has explicitly accepted the report of the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment which sets out three conditions under which induced traffic is likely to be a major issue:

(a) When the existing road network is congested.

(b) When there is a high level of elasticity (i.e. when there is reason to expect significant numbers of people to make more or fewer car journeys in response to changing traffic conditions).

(c) When the scheme would lead to a major change in the time or cost for the relevant journey.

With respect to the A421 Great Barford By-pass, none of these conditions are satisfied, which no doubt undermined our objection that a dual carriageway would lead to more traffic which would offset the alleged benefits. (While we accept that the amount of induced traffic might not be large, we still believe it would be enough to result in significant disbenefits. Furthermore, the very fact that (a) is not satisfied means, in our opinion, that a dual carriageway is not necessary on traffic grounds.) But with respect to the A428 scheme, there can be no doubt that condition (a) is satisfied during peak times, and given that much of the traffic at such times consists of people driving to work at employment clusters around Cambridge, for which there is no reason why public transport can't provide a satisfactory alternative, we contend that condition (b) is also satisfied.

The Highways Agency response to such situations is to resort to its model to compute traffic projections. And, lo and behold, how convenient, the model came out with figures which show a negligible level of induced traffic (ignoring the internal inconsistencies which I discovered). But to my mind, if the A428 scheme doesn't result in induced traffic then what scheme will? In other words, to deny induced traffic for this scheme is tantamount to repudiating the SACTRA report.

The Highways Agency also put forward the argument that road user charging in Cambridge would limit the amount of induced traffic, apparently in ignorance of the fact that Cambridgeshire County Council (who support the scheme) were no longer pursuing the option of road user charges.

3. Rail issues. When we suggested that the scheme should be redesigned in such a way as to reduce the cost of adding a railway later, we were thinking primarily in terms of the design of the bridges. But our advice was that there were other ways in which money would be wasted if the road wasn't planned with a view to adding a railway. For example, the alignment of the stretch of the M20 alongside the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link meant that when the latter was added there was a lot of ``dead space''. Other cases where money was wasted are the new high speed line between Cologne and Frankfurt, and the route south from Amsterdam Schiphol. By contrast, on the original French TGV route between Paris and Lyon, and the later ``Atlantique'' route, rail and road were designed to be compatible resulting in significant cost savings, a process known as ``jumelage'' in France and ``bundlung'' in Germany.

We were also advised that the source of Government policy which the Highways Agency should be looking to is not the Strategic Rail Authority but the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which has produced a document called ``Sustainable Communities: making it happen'' with particular reference to the Cambridge-Oxford corridor (as well as the M11 corridor between Cambridge and London), in which the diagrams show that a proper east-west rail link is envisaged as an essential infrastructural requirement.

It is noteworthy that the Government has stated its desire to reduce the cost of rail improvements (though unfortunately it hasn't yet got to the stage of reversing the measure that did more than anything to raise them, namely rail privatisation). So why is it ignoring the risk of escalation in the cost of a Cambridge-Bedford direct rail link -- by far the most important improvement in Eastern England -- by sticking with a short sighted design for a road on the same corridor?

4. Alternative and mitigatory measures. While we are not planning to add anything to what we said in our proof of evidence and closing statement, we will be emphasising that our post-inquiry letter is in addition to these and that we stand by our proposals, which were aimed at creating a real incentive for car commuters -- whether aiming for the city centre or other ``employment clusters'' -- to use an improved public transport network, at least from the proposed new park & ride site.

(a) Inside a new park & ride site which would partly replace the existing one on Madingley Road, the new A428 should be no more than single carriageway.

(b) The existing road should be maintained as a bus priority route, with measures such as bollards to stop it from being used as a rat run to by-pass jams on the new A428.

(c) There may be a need for a new slip road to the eastbound A428 near Madingley so that buses can reach the Northern Fringe.

(d) There should be a new slip road between the A428 and M11, together with traffic management measures to ensure that motorists used this in preference to the A1303.

Branch news.

Branch members and national supporters will find, enclosed with this newsletter, the notice for our AGM, which will be held at 11.00 (we have been urged to try a morning meeting) on Sat 6 Dec. Sorry for the short notice, but the Coordinator was out of action for some time. If you haven't received a notice, you will still be welcome if you turn up at the above time and place -- and, if you wish, you can join on the spot.

Any nominations for any of the posts referred to at the head of this newsletter (other than those relating to other Transport 2000 branches or other organisations) should be sent to the Coordinator to arrive before the meeting, or (if the consent of the nominee has been obtained) may be taken at the meeting.

