Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 89, Apr 2005

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.


We apologise for the long interval from our Newsletter 88, but there have been a succession of stages at which we have been awaiting news about changes to Cambridgeshire bus services, changes to National Express coaches, various road schemes, the forthcoming general and county elections, etc. Now we can't afford to wait any longer or we'll miss the last.

Election periods are, at least theoretically, when ordinary people have the most power over the political process. Unfortunately politicians have managed to sidestep this by ignoring the issues they consider unimportant. But what could be more important than maintaining the viability of our ecosystem, with the implications this has for our transport policy?

So what can ordinary people do to assert their priorities? There are two things in particular.

(a) Make your concerns known to candidates and their representatives, whether during canvassing, at public meetings, or by contacting them yourselves.

(b) Use your vote intelligently. If in your seat (whether in the general or county council elections) there are two candidates in with a chance, don't waste your vote on a third candidate who has no chance if there is even a slight difference in the acceptability of the front-runners.

Meanwhile, we offer a baker's dozen of questions which might be put to candidates. We have put the answers to these questions in multiple choice form to show four different ideologies. From ``right'' to ``left'', these are:

A: ``Neo-cons'', exemplified by George W. Bush. Need one say more?

B: The ``politicians' compromise'', which is very close to the viewpoint of the present government. Politicians will say that if they try to be any ``greener'' they will be voted out.

C: The ``people's compromise'', represented by mainstream environmental campaign groups like Transport 2000 and Friends of the Earth. It represents what we feel politicians prepared to show strong leadership could successfully sell to the public.

D: ``Deep greens'', represented by thinkers like Dr Mayer Hillman, who is prepared to let his plea for ``carbon rationing'' go unheard rather than travel by air to promote it, and has also put a personal friendship at risk for the same reason.

We have tried to represent each view according to its own logic, but don't guarantee to have succeeded, and in some cases we may have degenerated into caricature because we simply can't understand the logic behind the relevant view. In some cases less than four options are offered because we believe that two of the above groups have views that are substantially identical. We hope that readers won't have too much difficulty in identifying which view corresponds with which group; our own viewpoint can be deduced by studying the notation we have used to distinguish the options.

How do the various political parties stand? We believe that the three main parties are all close to B, though Conservatives may veer to A on some issues, and the Lib Dems and those Labour politicians who identify less with ``New Labour'' may be closer to C. The Green Party should be between C and D. But individual candidates may have views which differ from the ``average'' of their parties, in which case do or don't support them according to those views, unless you feel that they would abandon these views at the drop of a hat for the sake of party unity.

All thirteen questions begin ``What do you think the Government should do about...? They are arranged so as to start with the most ``global'' and finish with the most ``local''.

Climate change.


Car ownership.

Rail organisation.

Rail network.

Road network.

Road user charges.

Bus organisation.

Rural bus networks.

The cost of travel.

Land use planning.

Urban walking and cycling.


We add a few notes.

(i) Anyone sceptical about climate change should read the book ``High Tide'' by Mark Lynas, reviewed below.

(iv) and (viii) These issues became even more relevant when it was revealed that the Treasury were insisting that the loss of receipts from road taxes should be viewed as a minus factor in assessing the benefits of schemes that aim to transfer people from cars to buses. The cost of fares for a given journey may be several times the cost of road taxes, but this goes to private operators rather than the taxpayers. (It is, however, true that except in the case of a commercial bus service the cost can be recovered the next time the service is tendered or franchised.)

(vi) The concept that road improvements attract traffic (``induced traffic'') was developed in the 1994 report of the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment (SACTRA). This was officially accepted by the Government, who soon after the 1997 election developed the concept of a ``targeted programme of improvements'' to tackle localised problems on the road network. This term is still used but the extent of the road programme makes it misleading to an Orwellian degree. And while the Government may officially accept SACTRA, the Highways Agency is still allowed to get away with claims that a given road scheme will not lead to significant induced traffic (this being the major issue in the case of the A428 dualling).

(vii) The second line of (p) shows one reason why the concept of road user charging hasn't taken off. Restricted to a congested area like Cambridge, it may well lead to an exodus of business and facilities to out of town locations, because of the comparative advantage it gives to the latter (though such an exodus seems to be happening anyway). That's one reason we favour an area-wide, or better region-wide, parking tax, which will give the comparative advantage to developers who choose sites that can be reached without a car.

(ix) In some areas all that's left of public transport is some kind of community bus that is only available to registered local residents (who may also be required to have some kind of disability). We regard this as the epitome of the ``welfare'' school, however good a service may be provided (and in any case unless it attracts visitors and people travelling through it's unlikely to achieve patronage levels which will make it efficient in environmental terms).

Book Review: Mark Lynas' High Tide

High Tide by Mark Lynas, 2nd edition, published by Harper Perennial, ISBN 0-00-713940-3, price GBP 7-99 paperback, 383 pages.

