Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 87, June 2004

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.


A number of items, big and small, make it clear that the rail system is currently not being allowed to run as it should.

Item 1: The Coordinator was returning from Nottingham to Cambridge late on Easter Monday. His delayed Liverpool-Norwich train reached the approach to Ely just after the Norwich-Cambridge train that forms the advertised connection. Although these trains use adjacent platforms, the latter wasn't held for the short time that would have been enough for passengers to transfer. So the 5 or so of us had to wait 45 minutes for the next train. This reached Cambridge after the last bus to the city centre had gone. While passengers will be transported to their final destination where they have missed their last train due to late running, this does not apply to connecting buses. A member of staff said -- and this was later backed up by a spokesperson for National Express Group who run all trains through Ely -- that it was policy never to hold connections under any circumstances. We regard this as the ultimate in lack of customer care. At present we have taken the issue to the Rail Passengers Committee from which we are awaiting a response.

Item 2: Work associated with the opening of the rail depot at Whitemoor has led to a curfew on the Peterborough-Ely line. As a result, the last train to Cambridge now leaves Peterborough just 3 minutes after the arrival of a key train from the North (the 20.40 from Leeds). As the official connectional allowance at Peterborough is 8 minutes, this means that passengers who rely on this connection risk being stranded or at least forced to fork out a large extra fare to travel via Stevenage if their train is late. However, the last stopping train from Peterborough towards Kings Cross does have the necessary 8 minutes connectional margin off the Leeds train, so why can't National Express Group run a bus to Cambridge connecting off this train at Huntingdon or St Neots?

These two incidents motivated us to compile a ``manifesto'' for National Express Group in the Cambridge area, covering both their rail and coach operations. This manifesto includes a proposal that all passengers travelling between stations beyond Peterborough (except possibly Spalding) and Cambridge, in either direction, should be entitled to expect a maximum overall interchange time of half an hour covering all the changes necessary to take them to/from Cambridge City Centre, including the initial or final bus link from Cambridge or other rail station. We are also asking for a combined rail and coach booking office in the centre of Cambridge, and for all tickets to be valid for travel to/from Cambridge station (or by bus link to another suitable station) without extra cost.

We have sent this ``manifesto'' not only to National Express Group but also to the Competition Commission, who are currently conducting an inquiry into whether National Express Group have too much market dominance on travel in East Anglia. Our position is that this market dominance should be complemented by network integration along the lines we are proposing.

Item 3: Cambridge City Council have refused to protect a site for a new station for the Addenbrookes Hospital area. The Hospital is already the largest single traffic generator in the Cambridge area, and the proposed Biotechnology Park will generate even more travel, as will the proposed Clay Farm housing development.

One argument against the station is that the area will already be subject to environmental degradation as a result of the proposals for the M11 link road and the guided busway. Well, yes, but the station will cause less harm than the guided busway and far less harm than the road, so it shouldn't be the one to be sacrificed. Our current proposals are to replace the M11 link road and guided busway by a restricted road link from Clay Farm to Addenbrookes, available to public transport, including guided buses if the proposal goes ahead, and also to emergency vehicles serving the Hospital, but not to general traffic. People working on the Biotechnology Park and arriving via the M11 or A10 south would be able to avoid jams on Long Road by using a bus from Trumpington Park & Ride.

Another argument is that the City Council already has plans for a station in the Chesterton Sidings area and two stations is all a city the size of Cambridge can support. Well, Exeter is slightly smaller and has no less than 7 stations, and this isn't just a historical accident because some of the stations have opened or reopened in recent years.

Item 4: The Government Office for South-East England are proposing to delete from the Regional Transport Strategy a long standing aspiration of local campaign groups to restore the rail link between Uckfield and Lewes. Along with Cambridge-Bedford this is one of the most urgently needed rail links in the whole country.

Item 5: The Government has refused to support a proposal by the Central Railway Group to provide a rail link between the Channel Tunnel and Northern England which would be built to generous enough dimensions to take piggyback lorries off the M25 and other motorways. Apparently it is not convinced that the CRG can raise the money needed, and it is worried that it might end up being pressed to fill any financial gap.