Activities and financial reports will be circulated at the meeting, and we plan to send them to all members with our next newsletter.

Among the items to be discussed will be the spending of about GBP 100 on advice on the A428 campaign, and GBP 30 for affiliation to CAST.IRON. In recent years we have had no occasion to spend anything on our campaigns, so we have enough in the way of reserves to be able to afford this without having to increase our subscriptions. We hope that CAST.IRON spokesperson Jerry Alderson will be present to answer any questions about the organisation.

Talking of which, some of our members have still not renewed for 2003-4. If you have a renewal slip, please send your subscription as soon as possible -- if it reaches us before the AGM then it will be included in our financial report for this year. Alternatively, come to the AGM and pay us there, thereby saving on postal costs.

Subscriptions remain at GBP 3-50 ordinary, GBP 2-50 concessionary, GBP 5 household/affiliate. Why not renew for 2 years and thereby save yourselves the trouble of having to send another cheque next year -- an option now explicitly included in the form?

CAST.IRON meetings.

CAST.IRON has arranged the following public meetings (in addition to other meetings intended specifically for members):

Tue 25 Nov: 7.30, Burgess Hall, St Ives

Tue 2 Dec: 7.30, Holiday Inn, Impington. Officers will be available from 5.00 to talk to anyone who drops in.

A14 news.

During the summer the Cambridge Evening News printed an article referring to the Highways Agency's withdrawal of the planned grade separation scheme on the A14 between Thrapston and Brampton. Some weeks later we received a letter purporting to explain the situation.

While we had registered as objectors to this scheme, we believe that it does fulfil a genuine need, unlike the A428 scheme referred to above: our objection to the scheme had been on the grounds of loss of opportunity to make provision for our proposed ``A14 Express'' bus service between Haverhill and Rugby, partly because some of the new bridges were in the wrong places.

The letter from the Highways Agency said that the scheme had not been withdrawn from the roads programme. We hope that the reason why they are not pursuing the scheme for the moment is not because they plan to combine it with the widening of this stretch of the A14 to dual 3 lane (which we would oppose as unnecessary). The letter is not very explicit in this respect.

The Department for Transport has asked the Highways Agency to study the potential for solving traffic problems by ``soft'' (i.e. non-infrastructural) measures, one of which is the provision of coach services. We have suggested that the A14 corridor between Cambridge and Rugby as a high priority for the introduction of such a service.

Incidentally, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Department for Transport recently asked us, in common with other objectors, to update our comments on the scheme for a multi-modal distribution centre at Alconbury. (Incidentally the opportunities we have been given to have our say make a refreshing contrast with the road inquiries we have been involved in, including the A428.) We believe that the Alconbury scheme has potential but that care must be taken to ensure that it actually fulfils this potential, and we suggested that a high priority should be to reinstate the East Coast Main Line upgrade to ensure that the capacity of this route was not a limiting factor on the amount of freight that could access the depot by rail. We also suggested that there should be no backtracking on the proposals for a ``Quality Bus Network'' serving the depot (to which we had suggested improvements), including the routes to Bedford and Peterborough where Stagecoach has recently made cuts (see last newsletter). The proposed route to Kettering could form part of our proposed A14 Express referred to above. Finally, we repeated our opposition to the use of the site for a passenger airport.

Peterborough news.

We are informed that the Sunday service 300/302 is at risk from next April, though Peterborough City Council have also submitted a joint bid with Rutland for a coordinated network linking Peterborough with Uppingham and Oakham.

Our Peterborough member Rohan Wilson is organising a series of short Sunday walks using the 300/302, leaving Peterborough on the 12.05. These run every fortnight starting on 23 Nov 2003 till 25 Apr 2004 (assuming that the service is still running), except on 28 Mar 2004, when (also on 9 May and 23 May 2004) the walk is planned to connect with the 10.10 from Peterborough. To confirm the programme or to find out where individual walks are planned to go, contact him on 01733 331393 or <>.

People from many parts of Cambridgeshire can join the 12.05 walks by using local buses to Peterborough. For example, from Cambridge, use the 10.05 which arrives Peterborough at 11.58. We believe that while Sunday Rover tickets are no longer issued on Peterborough contract services, they are still accepted, so one can do the whole journey on a single GBP 6 ticket.

Bus changes.

