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The public inquiry into the proposed guided busway between Cambridge and Huntingdon opened on 28 Sept 2004. At the time of writing it is still in progress.
In the run up to the inquiry, we feared that the inquiry would be rushed through as was, for example, the inquiry into the Highways Agency scheme to widen the A428 (see Newsletters 85 and 86). It is, therefore, pleasant to report that this inquiry seems to be being conducted with impeccable fairness, with objectors being given ample opportunity to state their case and the Inspector asking intelligent questions. It appears highly unlikely that the Inspector's report will be peppered with statements like ``we are unable to consider the evidence of so and so'', of which we were the victim at all three road inquiries at which we have made a personal appearance (A1(M), A421 and A428). We believe that much of the evidence at this inquiry would have been ruled out of court if it had been conducted according to the procedures of a road inquiry. If we lose our case, we will not be able to claim that we weren't given a fair hearing.
The Coordinator and Secretary have shared in the task of cross-examining the Council's witnesses, while the former presented our case. Roughly speaking, these were our main points.
1. We support the principle of a priority bus route between the planned new town at Northstowe and Cambridge City Centre.
2. We are taking no position on whether a guided busway is appropriate technology for such a route.
3. We oppose the route chosen by the Council for the guided busway on the grounds that it will sabotage any effective route for an east-west rail link via Bedford.
4. We are taking no position on the viability of the CAST.IRON proposals for a railway between Cambridge and Huntingdon.
5. We condemn the Council for failing to examine route options for the guided busway which do not use the former St Ives line -- as it admitted in cross-examination.
6. We are highly sceptical about the Council's forecasts of the level of service bus operators will be prepared to provide along the route on a commercial basis, especially in the early mornings, evenings and on Sundays, when existing commercial provision is almost nil and even supported services come nowhere near the Council's future expectations. (We have recently submitted proposals which would start to bridge the gap -- see comments on Whippet 1A/5, Huntingdon & District 553-6, Stagecoach 15 and 8 in the ``Bus Review'' section of this newsletter.)
7. While generally supporting the Council's proposals for managing buses in Cambridge's central area (with some exceptions, such as any proposal to banish long distance coaches to park & ride sites), we retain scepticism as to whether they will actually work in terms of ensuring the free flow of buses which will be required if the guided busway is to meet its targets.
8. We believe that the amenity cost of the section of route between Addenbrookes and Trumpington would be worth bearing if it avoids the need for a much more damaging public road on this corridor. (At present the Council says that it has made no decision on whether such a road would be necessary.)
9. We believe that the section of route between Cambridge station and Clay Farm (Trumpington) would only be justified if it includes a guided busway stop at Shaftesbury Road (and, preferably, a rail crossing linking it with Purbeck Road).
Two of the points we made in our proof of evidence appear to have been met by the Council: they are now including a cycleway under Hills Road bridge in the scheme, and they appear to have abandoned their suggested requirement that operators using the guided busway will be required to have air conditioned vehicles. In turn we abandoned some of our own objections: we accept that bus operators have shown interest in the guideway (though that doesn't mean that they are committed to using it), that negotiating the Hobson Street corner won't present any insuperable problems, and that if the route goes ahead there will be a need for the section between Oakington and Longstanton stations.
We have the following additional comments to make on points 1-7 above:
3. The need for an effective east-west rail link was the main strand in our objection, and has also been covered by other participants. The Council's position is to rely on the route selected by the East-West Consortium, which involves using the Kings Cross route from Cambridge as far as Letchworth before turning north along the East Coast Main Line to Sandy where it would diverge along the old route to Bedford.
Our position is that this route would be acceptable as a temporary expedient, but that in the longer term a more direct route between Cambridge and the East Coast Main Line, using the same section of route west of the East Coast Main Line, would be necessary -- and we quoted the report of the London to South Midlands Multi-Modal Study in support of this. As well as being direct, it should offer interchange with the East Coast Main Line (at St Neots or Huntingdon) and it should come at least within reasonable cycling distance of new developments west of Cambridge (Northstowe and/or Cambourne).
We see no way in which the above goals could be met if both the St Ives line and the Trumpington route are pre-empted by a guided busway. Later conversion from a guided busway to a railway might be possible, but this would seem to be uneconomic especially taking into account the likely continuing need for a public transport link between Northstowe and the City Centre (see 1 above). In addition, the Council specifically ruled out two options for such conversion: laying rail tracks on the guideway (which is planned for a future light rail route in Edinburgh, but may not be suitable for heavy rail), and the Bladerunner system for using specially adapted buses on ordinary rail tracks.
The Bladerunner deserves a paragraph of discussion. Over the years there have been various ideas for vehicles which can run on both road and rail. This one received some press coverage this summer. It would seem to combine the advantages of both modes -- high speed operation with no break when vehicles transfer from rail to road or vice versa, lower fuel consumption on rail, the greater braking capability of road-based systems even when on rail. The problem quoted by the Council is that it is not yet proven and ready for use, though the developer of the system claims that it could be ready soon.