This book is a ``must read''. The author's world tour to research this book may, as he says, have used 20 years of his carbon ration, but it will have been worthwhile if it makes people understand that climate change is not a hypothetical problem for our remote descendants but a real problem for us now. During the tour he sees the effects of flooding in Britain, permafrost collapse in Alaska, sea level rise in Tuvalu, dust storms in China, hurricanes in America's North Atlantic coast, and glacier melting in Peru. He makes the links with the behavioral patterns of modern civilisation including car and air travel. The second edition concludes with a very interesting discussion between him and Mayer Hillman (whom we mentioned earlier) about the way forward for the world.


This is the next in our list of important issues for this newsletter. The long awaited unveiling of the Highways Agency plans for the A14 took place on 4 April 2005 with the opening of the first a series of exhibitions in Cambridge. However, these exhibitions were cancelled after the announcement of the General Election. (Parenthetically, we ask how we can have any faith in an organisation that seemed to be taken unawares by the announcement of the election.) We expect that the exhibitions will be rescheduled after the election, and will be aggrieved if there isn't a corresponding delay to the closing date for submissions of replies to the consultation. This would be good news because it increases the probability that the Inspector's report into the Cambs Guided Busway inquiry will be out by then, so that we will be able to take its conclusions, whatever they may be, into account.

However, the proposals themselves are far from good news. Unlike many people in the ``green transport'' movement, we are prepared to support road schemes where we feel that they offer commensurate benefits to non-motorists, and most of the Cambridge-Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study (CHUMMS) proposals were acceptable to us on this basis. Now we find that the Highways Agency has interpretated these proposals in such a way that almost all these benefits will be lost. To be specific:

(a) The Highways Agency proposals fail to provide any interchange between the new A14 and the A1198 where they cross (just south of the Wood Green animal shelter), so the only way from the Cambridge direction to Huntingdon will be by way of the old A14. This will limit the amount of traffic taken off this stretch -- and no doubt the Highways Agency will say that there is too much left for conversion of part of the formation of the old A14 for public transport use, as recommended by CHUMMS. This will also limit the relief to noise problems in Fenstanton.

(b) The only downgrading of the existing A14 that the Highways Agency are proposing is the replacement of the viaduct at Huntingdon, where the existing A14 crosses over Brampton Road (and the East Coast Main Line railway), by a flat crossing. Under such circumstances, will traffic continue to use this route, thereby perpetuating the noise and visual intrusion caused by traffic passing close to Fenstanton, Godmanchester, and Huntingdon?

(c) One advantage we sought from the Brampton Road flat crossing is to enable Town Bridge to be closed to cars, thus reducing traffic through Godmanchester, and providing a priority route for buses and bicycles. There is nothing about this in the Highways Agency proposals.

(d) The Highways Agency propose two one-way local roads, one each side of the A14, between Girton and Bar Hill, and between the Cambridge Service Station (the turn for Swavesey) and the place where the new and old A14 separate. This seems to be overkill. There will still be no way for eastbound buses to serve Cambridge Crematorium, unless the Highways Agency provide a bridge across the A14 at this point (and none is mentioned). The lack of a junction between the Girton and where the routes separate means that traffic for Cambridge Service Station will have to use the local road all the way.

(e) The remodelling of the Girton interchange offers an opportunity to create new slip roads between the A428 and M11, thus enabling traffic to avoid the A1303 which will become increasingly congested as a result of A428 widening (on which more below) and development on this corridor. Not only is this opportunity being missed, but the layout suggested by the Highways Agency seems to preclude an A428 to M11 slip road at a later date.

This is in addition to our concerns that widening the Cambridge Northern By-pass will flood the Cambridge local road network with traffic it can't cope with.

There is only one good thing we can say about the plans: west of the A14, the Highways Agency have routed the new road close to the A1 so that adverse impact on Brampton Wood Nature Reserve will be minimised. However, there is still no sign of the bridge needed to link the nearest regular bus route at Brampton West End with the bridleway starting the other side of the A1 (about a mile shorter than the best alternative route).

We should add that the Highways Agency leaflet also mentions an alternative scheme. This would involve rebuilding the Huntingdon viaduct so that this route could continue to carry traffic from Bar Hill to Alconbury (and beyond in both directions), while supplementing this route with a new dual 2 lane A14, on the same alignment as with the CHUMMS-based proposal, for Bar Hill to Ellington traffic. This would solve even fewer of the problems of the existing road network.

We plan to seek the following changes.

A: New busway between Girton and Godmanchester, supplementing the local road between Girton and Fen Drayton, and using one of the existing A14 carriageways beyond. This was one of our alternatives to the St Ives line guided busway. We are not specifying whether this route should be a guided busway.

B: New interchange between new A14 and A1198 to cater for traffic from the Cambridge direction to Huntingdon. West of this interchange we believe that dual 2 lanes would be adequate if traffic is not allowed to grow unreasonably.