To which we reply ``so what''? We believe the prospect of removing a high proportion of long distance lorries from our roads would deserve a lot of public finance if this turns out to be needed. There would also be substantial ``planning gain'' in terms of opportunities for new passenger rail links (especially a orbital route serving Heathrow). And by imposing ``congestion charging'' on lorries (and, for that matter, other vehicles) on the M25 and other motorways, it could more or less guarantee the success, in both environmental and financial terms, of the scheme.

Together with the continuing failure to plan for the rail link between Cambridge and Bedford, we suggest that both local and national Government have essentially given up on the prospect of using rail as a means of keeping road traffic levels in check.

SOS Cambridge

In Newsletters 84-6 we have argued that road schemes such as the A428 dualling may strangle the economic functioning of Cambridge by swamping the city's main radial approach roads with cars and thus encouraging businesses to relocate to sites outside the city's central area. Signs that this is already happening include the relocation of the South Cambridgeshire District Council HQ to Cambourne (which is far less accessible than the old site by public transport from almost all villages in the district), and the airing of proposals by Cambridge University for new colleges on the outskirts of the city close to the M11.

Eventually we foresee Cambridge becoming a US-style ``doughnut city'' with little activity in the central area other than tourist-oriented shopping (ignoring the everyday needs of local residents), some administative facilities, and those functions of the University that haven't joined the Great Dispersal.

We would like to respond by setting up a new campaign to which we have given the temporary title ``SOS Cambridge''. (This is unlikely to be its permanent title, because there is an existing campaign group with a similar name.) It would campaign for the following:

(a) Development of a public transport network which isn't vulnerable to traffic congestion on the roads, e.g. a local rail network. (See reference to Addenbrookes station above.)

(b) Adoption of some form of road user charging throughout the Cambridge sub-region. (Note: if charging was restricted to the more congested areas, this would just end up as yet another incentive to the dispersal that we are trying to avoid.)

(c) Stringent requirements on all developments throughout the Cambridge sub-region to minimise traffic generation.

(d) Avoidance of road schemes that may increase the traffic pressure on Cambridge.

We hope that the international renown of Cambridge would make it possible to give this campaign quite a high profile and attract supporters from all over the world. But first we need to set up a steering group to discuss how to launch the campaign.

Anyone interested in forming part of such a steering group, or with ideas as to how to develop this sort of campaign, please contact the Coordinator using the contact details at the head of this newsletter.

The Cambridge Local Plan will soon be coming up for public inquiry. While some of the City Council's policies would further the cause of sustainability (such as its proposals to improve cycling links, currently being consulted on), we believe that overall they are totally inadequate to prepare the city for the likely crisis.

Of course, the problems are not limited to Cambridge. ``Car culture'' has a bad record for destroying communities: large cities are dissected by urban motorways: run-down neighbourhoods are colonised by crime so that walkers feel unsafe; and villages and market towns lose shops to edge of town superstores. Are historic regional centres such as Cambridge, especially in regions such as our own where development pressures will create foci for dispersal, next in line? Watch out for an article about this in the next issue of Transport Retort (see below if you want us to send it to you).

Branch news

Time again to renew your membership -- if a renewal slip has been sent to you with this newsletter please return it to us with payment. At least one reminder will be issued before members are removed from our list, but it makes it easier for us if you renew as soon as possible. The rates are unchanged -- GBP 3-50 ordinary, GBP 2-50 concessionary, and GBP 5 household or affiliate. An extra GBP 8 will give you copies of Transport Retort, Transport 2000's national newsletter.

As promised, our financial statement for last year is enclosed herewith.

We welcome one new member: K. de Courcy from Newnham.

Guided busway proposals

Those who have submitted objections to the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway, and declared their intention to appear at the public inquiry, should now have received directions for submitting their statements of case. The closing date for such submissions has been extended to 21 July, though objectors are asked to give notice to the Department for Transport now of their intention to submit a statement of case. These statements should be sent to the Secretary of State, Department for Transport, Zone 9/2, Southside, 105 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6DT, with a copy to the county council's parliamentary agents, addressed to Cambridgeshire County Council c/o Bircham Dyson Bell, 50 Broadway, London SW1H 0BL. They may also be emailed to <> and <> respectively. They should quote the objection numbers assigned to you, and contain a list of all documents which you wish to refer to, and copies of those documents or the relevant parts thereof. (We assume that the need to submit copies does not apply to documents, such as the Cambridgeshire Structure Plan, which are in the public domain anyway, provided that they are properly identified, nor to the statements of case submitted by other participants in the public inquiry, should you wish to refer to them -- and you are welcome to refer to our own submission.)