5. Our proof of evidence contained two alternative route options -- one following the A14 and the other running close to the old railway line but not using it. We cited two recent decisions which protected railway corridors -- the refusal of planning permission for office development at Olney on the Bedford-Northampton route after a public inquiry, and the reinstatement of reopening of the Uckfield-Lewes route into the regional transport strategy for South-East England because of the volume of representations received on this issue. (To our relief, we were not required to produce specific references to these decisions!)
9. We welcome the decision to provide a cycleway and footpath under Hills Road bridge, but this is likely to be a ``pinch point'' at peak times if people have to walk between their homes or employment in the Shaftesbury Road area and the rail station. The options should be either to give people direct access to the busway at Shaftesbury Road or to abandon this section (thereby allowing a greater width for the cycleway) and send Trumpington bound guided buses via Hills Road to Addenbrookes (which would also solve the problem of accommodating double deckers).
In addition, the walking distance between the rail station and Shaftesbury Road is likely to be sufficient to deter many potential users. Compare with the official target of placing new developments within 400 metres of a bus stop.
Before we leave the subject of the east-west rail link, we wish to ask all members to give priority to protesting to the Government about its apparently indefinite postponement, as evidenced by the report on the Milton Keynes & S Midlands sub-regional spatial strategy published on 26 Oct, which says that a Bedford-Cambridge rail link is to be ruled out before 2021.
Comments on this report should be sent to the Sustainable Communities Team, Government Office for the East Midlands, Belgrave Centre, Talbot St, Nottingham NG1 5GG, or emailed to <firstname.lastname@example.org>, by 23 Dec.
The following are among the points that can be made:
(a) There is already enough population and activity in the area to justify a rail link, and further development is envisaged in the medium term (e.g., in our own area, Northstowe).
(b) If road development runs ahead of rail development then a pattern of unsustainable car-based movements will have been established which will be difficult to shake.
(c) Road pricing is on the cards for well before 2021 (2016 is the latest Government target we've heard of), and it will be easier to introduce on the east-west corridor if there is a high quality public transport alternative.
(d) Unless something is done soon to identify and protect a route, the cost may escalate further, or the scheme may become virtually impossible. We have already explained how the guided busway will encroach on possible approach routes to Cambridge; consideration is also currently being given to a rowing like near Bedford which will encroach on the old route there, while the Government has given the go-ahead to new dual carriageways on both the A421 and A428 corridors without even considering the effect these would have on the economics of the parallel rail link sought by the London & S Midlands Multi-Modal Study (see Newsletter 85).
In view of (d) above, we ask whether the actual intent of current policy may not actually be to drop the rail scheme while pretending that it is still an option. At any rate, it is vitally important that members do not miss this opportunity to make representations on the issue. The change of policy on the Uckfield-Lewes line referred to earlier shows that such representations can have an effect.
Branch members and national supporters will find, enclosed with this newsletter, the notice for our AGM, which will be held at the Secretary's flat at 1 Fitzroy Lane at 10.30 on Sat 4 Dec. Sorry for the late compilation of this newsletter. 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 sent to members with subsequent newsletter(s). Also to be circulated will be the minutes of the 2003 AGM.
The AGM will be followed by an open discussion on any topics members wish to raise. This will break off at lunchtime so that members can attend the Railfuture meeting beginning at 2.00 in Little St Mary's Church hall, just off the north end of Trumpington St. Addressing this meeting will be Lord Berkeley of the Railfreight Group. (See below for information on joining Railfuture.)
Open discussion will be resumed at a further meeting on Sat 11 Dec at the same time and place (10.30, 1 Fitzroy Lane). Any members who can't attend either of the two meetings will be welcome to suggest topics to be discussed by those who are present.
Our discussion may include a motion. This had been circulated among our committee with the aim of submitting it as a motion to Transport 2000 nationally, but we were told that we could only do this if it has been agreed by our branch as a whole. Instead it is likely to be included among the agenda for the Transport 2000 national AGM (on 20 Nov) as a topic for discussion. Whether it is worth us discussing it will depend on what happens at the national AGM. The intended motion was as follows:
Transport 2000 calls on the Government to extend the scope of anti-discrimination legislation to encompass non-motorists, so that employers, service providers, and governmental bodies have a duty to facilitate access by and to avoid disadvantaging people using rail, bus or non-motorised transport.
There are still some members who haven't renewed for 2004-5. If you have received a renewal slip with this newsletter, 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 save the trouble of having to send another cheque next year -- an option now explicitly included in the form? We are unlikely to give any further reminders to members who do not respond to this call for renewal.
We welcome one new member: L. Curley of Sawtry, who has submitted a discussion paper which will be reproduced below.
This was the title of an article in issue 101 of Railwatch, the national newsletter of Railfuture. We reproduce the article (with minor edits) with permission. Unfortunately we don't have the facilities to reproduce the cartoon that came with the article, which asks why UK rail users aren't upset about the frequent and unpredictable changes of platforms.