C: If the St Ives line is reopened as CAST.IRON wants, then part of the existing A14 formation could be used to extend the line to Huntingdon station (indeed, this stretch used to be a railway). In any case, to save costs, we should know what we want to do before work starts on adapting the viaduct.

D: A single interchange should serve the old and new A14s, the parallel local roads, the feeder roads to/from Swavesey and Boxworth, and the access road to Cambridge Services.

E: The local road should be single carriageway all the way to Girton. If local traffic from Bar Hill, Northstowe etc. to Cambridge reaches the level where this is inadequate, then we're really in trouble! Any additional road capacity should be in the form of a busway.

F: The widening of the Cambridge Northern By-pass will swamp Cambridge with traffic, so it is essential to apply demand management to reduce traffic in this area to what the existing road layout can carry. However, we would not oppose the concept of an extra lane between Girton and Histon because of its potential for carrying buses to the Northern Fringe area (assuming that the guided busway doesn't go ahead).

G: The remodelling of the Girton interchange should include slip roads between the M11 and A428 in both directions. This should be supplemented by traffic management measures to ensure that through traffic uses this route rather than the A1303.

H: Measures such as closing Town Bridge (which links Huntingdon with Godmanchester) to cars should be applied to ensure that Godmanchester is relieved of through traffic when Brampton Road provides alternative access to to Huntingdon.

I: We would like to see the stretch of the existing A14 between Brampton Road, Huntingdon and the Spittals interchange closed, to ensure that traffic uses the new A14. This would help to avoid congestion in the Brampton Road area, and it would restore the environment of Views Common which has been spoilt by passing traffic.

J: We will also be making comments on the effects of the proposals on walking, cycling and riding routes in the area, including but not restricted to public rights of way, as well as how to make best use of the opportunity to provide real improvements.

The Highways Agency have provided a questionnaire as part of the consultation. We plan to answer ``yes'' to 6, ``throughout'' to 7, ``neutral'' to (a) in 10, ``strongly disapprove'' to the alternative proposal for (b), ``disapprove'' to the rest of (b)-(f), refer in the box below 10 to the covering letter we shall be sending which makes the points above, reply ``CHUMMS strategy'' to 11, and refer to the lack of information on walking, cycling and riding routes in our answer to 16. Readers of this newsletter may wish to answer in similar vein. {\bf We hope that you will take the trouble to answer -- this is a particularly important issue for our area,} especially now that the Highways Agency seems to have concentrated solely on the needs of motorists and lorry drivers. But, if possible, wait until the Inspector's Report into the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway comes out, as this may affect the comments you wish to make about the provision of a busway alongside the (existing) A14.

For those who can't visit the exhibitions at their rescheduled times, or pick up the Highways Agency leaflet or questionnaire, information about the scheme is obtainable at the Agency's website, or copies of the leaflet may be obtained by ringing 0870 1226 236 and quoting HA65/05.

Branch news.

Before we go on to news on other roads, we interpose a small amount of branch news.

Membership will soon be due for renewal for 2005-6. While we won't be sending renewal slips out until our next newsletter, we would be grateful if those members not already paid up could send, to the Coordinator at the address on page 1 of this newsletter, a cheque for GBP 3-50 (ordinary), GBP 2-50 (concessionary), or GBP 5 (household or affiliate), or double these amounts if you wish to renew for 2006-7 as well, plus an extra GBP 8 per year if you want Transport Retort sent to you.

Roadblock (see ``Other Roads News'' below) will be hosting a conference in Birmingham on 4 June between 09.30 and 17.00. For details ring 01803 847649.

Because of the length of this newsletter our annual report for 2004 will have to await our next newsletter.

The Coordinator has been attending meetings of the new Bedford Area Bus Users Society which has been set up. We are hoping that this may form the nucleus of an East-West Bus Users Group, covering the Cambridge-Bedford-Oxford/Northampton corridors, and also acting as a campaign group for the much needed rail link.

Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk had a stall at a Cambridge Friends of the Earth meeting on climate change in February. We didn't get rid of all the material we had picked up to give out, so we are sending some of the surplus out with this newsletter. This includes material about a new campaign group called Active Citizens Transform (with aims similar to that of the Real World Coalition which tried to get sustainability issues into the 2001 general election campaign), more on climate change, a leaflet about the Sustainable Communities Bill which is being pursued by some campaign groups, and a leaflet about the importance of local pubs. We don't have enough of these to send to all the recipients of this newsletter, so don't ask us for any if you don't get one sent to you.

Other roads news.

We now return to the topic of roads. Soon after our last newsletter, the Government said that implementation of the A428 dualling scheme was being delegated to regional level, which might mean that construction wouldn't start till perhaps 2008. Most local politicians were aghast, but we welcomed the news, as it would mean a stay of execution from the ``death by traffic'' which threatens Cambridge. (Though we were mystified as we had been under the impression that the contract for the work had already been awarded.) However, since then the Government has announced a new {\bf Community Infrastructure Fund} for delivering transport schemes (both road and rail) which would improve transport facilities in its Growth Areas, which include the M11 corridor and the Milton Keynes & South Midland sub-region, and the A428 dualling was one of the schemes covered by this.