Our meetings on 26 March (advertised in Newsletter 86) and 21 May have substantially developed our objections to the scheme. We are not going as far as CAST.IRON in condemning the guided busway proposals outright, nor have we referred in our objection to a specific need for rail on the St Ives line corridor (as opposed to the Cambridge-Bedford corridor), but our main arguments are as follows:

1. The scheme as it now stands will pre-empt the use of land which will be required for any east-west rail link. We have proposed alternatives to get round both this and 3 below.

2. The case for the southern section (between the railway station, Trumpington and Addenbrookes) has been undermined by the inability of the Hills Road bridge to take double deckers, and by the M11 to Addenbrookes road link proposals. There is also no need at this stage for the ``Northstowe by-pass'' route following the old railway between Oakington and Longstanton stations: most potential users of this route would be people travelling through between Huntingdon or St Ives and Cambridge, but the A14 would provide a far shorter route.

3. The problems of running buses through the City Centre have not been resolved. The Council should be required to produce an indicative bus network showing how existing services would be affected by the scheme, together with a commitment to underwrite the service levels it is proposing.

4. The surfacing of the maintenance track should be improved on the sections most needed by cyclists. A cycle track should be provided under Hills Road bridge even if this means reducing the busway to single track, and access should be provided from both sides of the railway to a stop which would serve Shaftesbury Road and Purbeck Road (the latter for Hills Road 6th Form College and Homerton College).

Please let us know as soon as possible if there are any other issues which you believe should be flagged up in our statement, or if you want to make any comments.

There have been some developments with regard to the Luton-Dunstable guided busway proposals. Soon after the closing date for objections to this scheme, Bedfordshire County Council, one of the parties in promoting it, decided to withdraw support. The other party, Luton Borough Council, then decided to continue on its own, and this was agreed by the Government. As a result, Bedfordshire decided that they wanted to support the scheme after all so that they could become a party in its development. The effect of all this has been to push back by several months and give a further opportunity for people to object -- which, however, will have expired by the time you read this. (However, if you submitted an objection the first time round, it will remain valid.)

Other Planning News

We are glad to report the opening of the new bridge over the A14 at Milton. This will not only make it easier for cyclists to get through to Cambridge, but also give Milton people access to the more frequent bus services at the Cowley Road Park & Ride site, and enable Cambridge people to use these buses to get to Milton Country Park. (For an interesting circular tour, exit the Country Park on Fen Road, Milton -- that's the road that leads to Baits Bite Lock -- and reenter the city along the riverside.)

We have taken part in consultation on a scheme to redevelop the area in front of Cambridge station. We support the proposals for a bus interchange at the station. However, we oppose the provision of separate multi-storey car parks each side of the railway line (the eastern one serving the Cattle Market development) when a crossing would enable a single car park to serve both sides (and provide direct access between the Cattle Market and bus interchange). It is worth noting that the Cattle Market developers originally proposed such a bridge -- and it was this that led us to support the proposals in principle. However, the bridge was then relocated to another less suitable site, and even this may never happen. Our proposed bridge could be provided as part of a scheme for a new platform at Cambridge station -- as would be required to facilitate our proposed local rail network.

Fuel News

Political problems in the Middle East have pushed up fuel prices, and this has led to the usual requests that the Government should rescind its planned fuel tax increase in September. We strongly argue against this, for the following reasons:

(a) Pre-tax fuel prices are determined by the balance between supply and demand. The best way to ensure that higher prices don't depress the economy is therefore to reduce demand -- and this is best done by increasing the cost to consumers. Note that higher post-tax prices do not depress the economy because the Government will spend whatever revenue it raises and thus give a counterbalancing stimulus to the economy.

(b) A reduction in fuel consumption is also needed to avoid the potential effects of climate change. The science of the film ``The Day after Tomorrow'' may be dubious but its theme is still valid.