Swiss cartoonist Andreas Gefe, a keen cyclist and rail traveller, was invited to London to give his artistic impression of Britain, while British cartoonist Martin Rowson went to Switzerland to look at the Alpine country's admirable railways.
It was the Swiss Ambassador Bruno Spinner's idea to highlight Swiss methods which he believes Britain would do well to adopt.
And when Swiss rail experts outlined their ideas at a special event in London in June, the audience of British rail experts agreed that Britain could and should copy the Taktfahren plan which provides for a ``clever pattern of timetabling'' designed to maximise connections.
It allows the Swiss railways to offer fast journey times but without ultra-high speed services. One expert described the Taktfahren as a heartbeat which all rail operators had to get in rhythm with.
Peter Vollmer, director of the Swiss Association of Public Transport, said its success was dependent on a multi-modal ticket which allowed easy transfer between rail operators and other modes too.
He also said that 2m people had national railcards -- which Railfuture and Transport 2000 want to see introduced into Britain. Rail investment was supported by a large proportion of the population. The people decide about the kind of transport at referenda and then the companies must make sure that their clients (the public) are happy.
Public transport use dropped in the 1960s when there was no investment in rail but only in roads, but now public transport use is growing, after investment since the 1980s.
Villages of more than 100 have a right to be served by public transport and all villages of more than 500 population usually have an hourly service. (This is the sort of target we could do with here -- Ed.)
The full Taktfahren system will be introduced on 12 Dec 2004, with 95% of the trains changing timetabling, and there will be 40% more trains.
Alps freight must go by train. The maximum number of lorry trips allowed is 650,000 per year, according to the Federal Constitution Article 84. This was introduced against the wishes of the Government and now the Swiss are in conflict with the EU which believes there should be ``free'' choice of transport.
Switzerland is building massive tunnels under the Alps to increase rail capacity. Mr Vollmer said building the Alps tunnels was a political decision. He was baffled by questions about feasibility studies and cost-benefit analysis. He said there was a simple assessment. Don't build the tunnels and there will be more traffic on the roads. A good transport system is good for quality of life and good for the economy. Economists now understand this.
One British expert said it would be too ambitious to try to introduce a Taktfahren for the whole of Britain, but it could perhaps be tested out in one area (East Anglia?).
Railfuture welcomes new members. Individual membership costs GBP 18. -- or come to the Railfuture East Anglia meeting in Cambridge on 4 Dec (see ``Branch News'' above).
We have included this article because some elements of its vision are right in line with our own aspirations: in particular the target service levels for communities highlighted above, and the importance attached to connectional facilities.
As an alternative vision we print the following article by member Larry Curley, who can be contacted at 01487 830803 or <larry @ xzc18.freeserve.co.uk>.
A solution to the UK traffic problems, with improvements to personal travel
Overcrowded roads, trains resembling sardine cans, pollution, traffic jams, trains that are rarely on time. People die, or are injured every day in public and private transport. The cost of bent metal is high. Stressed commuters. Exhausting journeys. Time is used for travelling that could be more usefully spent working or relaxing. What are the solutions? More roads? Invest huge sums in buses, trams and trains? Force people into public transport? Restrict travel by tolls? People sensors on vehicles -- crush zones -- expensive brakes -- special road surfaces?
Before we try to solve all these problems, let us start from a different tack. What do travellers want?
The travelling public does not want to use public transport. They do not want to stand, or sit, in a crowded compartment, or platform, or bus stop, full of dodgy looking characters, being stood upon, lent upon, and sneezed upon. They do not want to wend their way through someone else's snotty handkerchief or cigarette ends. People want to travel in their own compartment.
They do not want to drive their vehicles. During travel, people want to be able to sleep, read, work, watch television or play cards with the family. Humans are not very good at operating moving machinery -- hence all the accidents. Travellers do not want to be in constant battles with drunk or road rage drivers. In other words, people want their personal transport to be fully automatic.
Nobody likes parking. Parking is one of the banes of life. Will I be able to park? How close can I get to my destination? Do I have change? Will my car be stolen or broken into? Is this a dodgy area? Should I park & ride? It's raining -- how am I going to reach the car without spoiling my shopping? People want door to door travel without the problem of parking.
To sum up, travellers want: fully automatic personal transport, the deletion of public transport, and parking, and door to door travel.
We can have all these things now. Systems which will allow all this to happen have been reported on many times and in many countries. Recently, one of the systems has been proposed as an improvement to public transport in Cardiff. It is the pod system of transport. Unfortunately, pods in their many forms have been proposed mainly as an improvement to public transport. What planners have failed to grasp is that people do not want public transport. They have also failed to spot the potential of pods. Cars, trains, trams, buses, taxis can all be replaced with one system -- privately owned pods. In addition, this system uses little of the surface of the UK! The pod system uses the almost completely clear space 3-10 metres above the ground. The roads currently in existence will be more than adequate for the remaining commercial traffic. Also, the technology required for pod transport is mundane compared with the current technology used in cars, trains and buses.