However, the most valuable scheme of the lot, the East-West Rail Link, is still stalled. There have been reports that the Strategic Rail Authority is poised to abandon it altogether (along with most other progress in the region). There is still a very real danger that the best routes will have been preempted by the time anything gets done -- with both former routes west of Cambridge being vulnerable to the guided busway proposals, and the continuing threat of a rowing lake at Willington near Bedford, and the development of road-only proposals for the A428/A421 corridor where the London & South Midlands Multi-Modal Study recommended a combined rail/road route. Our preferred option remains what it was after that study was published: follow the St Ives line out of Cambridge, swing over to the A428 past Cambourne towards St Neots (with a north spur for passenger and freight trains from Cambridge to Huntingdon and beyond), then by a route based on the old Bedford-Sandy line to Bedford.

We also attended a workshop as part of the M11 Route Management Study. This was very useful, and led us to suggest the idea of combining the provision of a ``rest area'' for motorists and lorry drivers (which would be far less environmentally damaging than a full service area) with a public transport interchange which could be served by a local bus from Saffron Walden via Audley End station thus connecting into both motorway coaches and trains. Other possible interchange sites are Burton End (where the M11 crosses the Stansted Airport branch) and North Weald (where it crosses the former Central Line).

At the same time as this was going on, the Highways Agency have also been conducting an M1 Route Management Study. We suggested that the road layout in the vicinity of Milton Keynes Coachway should be modified to reduce the need for buses and cars to negotiate congested M1 Junction 14, and that the layout of the M1/M6/A14 junction should be modified to enable this to accommodate a Rugby Coachway, which could also be fed by rail if the Central Railway proposals for a piggy-back freight route (also available to passenger trains) go ahead.

Turning now to the ``anti'' side, Transport 2000 has been instrumental in the formation of a new national anti-roads alliance called Roadblock. One of its current campaigns relates to the Linslade Western By-pass which, like the A428 dualling, was approved despite of the likelihood of ``induced traffic'' and the failure to consider alternative public transport options. While the main damage attributable to the A428 will be increased congestion in an already strained area, the Linslade By-pass will impinge on higher quality countryside. For the Linslade By-pass campaign contact Victoria Harvey of South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth on 01525 385097.

Finally, in early 2003 a blizzard caused widespread disruption in our region. This led to the Government introducing a Road Traffic Act giving local authorities a responsibility to keep the roads clear for traffic -- and not only in emergency circumstances. Unfortunately, some local authorities appear to be using this as an excuse to prioritise motor vehicles over cyclists and pedestrians, rather than to introduce demand management so as to keep traffic levels down to what the system can handle.

More on the guided busway inquiry.

This report was written by our Secretary, Susan Jourdain, from her own perspective. Anyone have any comments?

One or more members of Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk have attended most of the sessions which concerned transportation in any way (excepting noise & vibration and biology). With writing and discussing the Group's submissions and questions, this has involved many hours of work for Simon Norton, Susan Jourdain and Alan Quick. Newsletter 88 indicates some of the many ideas considered by us, and there now follows a report of the Inquiry as a whole.

The Inquiry was set up because there were some 3,300 objections, including Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk who submitted an initial plea to preserve the route for an east-west rail link. We also had some disquiet over the unnecessary waste of resources on such items as air conditioning on the buses and the economics of the evening buses which are a vital part of the scheme. It is clear that the County Council chose the disused railtrack because it was straight, easy and had one cooperative landowner for most of the route. The major additional benefit of the project is that the necessary maintenance track may double up as a cycle track.

CAST.IRON fronted the pro heavy rail thoughts and several Residents' Associations detailed the problems of the road running sections. Histon & Impington took up the subject of noise as they will suffer without any great benefit. The Wildlife Trust fronted the protection of plants and invertebrates for which the disused rail line is an important corricor, with Julia Napier fighting for Over Cutting.

The Inquiry started with a statement by the County Council and several of the above bodies, based on quite detailed plans which were available for a few weeks before, but too many words for any one person to read. The guideway consists of two parts: St Ives to Milton Road (north Cambridge) and across the fields between Cambridge station, Trumpington and Addenbrookes. One of the conflicts which has been made manifest by the objections and rebuttals is between the continuous track and access across it for people. If the guideway is really 180mm high, it seems unlikely to be safe to carry one's bicycle across it to reach the wonderful cycle path.

A further basic problem arising from the use of a disused rail track is the distance from housing -- more than 1km from most of the villagers who should be able to benefit from the new link from the rural area to the Northern Fringe with its employment and educational facilities.