(c) Cheap fuel for manufacturing stimulates the economy far more than cheap fuel for motoring (or aviation), because of the ``multiplier'' effect. And the improvement in people's quality of life by enabling them to travel singly in cars rather than together in public transport is more than counterbalanced by the consequent increase in danger and pollution. And what right do we have to try to outbid poorer countries where many people can ill afford even essential fuel use?

Air Madness

This is the title of a book written by former T2000 C&WS member Cedric Pulford, which we recommend to our readers. Write to the publishers (Pulford Ituri, 4 Chestnut Close, Woodford Halse, Northants NN11 3NB) and quote ``Transport 2000 offer'' to get it at the discounted price of GBP 6 (postage and packing included).

If the aviation issue doesn't rouse your emotions, the first two chapters may still be of interest, as they deals with the growth of motoring, which the author cites as an analogy to the future growth of aviation. Of particular interest are the author's ``alternate future'', and his ``ladder of substitution'' for replacing car use by other modes of transport. With his permission, we reproduce the former in this newsletter.

Cars stayed a luxury, brought about by taxation, making the driving test more difficult (incredibly, there was no compulsory driving test in Britain as late as the 1930s) -- and simply not making up the roads. In reality, the extensive programme of tarring roads carried out in the 1920s encouraged more traffic as the road building programme did later on.

Cars became less attractive when manufacturers cooperated with the government in limiting performance. Engines were made to produce a top speed of 55mph (88kph) -- plenty enough for personal mobility but not enough to encourage speed merchants, whose needs were catered for in off-road leisure circuits. Private alteration of a car to increase its performance became a criminal offence and largely ceased to exist. Like cock fighting, also illegal, it happened but in secret and on a small scale.

Limiting the top speed of cars gave a fillip to railway travel. With trains able to travel at more than twice the speed of cars, it seemed pointless to use the car for long distance journeys. Buying a car became a discretionary purchase with many who could afford it choosing not to. Ordinary people did not resent being carless any more than they resented not being able to dine at the Ritz Hotel: what mattered was alternative transport arrangements. The railways flourished, both for long distance and commuter journeys. Towns and cities stayed compact, and expansion tended to follow the railway lines, so no one was very far from a station.

The railways enjoyed a benign circle of increasing investment and traffic growth. Much of the investment came from the government, which put the railways at the centre of national transport strategy. The attraction of trains was increased by the switch to diesel and electric. Britain was among the world's leaders, and steam engines were largely phased out in the 1930s (a generation before it actually happened).

The railways continued to be the main carriers of goods traffic. Roads were unsuitable for long distance haulage, so rail and road maintained their 19th century partnership with lorries taking the freight onward for local delivery. Of course, improvements were made to reduce trans-shipment costs and delay. These included packaging goods in containers and ingenious ``roadrailers'' that ran on both track and road.

Opinion surveys found little dissatisfaction among the carless, who in the inter-war period were helped by the improvement of the railways, the spread of bus services, and innovative council schemes to collect people from their homes (of the sort that actually were not tried until half a century later by which time the genie of universal car ownership was out of the bottle).

Buoyant demand produced a flourishing car hire sector. Many people declared that it was pointless to buy a car when one could be so easily borrowed. Nobody was refused because of his/her insurance record: the government was the insurer for hire cars, and its client base was so large that it could easily accommodate a few bad drivers.

The expansion of the railways, together with shipbuilding, continued the demand for steel and engineering components, but these industries did not grow in the way they would have if cars had gone into mass production. As a result thousands were spared the tyranny of the low paid assembly line, finding employment instead in a range of high value craft industries and social work activities. Car factories were small scale, with much work done by hand. The conveyor belt -- tried by Henry Ford in the US, but with limited success -- was a rarity.

Although the motorisation of the world generally proceeded in a controlled and considered way, there were renegade countries. France was famous for its let `em rip approach to cars, and Paris was noted for its traffic jams. Cars were much cheaper in that country, which sometimes made visitors angry -- until they thought about the traffic jams and the running costs.