Extensive changes were made, mostly to Stagecoach services, in the Cambridge area in early November. Changes to Stagecoach in Bedford services originally scheduled for this time were postponed till the end of the month: a notice at Bedford bus station says that this is to give people more time to familiarise themselves with the new timetables, but as we write details of them are still not available.

Both sets of changes -- as well as the Cambridge changes highlighted in our last newsletter -- are worrying because Stagecoach seems to be unloading the cost of those services it doesn't wish to run onto our county councils, who in turn seem to be unwilling to take on the burden. At any rate, many villages in both Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire have seen or will see significant cuts.

X2 (Bedford-Northampton): From 30 Nov diverted within Bromham with the journey time further extended to 70 minutes. Most journeys now leave Bedford at 30 past the hour, so connections to/from Cambridge are improved. The first Saturday journeys are not till 08.30 and 09.30, and the 17.45 ex Northampton (Mon-Fri), which connects with the 19.00 Bedford-Cambridge, is withdrawn.

X5 (Cambridge-Oxford): Some timing changes. The service now calls at Cambourne Concept Centre, and the 19.00 from Oxford runs through to Cambridge on Mondays to Saturdays. The 20.00 ex Oxford continues to run through as route 14 from Bedford, and the departure time from Milton Keynes station is retarded to 21.10 (which is more in accordance with its usual actual time of appearance): this means that the connection with the Silverlink train arrival from Birmingham at 20.56 accords with recommended connectional margins. In the other direction, the 06.15 ex Cambridge on Mondays to Fridays is advanced to 06.10. We don't know if this facility will continue to run on Saturdays, but if it does a change will be necessary at Bedford.

C8 (Madingley Road Park & Ride-Addenbrookes): New route partly supported by Cambridge University -- holders of University cards can travel on it free. Runs via University West Cambridge Site, Grange Rd, West Rd, Silver St (passing new bollards), Trumpington St, Trumpington Rd, Brooklands Avenue and Hills Rd. Mondays to Fridays only, runs every 15 minutes. This is one of a growing number of bus services arranged to meet the needs of institutions of higher education, and we welcome the fact that it will be available to the general public -- unlike many school buses and, for example, the special buses to the asylum centre at Longstanton.

X11 (Cambridge-Newmarket, Sundays, operated by Burtons): Reduced to every 90 minutes to improve reliability, though this makes the frequency incompatible with that of connecting routes such as the 200 (Newmarket-Thetford). It is, incidentally, worth noting that, unlike the weekday service, Sunday buses go through Bottisham village.

13/A/B (Cambridge-Haverhill): New routes replacing former routes 113 and 136. Off-peak buses run every 15 minutes between Cambridge and Haverhill, with alternate journeys serving Abington village and Linton/Horseheath villages. (Passengers who need to travel between Abington and Linton may face problems.) All journeys continue to detour through the Haverhill estates before reaching the bus station, where the 13 terminates while the 13A continues to Shetland Rd. Only a few journeys serve Kedington. No change to evening and Sunday frequencies. 13B runs via the Camps offering essentially the same service as former 136.

14/14A (Cambridge-Cambourne/Bedford), 112 (St Neots-Wyboston village-Bedford), 172/178 (Gamlingay-Bedford, Sundays and weekdays respectively), and 193 (Thursdays, Biggleswade-St Neots): These are the routes operated by Stagecoach in Bedford that enter Cambridgeshire (or, in the case of the 14A, are entirely within the county). We don't have details of what is going to happen to these services, but our current expectation is that routes 112, 193 and possibly 172 will be transferred to other operators, with timetable changes for the other services mentioned -- and for virtually every other Stagecoach route in Bedfordshire.

26 (Cambridge-Royston): New hourly service via the A10 corridor replacing part of former route X46. This used to be the busiest section of our former Greenline routes 797 and 798 to London, but a local service between Cambridge and Royston is bound to attract fewer passengers. One should also remember that Greenline used to operate evening and Sunday services which followed the former 146 route between Royston and Cambridge.

27 (Cambridge-Morden): One peak-time journey is all that remains of former route 146.

X46 (Cambridge-Morden): Withdrawn, see 26 and 127 for alternatives.

X55 (Biggleswade-Milton Keynes): New route from the end of November via Sandy and Bedford, providing a joint half hourly service between Bedford and Milton Keynes with the X5.

90-92 (Hitchin-Morden, operated by Arriva): Minor timing changes from the end of November.

112 (St Neots-Bedford via Wyboston): See 14 above.

113 (Cambridge-Kedington): Withdrawn, see 13/13A above.