The pod system proposed here is a people compartment running under a gantry. Its movements are completely controlled by external computers. Pods, like cars, will come in a variety of sizes (2, 4, or 6 seater for example) with a variety of options (television, air conditioning, internet access, hot drinks machine and so on). The pod runs equally well in either direction, thus simplifying gantry requirement. The only control the owners have is to tap in their destination on their hand held control units. The computers will know the position and required destination of each and every pod, and, controlling the pod's acceleration, braking, interaction with other pods and so on, will be able to optimize the time of journeys. All the travellers need do is alight at their destination. The pod is then sent off to a pod park where it awaits the call to go wherever the owner wishes to be picked up. The prime mover can be any of today's engines, but ideally, should be an electric motor fed from the national grid, as this would eliminate both nasty emissions, and the need for refuelling.
Pods require no head, side, brake or fog lights. No horns, mirrors or wipers are needed. No controls are necessary -- pedals, steering wheels or gear levers. Because external computers control the acceleration and braking of pods, things like crush zones, side impact bars, laminated glass, air bags and seat belts are redundant.
Automatic transport means that, travellers can read, sleep, watch television, study, or simply stare out of the windows. They can also work -- so that commuters, for example, can work on their PCs on their way both to and from work. The accident rate will be much reduced -- no more hormone controlled drivers -- no more drunks or road ragers in control -- no more falling asleep at the wheel (there will be no steering wheels!). Public transport will no longer be needed. Travellers without a pod will simply hire one from the local council or taxi firm. Note, that when this hired pod arrives, it will be theirs -- not half filled with strangers or a taxi driver.
The gantry consists of rolled steel joist sections set at 3+ metres above the ground. This height is necessary, because it satisfies two essential requirements. Firstly, how to remove the problem of automatically controlled vehicles knocking over pedestrians, and secondly, how to use the space above existing roads. The pod system is for people and light freight only. Medium and Heavy Goods Vehicles will still be necessary, and hence the current road system will remain. It will be sensible therefore to position most of the podways above existing roads. The gantry is technically interesting by virtue of the fact that it simply a lump. It will not have points as a railway line does: the pods will steer themselves through junctions by hugging the left or right wall of the gantry as appropriate. In addition, because the external computers are doing all the work (and know where every pod is all the time), the gantry will be required to do nothing more than support the pods and any cables that feed them. No traffic lights: no streetlights; no cat's eyes; no white lines; no direction or warning or instruction signs. As the pods operate at well above street level, there will obviously need to be pod stops on the roads to enable passengers to alight from the pods and descend to street level. However, remembering that one of the advantages is door to door travel, most of the pod stops will be associated with buildings. Shoppers will alight on the roofs of stores. Multi-storey buildings will have the first or second levels as pod stops. The main doors of new houses will move to the first floor and so on.
As the pods are controlled by computer, crashes will not happen. Pods will not require head or sidelights, indicators, brake or fog lights. Because there will be no sudden accelerations or decelerations, airbags, seat belts, crush zones, side impact bars and laminated glass, will all be unnecessary. No horns or rear view mirrors required. No steering wheels or foot and hand controls (other than radio, television and air conditioning controls). Pods will be much cheaper to manufacture than cars, and hence cost less to buy.
No skills are required in driving a pod; therefore, no licence will be required to operate them. In addition to being operable by people who can currently drive, the following will also be able to use pods safely: the blind, the disabled, the wheelchair bound, the inebriated, the young, the timid, the depressed, the manic, those too afraid to drive, and those who are fast asleep. There will no longer be any bad driving -- no breaking of speed limits, no more dangerous or careless driving -- no more drunk driving.
Because they are computer controlled, pod travel will be optimized. Pods will be able to travel much closer together than cars because they will brake, and accelerate, together in groups. Every traffic interaction at junctions will be optimized, eliminating hesitation, reckless joining of the flow, and bad timing. There will be no speed limits -- it will be safe to travel fast in built up areas. Because the gantry covers the pod tracks, weather will not affect travel. Hail, rain, snow or dense fog will not affect pod speeds. Journey times will be shorter. Pod parks will be much more densely packed than car parks -- nobody will be getting in or out of pods in a park -- and can be positioned in places that would be unsuitable for car parks -- for example over a bog or side street. In addition, because of the low masses of pods and gantries, pod parks can be easily and cheaply tiered.
The railways, buses and trams will no longer be needed. The roads, now empty of people travellers, will be able to cope easily with the extra freight that the trains carried. Some roads, which currently carry only light traffic, may be removed altogether. Larger trucks, and possibly truck trains, will be practical on roads, which will then be very spacious and jam free.
At first reading the scheme may seem grandiose, but the change from cars to pods will be far less technically radical than the move from horses to cars. Moreover, there will be far greater improvements to the standard of living than the horse to car move ever produced.
It should be emphasised that the above article does not represent Transport 2000 policy either nationally or locally; it is given here as a starting point for discussion, which will be kicked off by the following comments from the Coordinator. These comments should not be thought of as representing national or local Transport 2000 policy either.
There are two questions which need to be answered -- is the system feasible and is it desirable?