It is notable that almost all of this vision is in line with the campaign objectives of organisations like Transport 2000, and salutory to remind ourselves that life is possible without mass car ownership -- the author even refers to a well known short story set in the Cambridge area to give an idea of how things used to be. If we achieved our objectives, then the future would look very similar to the above -- the main difference, probably, being that it might not be worth reclaiming those bits of our landscape that had been defaced by motorways. And we believe that the transition to such a system would be practical -- the first step being the mass replacement of car ownership by community car hire, achieved partly by designing cars out of new developments and giving them high quality alternatives. But, of course, it would have been easier had we not taken the wrong path in 1910...

The next two chapters deal with the present state of aviation, up to last year's White Paper and the reaction thereto. But the author likens the present state of aviation to that of motoring in 1910, saying, effectively, ``you ain't seen nothing yet''. The fifth chapter projects the growth of private flying, partly as a means of beating congestion on the roads. It suggests that higher demand for private aircraft will bring their cost down to within the reach of the masses, just as had already happened with cars. The consequences in terms of ambient noise, let alone global warming, are too awful to contemplate. (Of course, maybe fuel supply problems will intervene -- or will wealthy countries just push fuel prices through the roof at the expense of poorer countries' basic needs -- the point made in (c) in the previous section?)

Way to go

If you haven't done anything about the Way to Go campaign referred to in Newsletter 86, there's still time -- but not much! They are aimed to feed into the Government's spending review next month, where we want more money spent on sustainable transport and less on road upgrades. We are sending our limited supply of cards to some of our members. If you have Internet access you can download a copy of the card, and other information about the campaign, at

As we said in Newsletter 86, Early Day Motion 527 had been tabled to support the Way to Go campaign. As we write this has been signed by 101 Labour MPs, including our Anne Campbell and Helen Clark, 29 Lib Dems, 6 Tories, 3 Plaid Cymru and 1 Independent. Any chance of persuading the other MPs in our area, all Tories, to join their 6 colleagues, who include 2 from Eastern England?

Cambs bus news: Peterboroug reshuffle

The big news comes from Peterborough, where Stagecoach did a major reshuffle in April, followed by the introduction by Peterborough City and Rutland Councils of a new integrated network at the end of May. Our Peterborough representative Rohan Wilson has contributed the following (edited) comments on the new urban network, with the last 3 paragraphs added by city councillor Nick Sandford (Lib Dem). Note that the political comments do not represent the views of Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk, which is independent of all parties.

Since February last year Stagecoach, who have little competition within urban Peterborough, modified some routes and changed daytime service numbers to the simple 1, 2, 3 etc. This was promoted with local media, a colourful guide with maps, and bright individual leaflets with timetables. Most routes had 20 min daytime frequency, and though all were principally radial there was quite a high degree of meshing between routes which gave some places a bus to town every 10 mins or less. Routes radiated from Queensgate bus station in 13 principal directions. The fewer evening and night routes were either every hour or, where subsidised by the City Council, every half hour.

The network is now greatly simplified, leaving only 7 principal routes, but each claims a daytime bus every 10 minutes. Some of the routes, as before, run across the centre under a single number. Many routes are now operated by a new fleet of kneeling single deckers, brightly coloured inside and out. New stop flags have gone up, most noticeably in the few places where amalgamation has led to a new route. At the time of writing they did not carry the numbers of rural or other services which use them, or any information on these. 6 evening and Sunday routes operate hourly.

Stagecoach have issued a new guide and route leaflets, which include colourful shopping and sightseeing pictures. The timetable matrix is replaced by simpler tabulations of outward and return times for a few key stops along the route. Visually it is attractive. The logo for the entire system (modelled on the one operating already in Cambridge) is Citi.

The new routes do not intermesh out of the centre as before, and to serve areas left out by the simplified network some ``neighbourhood links'' operate hourly daytimes. There have been complaints from some areas.

As in Cambridge, return fares have been replaced by the Dayrider (GBP 2-50) and Dayrider Plus (GBP 4), as well as individual (GBP 5-99) and Family (GBP 7-99) Explorers, and Megariders and Goldriders.

I understand there have been complaints: I have been told of bunching of buses, which will reduce the value of the increased frequency. On some buses I've used I was worried by the driving speed. I was impressed by seeing a wheelchair user and helper alight easily at a local stop. I imagine it will be much harder at Queensgate, where there are very heavy sliding doors.