CAST.IRON were given a whole week and made some very good points of wider interest, including the likely denial of an east-west rail link and a freight link from the east coast ports to a freight depot at Alconbury. They even suggested a compromise, Bladerunner Bus, which could be used if heavy rail was impossible. There are problems in that this rail track has many level crossings including the only used entrance to Cambridge Regional College, and it is extremely difficult to cross or join the existing main line. Rail developments still take 15 years while the Government will be requiring housing to go up in 5 years. The new bridge may take a light rail vehicle and the guided bus may pull a freight trailer from the proposed new station north of Cambridge to St Ives and (with a bridge over the East Coast Main Line) Alconbury, but not a 9ft 6in container.

The Butterfly Conservation Group have pointed out the great value of the south facing bank at Over Cutting and the Wildlife Trust emphasise the benefits of the corridor for many creatures. A bus could be diverted a few metres for some of these but a train couldn't. The housing developments are also going to cause a lot of pollution along this track but that wasn't part of this inquiry.

Residents who bought homes in a rural setting are, of course, fighting the noise and traffic queues at level crossings. The County Council haven't mentioned the benefits of moving buses, with good responsive signals, over cars stationary behind a bus at a bus stop, but then one is for them and the other is for us. Hartford (Huntingdon) said ``if this is such a good thing why can't we have one?''.

There is a big plan for bus stops in the City Centre due to the prediction of 40% more buses (including the guided buses) which is causing problems of its own. Passenger numbers for the southern section of the guideway are falsely based on morning peak travel instead of the afternoon visitors to Addenbrookes. There is some doubt about the prediction that 500+ people who want to go to the City in the morning peak will actually find a job to go to as most work developments are outside. The passenger predictions for the guided bus were clearly made by a non-Cambridge person and have lumped together both routes into the City, including traffic for other developments.

The main benefit of a guided busway is the narrower track required (6m) but this has got lost in all the conflicting requests. Because it is on railway land, a paved escape path is required (in case the bus catches fire!), so the County Council have planned in a margin between the tracks. At the narrowest point, by the Rail Station, Network Rail require a vehicular crossing over the route, so the bus will be off guideway.

The profile of the guideway track is robust in the extreme, providing problems for anything trying to cross it and unnecessary environmental damage during construction. The vertical clearance is 180mm high (double the height of the guidewheel) making bends a problem. It is 200mm thick where there should be zero pressure most of the time and the concrete will be backed by soil anyway unless it is laid directly on the existing sleepers. The only good news is that the space under the bus will be the right width to lay foundations for a railway if and when that may replace the bus. We have asked for LED lights at rural stations but the Cycling Campaign want full lighting to reduce the glare from oncoming bus headlights...

The County Council have determined that the cutting sides are unsafe and propose major works to reconstruct them or build a wall. It seems to me that the wall will obscure warning signs and a brick falling would be worse than a few pebbles. Even rural stops will be modern perspex and lit to stop vandals, and be a death trap to birds. I think it unlikely that vandals will bother to walk 1km and there is no one but the bus driver to see them if the lights are on. Better to have a movement detector so that the bus driver knows that there is someone waiting, and the light inside a ``garden shed''.

When is a cycle lane not a cycle lane?

The following article, written by our new Cycling Representative Jim Chisholm, is taken from Newsletter 58 (Feb/Mar 2005) of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign.

For a number of years, Cambridge Cycling Campaign has had concerns over the lack of compliance by motorists of the regulations regarding cycle lanes delineated by a solid line. The Highway Code says in rule 119: ``Cycle Lanes: ...You must not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid line during its times of operation.''

The law, in the form of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, gives extremely few exceptions for this rule regarding Mandatory Cycle Lanes (MCLs).

Many drivers seem to enter Mandatory Cycle Lanes even when cyclists are present.

Abuse by motorists of these lanes seriously degrades the provision for cyclists. MCLs are often used at just the locations where cyclists might be squeezed by motor vehicles, or obstructed by queuing traffic. Drivers illegally entering these lanes often do so without even checking for cyclists and, even where they do check first, cyclists are often travelling faster than the queues of vehicles and may be approaching in their worst blind spot. It is for these very reasons that MCLs are used at such locations to supposedly make life safer for cyclists.

I'd become disillusioned over the attitude of the police to these regulations, having met several officers who told me that driving in such MCLs was not an offence. I've talked to several cyclists who were learning to drive and were told by their driving instructors that there were many occasions when entering such lanes was acceptable. When I met some driving instructors in Cambridge, I took up this point and was surprised by their opinions. One even told me: ``If a learner driver was following a car which stopped to turn right, and the only way past was to enter a mandatory cycle lane (which was clear of cyclists), if the learner failed to enter the lane, they would risk failing their test due to unnecessarily impeding following traffic.''

Another told me that: ``As with Highway Code rule 108 regarding double white lines, you may cross the line to pass a stationary vehicle or one moving at less than 10mph.''