127 (Royston-Morden, operated by Charter Travel): New 2 hourly service replacing part of former route X46. There is also a single early evening journey to/from Ashwell & Morden station.

136 (Linton-Haverhill via the Camps): Renumbered 13B, see above.

142-4 (Bedford-Dunstable): Frequency between Flitwick and Dunstable is reduced to 2 hourly, with all journeys running via Tebworth and Wingfield.

146 (Cambridge-Bassingbourn): Withdrawn except for one peak-time journey which is renumbered 27. The only replacement is a diversion of Whippet 175/7 (see below) via Barrington with a single extra journey.

172 (Gamlingay-Bedford, Sundays): See 14/14A above. Changes to the weekday service are also expected, but this doesn't enter Cambridgeshire.

175/7 (Cambridge-Biggleswade, operated by Whippet): Route between Cambridge and Orwell is now via A603 to Eversden Crossroads then Harlton, Haslingfield and Barrington, providing a limited replacement for the 146 which used to serve the last two villages every 2 hours. The frequency of the route is not increased except for an extra journey from Cambridge to Barrington at 18.20 which runs via Addenbrookes and Haslingfield.

178 (Gamlingay-Bedford): See 14/14A above.

193 (Biggleswade-St Neots): See 14/14A above.

We are far from satisfied with the replacement facilities procured by Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire county councils (to the extent to which we are aware of the latter). We regard the severe cut to services for Haslingfield and Barrington, including the loss of the link to the railheads at Shepreth and Royston, and the loss of virtually all buses for Shepreth and Meldreth, as unacceptable. (The last two villages do have a train service, but many people want direct services to places like Cambridge City Centre.) The service frequency south-west of Flitwick is also too low. We therefore suggest the following changes.

C7 (Cottenham-Duxford): Increase to operate every 15 minutes but shorten the route so that alternate journeys run via West Histon, Impington, Trumpington (via Brooklands Avenue), Addenbrookes, and so on.

C8: As now from Madingley Rd to Trumpington St, then via Lensfield Rd, Hills Rd, Rail Station, Hills Rd, Addenbrookes and on to Trumpington Park & Ride.

X11/200: Through Sunday buses from Cambridge to Mildenhall and Thetford. The need for these will be increased next year because of plans to run a leisure service round the Brecklands area, with which this could connect. There may also be a case for additional buses from Cambridge to Bury and Stowmarket.

13/13A: Alternate journeys to run through the villages (Abington, Linton and Horseheath) then direct to Haverhill bus station and on to the estates. The rest to miss out all the villages (though serving Linton Police Houses) and go through the Haverhill estates as now. Our preferred option would go further than this and replace some of the buses on the A1307 corridor by journeys on routes 44 (via Fulbourn, possibly also serving Addenbrookes) and 13B (via the Camps).

88: Extra stops including the main stop in Trumpington village.

118/188: With our proposal to replace the 119 (see below), the way is open to provide an hourly service between Cambridge and Biggleswade, with all journeys serving the present route as far as Bourn but between there and Gamlingay using more than one route. We'd also like to see this route diverted via Sutton, and East Beds Link journeys serving Sutton diverted, instead, via Gamlingay Cinques and village.

New 2 hourly route: From Cambridge as 175/177 to Barrington then Shepreth, Meldreth, Whaddon, Bassingbourn Camp, Bassingbourn Village and Royston. May interwork with an upgrade of Whippet 31 running back to Cambridge via Fowlmere.

New 2 hourly route, probably to be operated by Whippet: From Cambridge to Hardwick, Highfields, Caldecote, Kingston, Eversden, Orwell, Wimpole, Arrington, Croydon, Tadlow, Wrestlingworth (connecting with East Beds Link to/from Biggleswade and Sandy), the Mordens then as 127 to Royston except for omitting Bassingbourn Camp. Replaces Stagecoach 119 and Whippet 2 and 175/177 as well as new 127.

Flitwick-Milton Keynes or Leighton Buzzard: Extend some of those 142-4 journeys not serving Dunstable, or route 200 from Biggleswade (which could be rationalised at its eastern end), to plug this missing link. This route may be used to provide visitor facilities for Woburn Abbey.

We conclude by mentioning that Cambridge City Council together with other parties has procured a map and guide to services in the Cambridge area. This shows the C8 referred to above but not any of the other November changes.

Action Line

1. Renew your subscription, if you haven't already.

2. Come to the AGM if you can.

3. Write to your MP and/or local councillor(s) drawing their attention to the various issues in the A428 public inquiry referred to in this newsletter.