For the first, I have no reason to doubt the author's statement that the scheme is technically feasible. But that doesn't mean it's practical.
Can we really envisage a society that is unable to restore a rail link of 30 miles or so between Cambridge and Bedford building podways over our entire road network? Who will pay the construction costs? How much disruption will there be while the network is being constructed? How much will the system cost to operate? (The fares charged in what looks like the closest existing analogue of such a system -- cable cars in mountain areas -- do not suggest that travel would be cheap.)
For all the author's comparison of the transition to the new system with that from horsepower to motor power, the latter was done on an incremental basis. Cars were able to run on roads which had been built for horses. Railways were built on the basis that people would still use the roads to get to their local station. And so on. By contrast, the pod system would be completely new and could not easily complement existing modes of transport, so it is not easy to see how it would bring short-term payback before the network was large enough for people to feel able to give up using their cars.
Perhaps the best conclusion is that pod travel is a system for the next century rather than this one.
The author is on firmer ground when it comes to desirability. There are some disadvantages -- visual intrusion in the countryside and in historic urban areas for example -- but I think that most pedestrians and cyclists who now have to put up with incessant car traffic, and public transport users who feel like second class citizens, would agree with the author's last statement that the system would bring radical improvements in the quality of life. And, assuming the system performed satisfactorily, safety improvements would be a very important payback.
Even if our politicians don't take climate change issues seriously, we must. The system would presumably be better in terms of energy efficiency than a car-based system, but how would it compare with the kind of sustainable transport system organisations like Transport 2000 have been seeking? Could it be made fully sustainable? The answer to this would probably depend on the development of renewable electricity -- another reason why it may be a system for the 22nd century.
The other issue is capacity. Anyone who travels in Central London would probably find it hard to imagine a system of individual vehicles catering for the crowds who now throng areas like Oxford Street -- even if pods are smaller than cars. In fact it is for the very reason of capacity that local transport campaigners are dubious about the proposed Cardiff system.
Let me conclude by adding some remarks about how the system might be ``tweaked''. The idea of private ownership of vehicles seems pointless and unnecessary: why go to the trouble of having to extricate a particular vehicle from a pod park to bring to someone who needs to go somewhere, rather than use the nearest suitable one? Won't people need different sized vehicles at different times, e.g. a 2 seater when they are going alone or with their partner, and a 4 or 6 seater when they are with their family? And, of course, if vehicles are individually owned, far more will be needed than if people can just use the nearest suitable one.
Would it be a good idea to build podways along trunk corridors that were heavy enough to be usable by full sized containers? This would enable us to get rid of trunk haulage of heavy goods, almost certainly improving fuel efficiency over a road based system, while retaining the flexibility of local delivery by road.
I think that many of us do prefer to travel with others rather than alone -- some of the downsides referred to by the author sound like a caricature. Where cost or capacity is an issue, it would be especially appropriate to offer shared vehicles as an option enabling travellers to save money.
This is not intended to be the last word, and we would welcome any further comments members might have to make on this issue.
We haven't at the time of writing seen the new timetables that are planned to come in on 12 Dec. One major improvement in our area will be the new hourly service between Cambridge and Ipswich.
Other than this, it's all bad news from National Express Group, who control almost all our trains. They have refused our request to provide a bus link to Cambridge off the WAGN train at 22.22 Peterborough to Huntingdon now that the last Central train via Ely no longer provides an officially recognised connection off the 22.14 arrival at Peterborough from Leeds. Neither have they appeared to move from their policy which led to the on-time despatch of the 22.20 Ely to Cambridge (originating in Norwich) on Easter Monday even though the 22.08 arrival from Liverpool was just behind, and there was no other Cambridge bound train for 45 minutes, the next one arriving after all connecting buses to the city centre had long gone.
In addition, Central Trains imposed massive fare increases in September. The Government takes pity on polluting motorists when the rising cost of oil put a few pence on the price of petrol, and as a result abandoned their fuel duty increase, but pounds on rail fares appear to be of less significance than pence on petrol.
The main imposition was the abolition of day returns for journeys over 50 miles. They claimed that some trains were overcrowded, but this can't justify a blanket abolition which takes no account of whether there is crowding on a particular route (or the potential for alleviating such crowding by eliminating restrictions on early morning travel). For some journeys savings can be made by rebooking en route, but this is of little use for journeys from Cambridge because of the high fare to Peterborough (as far as one can go, but only 35 miles by road).
Travellers to the Midlands who have been using Silverlink trains have also lost out. The 09.09 train from Northampton has been retimed at 08.58, which means it is now too early to beat the 09.00 restriction on cheap day tickets to some destinations. Not that Cambridge people can get that train anyway given that the connecting bus gets into Northampton at 08.50, unless they are lucky with traffic. It may be possible to get that train by travelling via Milton Keynes, but there's only a 1 minute connection so it's hardly reliable. Silverlink/Central cheap fares have been abolished for destinations in Shropshire, also Kidderminster.
