Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 90, Aug 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.


On 7 July London was hit by four terrorist bombs. The number of deaths and injuries caused was about equivalent to a few days on the roads, so whatever your gut feelings this isn't a reason to shun Central London in favour of destinations which can be reached by car. But the disruption to the transport system caused by the attacks was greater than has been seen in London for decades.

Despite one tragic mishap the police have been mostly successful in tracing the bombers. But who paid for the bombs? Here's a chain of reasoning.

Terrorist attacks, to be successful, need extensive planning which costs a lot of money. Where does this money come from?

In the first instance, the answer to this question seems to be ``Al Qaeda''. But where do they get their money from? The film ``Fahrenheit 911'', or one of the books with same theme, suggests that Al Qaeda was financed by top Saudis, presumably out of the oil wealth that dominates their one-product economy.

Some people may ask why top Saudis should finance a movement that seeks to overthrow their government and replace it with a fundamentalist regime. The answer can be seen on page 121 of the book ``Modern Jihad'' by Loretta Napoleoni, which was recommended to the Coordinator by the office of a leading journalist and which is in Cambridge University Library. It is suggested that the money paid by the Saudis is essentially protection money, aimed to steer Al Qaeda attacks away from their own country.

So Saudis are essentially paying Al Qaeda to bomb their own customers (the US in 2001 and the UK in 2005, among others), and the US feels so dependent on the goodwill of the Saudis for their lifeblood, sorry oil, that, according to Fahrenheit 911, they are turning a blind eye to their complicity.

Every time world oil prices go up the Saudis get more money which Al Qaeda can tap. What makes world oil prices go up? This happens when demand is growing faster than supply. So all those who are ignoring the need for fuel efficiency in our transport system and other sectors of our economy are not only increasing the risk of global warming (see the review of ``High Tide'' in our last newsletter) but contributing directly to the shadow of death, injury and disruption which many Londoners and others now feel.

Many people have made statements of defiance, that they won't allow terrorism to disrupt their way of life. But others are no doubt curtailing visits to Central London, or switching away from public transport. There have been reports of greatly increased sales of bicycles due to the crisis. Probably people who have switched to bikes will suffer an increased risk of death or injury by traffic than if they had stayed on public transport and run the risk of terrorism, but this is likely to be outweighed by the benefit to their health. So this may seem like not too bad news.

But will they stay on their bikes? Or will they switch to cars as soon as they can ensure they have somewhere to park outside the congestion charging zone -- and look for a job outside Central London if necessary? Will those who now go on shopping trips to London by train switch to driving to Bluewater or wherever? If so, then that means more use of oil, and, perhaps, more money for more bombers.

However, the biggest culprit in the UK is probably the Government. Just before the bombings, they announced that they wouldn't implement their planned increase in fuel tax because of the rise on world prices. Indeed, fuel tax has been frozen for several years, not even going up in line with inflation. Even though the fuel tax escalator was in existence between 1997 and 2000, since 1997 motoring costs have fallen in real terms by 6%, while rail and bus fares have increased by 7% and 16% respectively. (And yet the Strategic Rail Authority took the side of the train operators when they complained about the regulatory regime aimed at keeping fares at affordable levels.)

Our government also refuses to implement demand management for air travel, even though many air journeys could be done more fuel-efficiently by train. (And even more could be done this way if this country had a proper network of overnight international trains.)

Of course, we are far from the worst offender. That accolade belongs to the US, which has a lot of people who use a lot of oil -- especially to run their vehicles. Countries such as Canada and Australia also use a lot of oil per person, but the total is less because these countries have many fewer people. Contrariwise China, with its huge population, is now the second largest country in terms of oil use, even though the Chinese have a long way to go before they reach European, let alone American, levels of extravagance.

Incidentally, there's another reason why we need to move towards eking out our supply of oil. Higher world prices will disrupt the world economy by sucking money out. (Note that if petrol prices go up due to an increase in domestic taxation, that doesn't matter in these terms as the money will be respent within our economy.) Does the world really value the ability to move in individual vehicles so much that it is prepared to risk the prosperity if the world economy, as well as the world climate and the possibility that the money we pay for our fuel will go towards terrorising us? If so, our future is bleak.

Branch News.