Stagecoach aims by the new image and frequency to get more people to ride more frequently. This will only be successful if the quality of service matches the bright image. One concern I have is of connections at Queensgate. Most evening and weekend services leave at 15 or 45 past the hour, and only 3-5 minutes are available for connections. I've heard reports of missed connections under the old network, which allowed 5 minutes. I run a series of Sunday walks based on a new Peterborough-Oakham contract service, which is also timed for departures at 15 and 45 past. I hope I can advertise the new Citi services as reliable feeders. Time will tell.

One of the major areas of complaint is that Stagecoach have cut the evening services back severely. In many areas the half hourly evening buses have been cut to hourly, while others have completely lost their formerly hourly services.

Following public, media and political pressure, the council has agreed to restore many of the evening services for a 3 month period, pending a review of these and the daytime services, which now do not serve many areas of the city. The council has voted to allocate an extra GBP 250,000 in subsidy, effectively doubling the bus subsidy budget, to fund any new services which are required.

However, as the Tories have now regained control of the council with a big majority, some of us are sceptical about whether this promised new money will actually be forthcoming. That is the voice of a cynical opposition councillor speaking!

For rural services, the main changes (apart from those described in Newsletter 86) are as follows. Most other services west or north of Peterborough (except those run by Delaine) have been withdrawn and replaced by the new network. Services run weekdays except where shown.

New Eye Flyer (Cavalier, 7 days a week): No longer uses route number 38. Extends to the south side of the city to replace withdrawn Stagecoach services, and the demand responsive section beyond Newborough is reduced and only suitable for leisure trips at weekends. The Willows area is no longer served and Crowland (except for a late evening journey) is served only on Sundays.

Village Link (Bettacars): New demand responsive taxibus between Stamford and Edith Cavell Hospital connecting with other services at Barnack, Ailsworth, Castor and Bretton.

X4 (Stagecoach, 7 days a week): Extends beyond Northampton to Milton Keynes via the A508. Unfortunately it's limited stop on this section and doesn't serve the canal bridge from which one could walk to Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum.

9/11/13 (Kime, First Choice): Hourly weekdays Peterborough to Oakham connecting at Oakham for Uppingham, Corby, Cottesmore, Melton and Nottingham. Does a big loop within Stamford. Some journeys miss Castor and Ailsworth, but these villages retain an overall hourly service taking the R47 into account. A GBP 4-50 day rover ticket is available on this route and valid on all services in the Rutland network including the R47, but it can't be bought on the R47.

9A/9B (Kime, Sundays): 3 hourly in winter and half hourly in summer between Peterborough and Oakham, either via Wansford and Whitwell, or via Barnack and Edith Weston.

12 (Stagecoach): This route is a renumbered D1/D2 and extends to Hampton.

38 (First Choice): Consolidates former 306/8/9 and links Peterborough with villages to the north, including Helpston, Glinton and Newborough where one can connect with other services.

R47 (Paul James): Improved to run 2 hourly between Peterborough and Uppingham, connecting at the latter for Leicester, Corby and Oakham. Route 12 continues to link Stamford and Uppingham at the same frequency. Alternate journeys deviate on demand to Sutton, Collyweston and Seaton -- the last of which opens up access to the Jurassic Way and Harringworth viaduct.

60: The summer service to Flag Fen won't be running this year. The best place to walk from is probably Kings Dyke (331, 337 or 701).

Other Cambs bus news

Elsewhere in Cambridgeshire, there is little to report except changes to the 106 (Cottenham-Ely), which seem to be associated with changes in Ely school times. Also, at the time of writing, the 23.15 Cambridge to St Ives (159) has been suspended due to an incident of vandalism. In August it is expected that Cambridge Citi route C5 will be replaced between Addenbrookes and Trumpington Park & Ride by a new H1 running every 15 minutes and sponsored by the hospital.

In Newsletter 86 we said we gave information on a few changes to the National Express network, but said we didn't know what else there might have been. In fact we haven't seen any that affect our area significantly. For changes to the X5 see the next section.

Milton Keynes area: Milton Keynes has lost several services in recent months. The X34 to Daventry went last December, the X3 to Wellingborough in April (except for a skeleton Saturday service run by MK Metro), also the X55 to Biggleswade, and the 37 to Flitwick whose introduction we reported last time is expected to disappear at the end of June. However, Bedford still retains a half hourly fast service to Milton Keynes, with all journeys now numbered X5. The X5 now stops closer to Bicester North station as well as serving Bedford Midland on Sundays, but still no sign of any links with St Neots or Cambridge stations.