Initial contact with the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), which is the government body responsible for driving tests and the standards of driving instructors, gave inconclusive results, but I had further contact with driving instructors who insisted that my interpretation of the rule in the Highway Code was too strict and that entering MCLs in normal driving was acceptable.

Following an incident with a motor vehicle in such a lane -- when, even with a witness, the police were extremely reluctant to take action -- I took the problems to officers in the County Council. They supported my view, and hence were surprised when they extracted from the DSA the following quote: ``Although it is technically illegal for a car to drive in a mandatory cycle lane this would be tolerated (and indeed expected) in a driving test if this was required for cars to make satisfactory progress. However, the onus is clearly on the driver to ensure that it is safe to carry out such a manoeuvre. If the driver encroaches on a mandatory cycle lane and in doing so, impedes the progress of a cyclist or has an adverse effect on the cyclist's safety, the driver would fail his test.''

This seemed to support the view that in ``normal'' driving it is ``expected'' that a motorist may enter a mandatory lane to make ``satisfactory progress'', and it is easy to see how the driving instructors and police get their liberal interpretation of the law.

Not being easily defeated, I asked the opinion of RoSPA, the CTC and the National Cycling Strategy Board regarding the above quote. Their response, and that of a barrister in the London Cycling Campaign, encouraged us to write to the Transport Minister responsible for the DSA for further clarification. That letter is available on the following web page: $$\langle{\rm}\rangle.$$ We have since received replies from both the Department for Transport, which supported our view of the law, and one from the Assistant Chief Driving Examiner at the DSA giving a far more explicit version of the above ruling. The crucial sections of this letter state the following.

In the DSA publication ``Driving -- The Essential Skills'', the advice given to drivers about cycle lanes states: ``Don't drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its hours of operation shown on the signs. If the cycle lane is marked by a broken line, don't drive or park unless it is unavoidable.'' This advice will be given to anyone enquiring about the use of motor lanes by motor vehicles.'' And: ``Driving in, or encroaching into, cycle lanes on a driving test is not normally acceptable. However, because the driving test takes place in ``live'' road and traffic conditions, it is not possible to say that it is never acceptable for a candidate on test to encroach into a cycle lane. The candidate may have to deal with unusual situations -- perhaps with the aftermath of an accident, roadworks, vehicle breakdown or burst water main etc. It is in these situations that will possibly require vehicles to take an alternative course of action to keep traffic flowing, this may mean encroaching on a cycle lane. This does not mean that cyclists are to be ignored, or that drivers have priority. In these unusual situations the onus is on the driver to ensure their actions are safe and that cyclists, or any other road users, are not adversely affected.''

This clearly shows that the current attitude of many police officers and driving instructors regarding MCLs is contrary to the law and the guidance of the Driving Standards Agency. Motor vehicles should not be entering them under ``normal'' conditions, but only under conditions that are ``unusual''.

We will be working with the authorities to ensure that those in responsible positions are made aware of this more exact DSA guidance, and that some methods of educating motor vehicle drivers on this issue are pursued.

We are, at the time of going to press, still awaiting a reply to a letter on this same issue written in early December to the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

This is more than a local issue; it has national importance. There seems little point in having the new national guidance regarding mandatory cycle lanes, which is expected this year (revised Cycle Friendly Infrastructure and Local Transport Notes on cycling), without higher levels of compliance by motorists to existing regulations. We cannot get this until at the very least driving instructors teach learners correctly, and police on the beat understand the regulations.

Rail News.

Quite a few items this time.

1. The most worrying news is that much of the Government's Railways Act seems preoccupied with ways of making it easier to close stations and lines. Campaign groups including Transport 2000 lobbied vigorously about this while it was going through parliament.

2. Some time ago Central Trains posted a notice at Ely saying that they would not accept Network Railcard discounted tickets for travel to Stansted Airport. Central Trains say that they are not part of the railcard scheme (though as a subsidiary of National Express Group they are a sister company of many that are, including WAGN and ``one'' who also run on the same corridor). This is certainly true, but they did certainly formerly accept such railcard discounted tickets ``unofficially''. Apparently they no longer do, and this also applies to intermediate journeys on this route.

The good news, however, is that they will be joining the scheme from 12 June, after which such tickets will be valid. They have already been made valid (from January) between Northampton and Long Buckby, which was transferred from Silverlink (another NEG subsidiary) to Central Trains in September.

3. ``One'' recast most of the East Anglian timetables from December, which included the long awaited upgrade of the Cambridge-Ipswich service to hourly. (This has, however, resulted in an earlier last train from Ipswich.) Another worthwhile advantage is that connections between the Stansted-Colchester coach service towards Clacton, Walton and Harwich are much better (in both directions). Network Railcard holders can get discounts on the through fare from Cambridge by this route, which makes it a good buy -- at least if one can get from Cambridge to Stansted Airport (see 2 above and 4 below).