To add insult to injury, the Competition Commission overlooked all the above (despite representations we made) and decreed that the award of the London Eastern franchise to National Express Group does not present a real risk of monopoly exploitation! We suggest that monopoly exploitation isn't just a risk, it's an already established fact.
Oh yes, Stagecoach (without any publicity, of course) seem to have abolished through ticketing between Cambridge and Northampton. If one's doing a day trip, an Explorer is fine, but the cost of this leg for period trips will have gone up by about 50% if one can't get a through ticket.
The only chink of light comes from the new 24 hour coach service between London and Birmingham operated by National Express. Some journeys pick up at Golders Green. Unfortunately one can't easily get between Cambridge and Golders Green except on the much more expensive route via Stansted Airport, so use of this facility is essentially confined to people who have access to accommodation in London. (We have written to National Express suggesting that Cambridge should be linked to London by the A1 corridor via the A603, B1042, Wrestlingworth Croaaroads and Dunton, which would open up opportunities for an interchange at Golders Green or other North London stop. Under our proposals alternate journeys on the half hourly Stratford to Stansted Airport route would also be extended to Cambridge.)
We were among the list of consultees in Cambs CC's review of tendered services for April 2005. Here are their comments and our comments on their comments.
City Centre Shuttle: Change of route via Sidney St to provide better access to Sainsburys. Sorry, we couldn't work that one out. We believe that if the Council wants to save money it should replace this route with a Quality Contract diversion of the C1 via Trinity St and Kings Parade, providing a quicker route to the station etc., while not allowing any other buses to use this route to maintain a good pedestrian environment.
199 Newnham-City: Reduce from 2 days to 1 day a week. People live within the city boundary and can only go shopping once a week? What sort of service is that? We believe that a half hourly service should be a minimum standard for the whole of the city. In the short term there could be cost savings from interworking the route with other weekly services to Cambridge such as the Ivel Sprinter (Wed) and 334 (Fri).
X11 Cambridge-Newmarket, Sundays: We suggest that this be linked with Suffolk CC's 200 Newmarket-Thetford and would accept a reduction in frequency to 2 hourly to allow this.
111/122 Cambridge-Soham/Newmarket, evenings and Sundays: We call for the maintenance of an hourly evening service between Cambridge and Burwell. How about circular running via A1303 or A10 incorporating existing X11 or 19a?
129 Blackhorse Drove-Ely, Thur, 133 Ely city service, Mon/Thur, and 213 Ely-Bury, Wed: The suggestion is to merge these routes and run them one day a week, ignoring the fact that Ely and Bury markets are on different days. We suggest merging the 213 with the 292 (Ely-Lakenheath), and merging the 129 with the 115 to run circular Ely-Welney-Ten Mile Bank-Blackhorse Drove-Ely connecting at Ten Mile Bank with 37 to/from Downham Market and Kings Lynn, which could open up opportunities for services on their market days (Fridays and Tuesdays respectively).
400-9 West Hunts network: The suggestion is to replace these with community transport services, thus closing the area (which has many visitor attractions) off to non-residents entirely. Our longer term strategy for the area is that villages close to the A14 would be served from ``virtual stations'' on the A14 by means of an A14 Express (the Huntingdon-Kettering section of which has been promised in conjunction with the Alconbury development), and other villages by a demand responsive service linking with the above and also with other ``trunk'' routes at Sawtry and Oundle.
152 St Neots-Kimbolton-Bedford: The suggestion is to review this to link with Beds CC routes. Fine -- we suggest replacing it with a series of routes radiating from Kimbolton to St Neots, Huntingdon, Spaldwick, Brington Turn and Sharnbrook, also replacing the former postbus and connecting with the ``A14 Express'' (see above).
3 Papworth-Huntingdon: The Council quotes potential to link with the 414 and 465 to serve St Neots. We can't work out what that means. Our suggestion is for an hourly service from Cambridge (or Stansted Airport) via Cambourne to Peterborough linking existing routes 14 and 46.
465 St Neots-Southoe: The proposal is to maximise the commercial viability of the route. We believe that there is no hope of commercial viability as long as right turns to/from the A1 are impeded.
553-6 Cambridge-Huntingdon evening service: Again the proposal is to maximise the commercial viability. We believe that there is an urgent need for a bus from Huntingdon to Cambridge connecting with the 22.34 train arrival, on which rail tickets would be accepted, and which could interwork with the existing 151. (See Rail News above.)
8 Papworth-Cambridge and 9 serving local villages: Mergers of these two contracts is suggested, which is OK if all settlements continue to be served, but the suggestion is that they might not. Our suggested route is a one-way loop via Dry Drayton, Bar Hill, Lolworth (if required), Boxworth, Conington or Knapwell (if required), Elsworth, Cambourne and Highfields Turn, which would avoid problems of restricted access to/from the A14 at Lolworth. Cambridge passengers could change at Bar Hill or Cambourne. For Fen Drayton see below.