We have worked out a shopping list of proposals: new road access to Milton Keynes Coachway to reduce peak time delays; half hourly Cambridge-Oxford buses incorporating the X5, 14 and the Brackley-Oxford section of the X6; new interchanges at Old Stratford (served by the X4 and X5, other Northants routes, and a new Milton Keynes orbital), and Olney (linking buses both ways on the A509 and A428 corridors, the latter being part of an integrated network between Cambridge and Birmingham); and a new route to Biggleswade replacing the 37 and Beds CC's 200 and bringing visitors to Woburn Abbey and Shuttleworth.

Around the region

Details of services that may be of use for your day trips.

Norfolk: 37 between Kings Lynn and Southery is diverted due to roadworks, expected to last till the end of July. A new Brecks Warrener (445) links several places of interest around Brandon and Thetford, running 7 days a week this summer. Soon to start is a daily (except winter Sundays) Broads Hopper cycle carrying bus between Blicking Hall and Acle via Aylsham, Wroxham and South Walsham -- for the last, providing a belated replacement for former First 707. The Coast Hopper continues to link Hunstanton with Sheringham 7 days a week, offering scope every day for circular tours via Fakenham, using X98/428 (Kings Lynn), 29/45/X56 (Norwich), X98 (Sheringham), and 29/431 (Wells). Finally, new Monday to Friday 59 links Wymondham with Norwich Hospital every 75 minutes.

Northants: The Saunterbus, which runs on Sundays, celebrates is 20th anniversary this year with a special booklet. However, the routes are unchanged from last year. Changes to the X2 and X4 have made the service slightly more accessible from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Herts: The Chiltern Rambler and Shaw Shuttle continue to run on Sundays this year. For the latter, get to Stevenage bus station by 12.40 for a visit to Knebworth House or Shaw's Corner.

Essex: The Stansted-Colchester link, now numbered X22, has been rerouted via the new A120. Cambridge people can use it cheaply by buying a through ticket to Manningtree, Harwich or Clacton. Also worth noting is route 314 which provides an attractive link to Braintree Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays connecting with the first bus from Cambridge to Saffron Walden.

Surrey: The NT1 serving places of interest around Dorking has been modified this year. It continues to serve Polesden Lacey on Saturdays and Sundays but now serves Hatchlands and Clandon House instead of Box Hill, and on Saturdays Abinger Common insyead of Ranmore Common. A 1 day Travelcard will take you to Dorking using bus 465 from Surbiton station.

Kent: Due to roadworks 4/5 Maidstone-Hastings is diverted on Saturdays till early September. Use this route to visit the Kent & East Sussex Railway: rail to Maidstone, 4/5 to Hawkhurst, 254 to Bodiam, K&ESR to Tenterden, and 12 back to Maidstone. Use an Arriva Day Rover ticket. Also note that the Lakeside to Bluwater bus, which in this direction goes over the Dartford Bridge, still runs. Both Lakeside and Bluewater are accessible by Travelcard (372 and 96/428/492 respectively).

Sussex: In East Sussex, buses link Brighton with Devil's Dyke and Ditchling Beacon, and Berwick station with Alfriston and the Seven Sisters, all year round. In West Sussex, improved routes 100/102 link Pulborough, Storrington and Burgess Hill on both weekdays and Sundays.

Oxfordshire: The Ridgeway Explorer doesn't seem to be running this year, apart from the all year Saturday service on route X47 between Wantage and Swindon. There are some reshuffles planned in July, with both improvements (a new Witney-Abingdon route using the A415 to cross the Thames) and cuts (Henley to Woodcote, Chinnor to High Wycombe, Watlington to Wallingford).

Further afield...

And here are some ideas for longer trips.

Worcestershire: This year the Malverns Hillhopper runs on both Saturdays and Sundays, and over a longer season, with a new section of route serving the Three Counties Showground. To get to this area from Cambridge, use X5 to Oxford then by rail (Network Railcard discounts available to Worcester Foregate St). However, the Wye Valley Wanderer from Pershore to Chepstow isn't running this year, nor is there any other local Sunday service between Ross on Wye and Monmouth.