4. ``One'' has also published its proposed timetables from December 2005 for the West Anglia route. As expected this includes the reopening of the Tottenham to Stratford line, which will have an hourly stopping service to Stansted Airport. Connections between Cambridge and Stansted Airport via Stansted Mountfitchet will be better than they are now, but still very bad, requiring more waiting time there than travel time on both trains put together. We have written to ``one'' asking whether they would be prepared to provide an ``easement'' allowing passengers to change at Bishops Stortford instead (WAGN, when they operated this route, refused to do this for journeys from Cambridge, though they did for journeys from Ely).

5. The news about the loss of day returns on Central Trains wasn't as bad as we thought. Apparently they are still available for journeys such as {\bf Cambridge to Lincoln.} And though the fare between Birmingham and Shrewsbury has rocketed, one can still buy a day return from Birmingham to Gobowen (the next station beyond) at the old rate which is significantly cheaper, because this journey is priced by Arriva rather than Central Trains.

6. WAGN is the first rail operator in the Network South-East area to abolish Network Awaybreaks (5 day returns), leaving only the higher priced Saver for people not coming back the same day. This applies to all journeys from Cambridge (and other stations on the Kings Lynn and Huntingdon to London routes) except to a very few stations, even journeys from Cambridge made via Liverpool St and therefore not using WAGN trains. However, Network Awaybreaks are still available from Shelford and other stations on the West Anglia line.

7. The Strategic Rail Authority has come up with new proposals for what it calls the Kent Integrated Franchise. Under these proposals several stations will close or be confined to a few trains per day, but most of those for which this treatment was originally proposed have been reprieved. But this still looks like a case of the SRA using the old ploy of putting forward a scheme that would arouse widespread fury in the hope that the less draconian proposals it ended up with would be seen as acceptable by comparison. This may provide a testbed for the new closure procedures mentioned in 1 above.

8. As part of the West Coast Main Line upgrade project, Network Rail demolished footbridges at Norton Bridge and Polesworth stations. The platforms at the former (which is close to Izaak Walton's Cottage museum) are now inaccessible, and will remain so unless a new footbridge is provided. At Polesworth things are better: one platform is accessible, and the other could become so if a footpath was provided from the main road on that side. The question is whether this will be used as an excuse to maintain indefinitely the bus replacements that currently serve the relevant lines, or, worse, to close the stations entirely.

For the Norton Bridge route, the SRA has come up with the idea of closing all the intermediate stations between Stafford and Stoke on Trent, including Stone, a significant sized town that is a centre for canal boating, and Wedgwood, which has a pottery museum. Currently all of these stations (plus Barlaston) are served solely by replacement buses.

Coach News.

National Express have been severely remiss in publishing timetable leaflets. At the time of writing, over a month after the 2005 timetables came in, we have still seen no leaflet for the Cambridge-London service showing all the intermediate stops, nor have we seen the full book in Cambridge or any other public library.

There are only three changes of which we are aware. The diversion of the Northampton to Gatwick service via Bedford, which we reported last year, has been reversed, allegedly owing to traffic congestion in Bedford. Cambridge to London coaches now stop at the Tower of London at weekends (only). And night coaches between Cambridge and Gatwick stop at Honey Lane in Waltham Abbey. (A stop at nearby Waltham Cross would be much more valuable as this has a half hourly service on London's all night bus network.)

Finally, National Express have abolished their Advantage 50 Coachcard. Cards already issued will still be valid until they expire, but they won't be renewed. They didn't even bother to inform people of this in advance so that they could renew their cards to get validity until autumn 2007, but left us to find this out when we asked about renewing our cards.

Cambs Bus News.

Cambridgeshire County Council has cut its budget for bus revenue support. {\bf Please try to make this an issue in the county council elections} -- see (ix) in the list of questions at the head of this newsletter for an issue on which county council candidates could be asked to give their views.

It was originally intended to introduce the new timetables in April, but this has been postponed to July. The only changes that were made in April were operator changes to the 400-9 West Hunts network (Huntingdon & District), 139 Royston market bus (ditto), and 199 Newnham local service (Meridian Coaches). Two other services, the 356-7 March town bus and the Cambridge City Shuttle, were retendered to the same operator.

We have seen the preliminary timetables planned for the B1046 corridor. This will continue to provide an hourly service from Cambridge to Bourn, thence extending to Cambourne and St Neots, between them running alternately via Eltisley and Gamlingay, replacing existing 14 (Cambourne-St Neots section), and 461. This will mean more buses between Cambridge and Gamlingay -- we hope that decent connections and through ticketing will be provided to/from Potton and Biggleswade. But there will be fewer direct buses between Cambourne and St Neots, and longer journey times for many journeys. Most worrying is that route 119 via the Eversdens will disappear altogether except for a school-time journey -- we hope that the Council takes heed of our plea that this is inadequate.

Citi route 4, the University sponsored route between Madingley Road Park & Ride and Addenbrookes, has been reduced to every 20 minutes except in the middle of the day when it remains every 15 minutes. This is allegedly to improve reliability.