X14/436 Hinchingbrooke-Science Park/Somersham: The suggestion is that this be reviewed ``due to the current budgetary position''. The budget should not have been set yet, and transport needs should drive the budget, not vice versa. And it is surely madness to force Science Park commuters to quit their jobs now when the Council is planning a high frequency guided busway for the future. Our suggestion would be to support a diversion of Whippet 1A/5 via Fen Drayton and Histon Road, and Stagecoach 15 via Arbury Road, with these services connecting on Histon Road/Kings Hedges Road with a revised Cambridge City route 8 for the Science Park etc.
101 Whittlesford-Saffron Walden, Tue, and 139 Sawston-Royston, Wed: The suggestion is to merge these two services, ignoring the fact that they serve markets on different days. Our suggestion would be to provide a mainstream option for the 101 by interchange and through ticketing between the C7 and 32, and to interwork the 139 with the 31 to provide a 6 days/week service replacing former 146. If the 101 is interworked with anything it should be the Herts/Essex CC group of routes east of Royston.
118/9 Cambridge-Gamlingay and 14 Cambourne-St Neots section: The suggestion is to divert the former to Cambourne and St Neots. Fine, as long as villages south-west of Cambourne aren't neglected. Our suggestion would be for hourly buses Cambridge-Comberton-Cambourne and Cambridge-Cambourne-Gamlingay-Biggleswade. The 119 would be merged with Whippet 2 and 75 and Charter Travel 127 (Royston-Morden). The Cambourne-St Neots section could be served within the planned half hourly upgrade of route X5 (see below).
110 Histon-Ely, Thur: Again there is reference to the budgetary position. We would be satisfied with guaranteed connections and through ticketing between routes C7 and 106. If the 106 is being reviewed then Rampton journeys should extend to Willingham replacing former 157.
16/17 Cambridge-Haverhill/Newmarket: Suggestion is to use a more direct route and run feeders from the villages. This is OK in principle -- we suggest an hourly service Cambridge-Haverhill fed by the 46 group (see below).
46/47 and 901-4, serving villages south of Newmarket: The suggestion is for a more uniform timetable feeding the 16/17. But why not merge these services with Suffolk CC routes such as 225/6 Newmarket-Haverhill? It is also important to ensure that the 905 commercial Wednesday market service to Bury, which is interworked with this network, doesn't become uneconomic.
352/3 Peterborough Saturday rural services: ``The majority of the route is covered by other services'', but not Holme etc. which could be put on an improved Huntingdon/Sawtry to Peterborough service, especially in conjunction with the Alconbury development.
46 March-Kings Lynn: Already decided is that the section north of Wisbech is to be reduced to 2 hourly -- not too damaging as there's a frequent express service. A review of the March to Wisbech section is planned, but it should not be reduced to less than hourly, though this might include facilities provided by route 380 which runs via Friday Bridge. All buses should pass by March station.
60 Wisbech-Three Holes-Christchurch: Again a review is planned, but it is important to maintain the connection with the new 61 route between March and Downham Market, and an extension to railheads at Manea or Littleport should be considered.
X1 (formerly X94) Peterborough-Kings Lynn section, evenings: Service levels should be maintained with improved rail connections at Kings Lynn.
There are four main items of news relating to Cambridgshire (including Peterborough), affecting Cambridge City, Wisbech, the A428 corridor, and Peterborough City.
Cambridge: The withdrawal of former C4 and C5 with inadequate replacements to some sections has, rightly, caused a lot of consternation. The new network is C2 Chesterton-Addenbrookes via the City Centre and Birdwood Road; C3 Fison Rd-Cherry Hinton; and C5 Cambridge-Bar Hill. Also C8 is renumbered C4 (and a route change via Charles Babbage Road is imminent). 15 is a new route between Cambridge and St Ives which replaces the former 155 group; it no longer serves the Bar Hill perimeter road (see C5) but now runs between Longstanton and Willingham via Swavesey and Over, which has deprived Boxworth End and the section of the B1050 past Longstanton station of any service. Also gone is the Cottenham to Willingham section of the 157, though the rest is absorbed into the new 15 with improved frequency. Route 8 covers the ``bits'' of the former C4 and C5 (Fen Estate, Meadows, Coldhams Lane) but with shorter running hours. Cambridge City Council used to support evening services on some of these routes -- what has happened to this?
Our suggestion (see ``Bus Review'' section) would be to divert the 15 to serve Arbury Road and Whippet 1A/5 to serve Fen Drayton, Boxworth End and Histon Road; and to upgrade route 8 to run frequently during peak periods, and hourly off-peak, from Cambridge to Histon Road (connect 15 and 1A/5), Meadows, Science Park, Fen Estate and back to the City Centre, interworked with a hopefully improved service on the southern section.
Wisbech: A new route 61 has been introduced between March and Downham Market, connecting with some journeys on route 60 at Three Holes. This very welcome move opens up the possibility of visits to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Welney. The service is to see some cuts from next year, but one will still be able to leave Downham Market station at 10.13 or 12.10 returning at 13.31 or 15.52 (Sat), 15.57 (Mon-Fri), though there's a long wait at Three Holes on the last journeys. It's about 2 miles walk from Welney to the WWT centre. To/from Wisbech times are 10.05 or 12.05 changing at Three Holes and returning as above at 13.31 or 15.57 (no connection to Wisbech off the 15.52 on Saturdays).