Monmouthshire: Sunday buses still run within Monmouthshire (though not over the Severn Bridge to Bristol). The county produce a comprehensive timetable book and have started a series of minibus tours from Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth for which advance booking is required.

Shropshire: The cuts referred to last time include Sunday buses along the A49 both sides of Shrewsbury and the splitting of the Birmingham to Ludlow route at Kidderminster, with further cuts in the Clun Valley imminent. But the Shropshire Hills Shuttle network still runs, though the Clun Forest Shuttle now has a worse timetable. The Meres & Mosses Shuttle has an improved route between Ellesmere and Market Drayton, both of which still have Sunday buses from Shrewsbury. Positioning workings to/from Wolverhampton have been added to the Ironbridge Gorge shuttle routes (including the link to Much Wenlock).

Brecon Beacons: The Beacons Bus network runs every Sunday till the end of August. More buses extend to Abergavenny (connecting with the Monmouthshire network) and Carmarthen (serving Aberglasney Gardens and the National Botanic Gardens). The ``Offa's Dyke Flyer'' and ``over the tops'' route to Bridgend continue, but the Swansea route now runs direct. On weekdays try the 22 route between Merthyr and Pontypridd over the tops via Bedlinog, and the once a day 68 to Ystradgynlais via Glynneath. The Beacons National Park also runs occasional minibus tours.

Heart of Wales: Another opportunity for minibus tours, which run from Llanwrtyd Wells and connect with trains to/from Shrewsbury and Swansea. Or try yet another ``over the top'' bus route -- the 142 between Swansea and Garnswllt Lonyfelin, close to Pantffynnon station, or change to/from Ammanford at Garnswllt village which has excellent views over the valley.

Pembrokeshire: A fifth National Park coastal service links Pembroke Dock to Angle and Freshwater East, serving Stack Rocks at weekends. This and some of the other four run all year. With another coastal bus running between Cardigan and New Quay between July and September, essentially the whole coast between Borth and Laugharne is accessible by bus.

Cannock Chase: The Chase Hopper runs every Sunday throughout the year (at least till next April) from Hednesford station and affords an opportunity to visit Shugborough Hall.

North Wales: The Clwydian Ranger network starts earlier this year and runs on Sundays till the end of September, with new opportunities between Snowdonia and NE Wales, Chester, and Merseyside. On weekdays routes 19, 70 and 71 offer new links on the A5 corridor west of Corwen.

Peak District and Cheshire: An excellent service continues to span the Peak District, with new Sunday routes at either end: the F7, part of the Sherwood Forester network, links Nottingham's new tramway at Hucknall with Crich Tramway Museum and Matlock, and the Gritstone Rambler extends to Congleton via Rudyard Lakem connecting at Macclesfield with a route from Lyme Park to Macclesfield Forest via Langley. Another Sunday route links Macclesfield with Manchester Airport via Knutsford and Tatton Park. The Sandstone Rambler continues to link Whitchurch with Frodsham on Saturdays and Sundays, via Cholmondeley Castle Gardens on Sundays.

Lancashire: The Bowland Transit network has been improved: the B10 links Clitheroe and Settle 7 days a week, and the B12, B16 and B15 serve Garstang, Beacon Fell and Lancaster (via the Trough of Bowland) on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays respectively.

Yorkshire and Humber: There have been cuts in the Dalesbus network, and the Woldsbus appears to have disappeared. However, the Spurn Ranger continues to serve Spurn Head, and while some Moorsbus routes run on fewer days a week, the network as a whole now runs daily June to September and Moorsbus tickets are valid on many more conventional services.

Northumberland and Cumbria: The Hadrian's Wall bus still runs, but we aren't sure of the Kielder Bus and Black Grouse routes. Kielder, however, remains accessible by school bus and postbus, and also has a community minibus over the border to Hawick on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Lake District retains a good bus network (and several minibus tours, the best run by the National Trust), and another interesting route is the positioning working for a school run that links Carlisle with Bewcastle, which has a Roman fort and lots of good walking.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: The new National Park Authority has a timetable book downloadable from its website, though the 2004-5 version is not out at the time of writing.

Action Line

Lots to do this time.