There have been minor timing changes to the X4 and X1, which link Peterborough with Northampton and Lowestoft respectively. Also Sunday services 9A/B from Peterborough have been recast to include Uppingham (good news) at the expense of Edith Weston (bad news, as this is the southern end of the boat trip from Whitwell). There is still no sign of onward links beyond Uppingham and Oakham to Leicester and Nottingham, both of which run hourly on weekdays.

The experimental Sunday service 331 between Ramsey and Peterborough has been withdrawn.

Bedfordshire CC has introduced a new hourly demand responsive service ND2, replacing route 153 between Bedford and Pertenhall, with some journeys running to/from Kimbolton (it's not clear which). For details ring 0845 601 6164. There's also an ND1 which runs between hourly on a loop route between Bedford and Wilden, serving the butterfly farm at the latter. No need to book on this one -- and they both go from stop X at the north end of Harpur St (route ND1 can also be picked up at Goldington Green).

There have been minor timing changes on Herts CC supported routes that serve the extreme south of Cambridgeshire (e.g. Gt Chishill).

We've left the most important change to the end. From January the frequency of route X5 between Cambridge and Oxford was increased to half hourly. There's an extra stop added on Banbury Road, Oxford (as a result of which the bus uses this route instead of Woodstock Road). The timetable is much more regular and we suspect that most of the reliability problems have been solved.

However, this has been at the expense of increasing journey times (Cambridge to Oxford bus station is now 3hr 25min) and jeopardising some connections. Buses now sit around for much longer awaiting their departure time. First departures from Cambridge are 05.30 and 06.30 (10 minutes later on Saturdays); the latter just misses the 07.40 Bedford to Northampton, though this might be made in practice. Coming back, the last bus from Oxford is at 19.30, missing the train from Worcester that arrives at 19.30 and the bus from Swindon arriving 19.41.

But it's still very good value for a long day trip, as one can use an Explorer all the way for just GBP 5-99.

Finally, a national issue that is also relevant locally. The Government announced in its Budget that pensioners would get free off-peak local bus travel from spring 2006. It is still not clear what this means, and we fear it isn't as good as it sounds. What we would like to see is country-wide, or at least region-wide, free travel, as is already possible in Wales. Even country-wide extension of the current half fare arrangements would be a boon.

Other bus news.

Here are some snippets from around the country.

Herts: The 327 and 382 Sunday leisure services will be running again this year. The former tours the Chilterns from Hemel Hempstead from the beginning of May, the latter serves Shaw's Corner and Knebworth House from St Albans and Stevenage.

Leics: We understand that a series of open top tours of the county is to run this year but don't have any details.

Norfolk: Many services around Kings Lynn were cut at the end of last year.

Kent: Following the completion of the repair of the railway tunnel at Strood, where Ensignbus provided replacement buses which interworked with a new Dartford Crossing service, the latter has been revamped but continues to run, now half hourly between Lakeside Shopping Centre and Gravesend (via Bluewater shopping centre).

Shropshire: Weekend shuttles and many other rural routes have been severely cut.

North Yorkshire: Networks in the Moors and Dales will run again this year, with both pluses and minuses from last year. One of the minuses is the withdrawal of route 60 between Otley, Kettlesing Head interchange (with service X59 between Skipton and Harrogate, which continues to run), Pateley Bridge, and, on Saturdays, How Stean Gorge.

Staffordshire: The Chase Hopper will run again this year, this time also serving Cannock and Rugeley, which join Hednesford as possible railheads for a visit to the main attraction of the area, Shugborough Hall.

Oxfordshire: A new taxibus links Lewknor Interchange (on the Oxford Tube route between Oxford and London) with Chinnor and Watlington, though only on Mondays to Fridays.

Derbyshire: The Peak District network continues to run, with few changes.

Powys: Minibus tours continue to link Llanwrtyd Wells, on the Heart of Wales line, with the surrounding countryside on certain dates. Details can be obtained by visiting the web page <> or ringing 01591 610828.

Norfolk: Again there is a packed programme of special events on the Broads.

Lancashire: The award winning Bowland Transit service appears to be under threat from mid May due to funding problems. To exacerbate the irony this comes just after much of the countryside it serves was opened up by means of the Countryside & Rights of Way Act. For details of Bowland Transit ring Lancashire County Council on 01772 533338. For current information consult Traveline North-West (linked from our own site, see page 1 for its URL).

Suffolk. Among the initiatives introduced by this county to improve bus services is a route 341 between Haverhill and Great Bradley. We believe that this could usefully be linked with Cambs CC routes to provide an improved service through to Newmarket (and from Cambs villages to Haverhill).

We hope to have more news on opportunities for visiting the countryside in our next newsletter.

Action Line.

  1. Make candidates in the general and county council elections aware of your concerns, and use your vote intelligently.
  2. Reply to the A14 consultation.