Also welcome is the upgrade of the A47 express service (formerly X94, now X1) to half hourly, though the ``local'' service between Wisbech and Kings Lynn (route 46) is, as stated earlier, to be cut to 2 hourly.
There are also changes to the other ``village'' route to Kings Lynn (63) and to the town service (66).
A428 corridor: Route X5 to Oxford was rerouted through St Neots town centre and now makes many extra stops within Cambridge and between St Neots and Bedford, though it no longer serves Cambourne, nor its former stop at Caxton Gibbet. Route 14 which used to provide the ``local'' service between Cambridge and Bedford is cut back to St Neots. Generally the service is a bit more regular. There is still no stop in the vicinity of St Neots rail station: the nearest is at Longsands Road which is about half a mile from the station. And Cambridge station is still not served.
We have been told that Stagecoach plan to upgrade the X5 to half hourly from January, but no further details have been given. Our preferred model would be for alternate ``fast'' and ``slow'' journeys, the latter replacing the 14 between Cambourne and St Neots; instead the 14s from Cambridge to Cambourne would be extended to Peterborough and Biggleswade replacing existing 46 and 188 (see comments on routes 3 and 118/9 in ``Bus Review'' section).
Peterborough: The City Council introduced some new services in August; their original experimental period to October has been extended to December. Stagecoach 2 between Paston and the District Hospital runs half hourly in the evenings; Stagecoach 6 runs hourly in the midday period between Werrington and Edith Cavell Hospital; First Choice 6A operates in the evenings to Edith Cavell Hospital and Bretton; First Choice 15 runs hourly to Orton in the evenings via the Serpentine shopping centre; and First Choice 33 runs hourly between Dogsthorpe and Bretton.
There have also been some changes to rural services on the A47 corridor west of Peterborough. And an experimental Sunday service to Ramsey will be running until the end of Jan 2005, with buses leaving Ramsey on the even hours and Peterborough on the odd hours between 10.00 and 17.00. Note that this does not connect with route 330 between Huntingdon and Ramsey, which leaves Huntingdon on the even hours and Ramsey on the odd hours.
A few items of news outside the county boundary. Just beyond Cambridgeshire, there is now an hourly service between Haverhill and Bury (Burtons 344-6), but further cuts have been made in the already skeletal service between Haverhill and Braintree via Halstead. Further afield, new ``village'' routes have been introduced between Brackley in Northamptonshire and Banbury, supplementing direct service 500.
The 2004 season has now ended, but we provide some information about seasonal services which may help those planning trips next year.
Forest services: Open top tours have operated in the New Forest, the Forest of Dean, and the National Forest in Leicestershire. We only have details of the first of these, which offered several circuits a day between Lyndhurst and Lymington plus positioning workings to/from Eastleigh.
North-East: Sunday buses ran from the Blyth and Ashington areas, alternately on coastal and inland routes. There was also a Gateshead Tourist Bus serving attractions like the Bowes Railway, and the Black Grouse service to the North Pennines referred to in our last newsletter did run, though only during the summer school holidays.
Cheshire: In addition to the Gritstone and Sandstone Rambler bus services referred to in our last newsletter, there was a ``Big House Bus'' serving Arley Hall and other attractions. Tatton Park now seems to be served all year round by route 27 from Macclesfield.
Surrey: A Gardens Express ran from Esher to Claremont, Painshill and Wisley -- partly replacing former route 515 which linked Kingston with Guildford.
Wiltshire: We have had reports of a Sunday bus service between Bradford on Avon, Devizes and Pewsey, but no details are available.
South-West Wales: In addition to the coastal buses mentioned in the last newsletter, a community bus called the Preseli Green Dragon served a scenic route eastwards from Newport (Pembrokeshire).
Highlands & Islands A new ferry ran this year between Gairloch and Portree on Skye. Our information is that it was doing quite well when the boat suffered a mechanical defect which put it out of action, so it is likely to run again next year. Bus connections were provided to/from Inverness.
Shropshire: The rumour is that the Wenlock Wanderer and the Clun Forest Shuttle won't be running next year. It also seems unlikely that the Meres & Mosses Shuttle will be running, at least in the same form in which it ran this year. And the County Council are just about to pull the plug for 15-20 bus services in the county. We repeat our message in Newsletter 86 saying ``forget what we said last year about this being the place to go'' -- despite our partial recantation in Newsletter 87. One must also take into account the extra problems in getting there (see ``Rail News'').
1. Write to or email the Government Office for the East Midlands, in response to the Milton Keynes & South Midlands Sub-regional Study, concerning the need for a direct Cambridge-Bedford rail link, with work on identifying and protecting a route starting as soon as possible.
2. Come to our AGM and/or the meeting the following Saturday.
3. Renew your membership if you haven't done so yet.