We apologise for the long interval since the last newsletter. We planned to await the outcome of the bus review referred to in our last newsletter. But this seems to have been shelved, probably till next year. Good news for the people of villages like Eversden who stood to lose out, but not so good for Gamlingay people who are still awaiting their improved service to Cambridge.

Those who looked through the ``election questions'' in our newsletter, and gave the same answers as we did, would have found that the letters and numbers given to the questions would have spelt, in order, ``Transport 2000''. (Note that the letters and numbers are not shown in the online version of the newsletter.)

Subscriptions for 2005-6 are now due. If a renewal form is enclosed with your copy of this newsletter, that means that you have a subscription due. The rates are still unchanged -- GBP 3-50 ordinary, GBP 2-50 concessionary, and GBP 5 household or affiliate. If you don't renew, the next newsletter may be the last you get.

A14 and A428 corridors: Following on from our last newsletter, our response to the A14 consultation included a complaint that the closing date for replies wasn't put back to reflect the cancellation of the previously advertised exhibitions after the general election announcement -- as well as the failure of the Highways Agency to warn people that the exhibitions would be cancelled if an election was called (as everyone was expecting). We also complained that when the exhibitions were rescheduled all the sites were outside Cambridge, so that most of the Cambridge people likely to attend them would have been those prepared to drive, who would naturally be more favourably disposed towards a road oriented solution. Convenient, eh?

We had hoped that if the closing date for responses was put back there might be more chance of incorporating the findings of the Guided Busway inquiry, but though these have now been sent by the Inspector to the Government they're still not available to the public. A member of CAST.IRON is asking to see them using Freedom of Information legislation -- and it may be important that we have access to them because Gallaghers have recently submitted a planning application for the proposed new town at Northstowe which is dependent on the scheme.

Freedom of Information was also used by a (Lib Dem) Cambridgeshire County Councillor to elicit the information that the Highways Agency were expecting the A14 scheme to lead directly to more traffic entering Cambridge via Huntingdon Road. This may seem obvious, but the Highways Agency refused to admit to a similar increase resulting from the A428 dualling.

Preliminary work on the A428 now seems to have started, so probably the generous timings on the X5 bus route between Cambridge and Bedford will no longer result in early arrivals. (This may, for example, affect passengers on the 06.30 ex Cambridge who at present have a reasonable chance of catching the 07.40 bus to Northampton.) On one occasion, we found that the A1 was reduced to single lane just north of the Black Cat roundabout where the A421 towards Bedford diverges (and where work is well under way on the Great Barford by-pass); we have asked the Highways Agency whether this is likely to happen regularly (especially at peak times when it could cause major hold-ups) and are currently awaiting an answer.

Finally, Cambridgeshire County Council has consulted us on its proposed Public Transport Corridors strategy. This entails building up services on the county's main road corridors and providing feeder buses and park & ride facilities to develop their usage. Unfortunately many of the most important corridors aren't in the consultation -- in the case of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon, because they believe that the guided busway project will solve all the problems. However, the A428 is included. Our draft strategy for this corridor is as follows:

(a) We support the Council's proposals for a 15 minute service between Cambridge and Cambourne, but believe that this should extend to provide hourly services to each of four market towns (St Ives, Huntingdon, St Neots and Biggleswade).

(b) We support the Council's idea of a peak time diversion of Cambridge bound buses via Madingley village, but the ``bus gate'' they are suggesting as part of this strategy needs to mean that general traffic will be prohibited from using the road between Madingley and Coton turn as a through route at peak times (otherwise rat running motorists will spoil the value of the diversion). There is an alternative route via Madingley roundabout, and we are also suggesting that the A14 proposals should include a facility to enable traffic from Madingley to access the A14 eastbound directly (a facility which may also be of use to buses, see below).

(c) We are proposing an interchange at Madingley roundabout, with a park & ride site which would replace the existing one on Madingley Road for Cambridge bound traffic. (The Madingley Road site might remain in use for X5 journeys to Bedford etc., C4 journeys to Newnham etc., and a possible National Express stop replacing Trumpington Park & Ride -- see below -- but the main park & ride bus, the 77, wouldn't call into the site.) The site would also be served by several feeder buses which would cover most of the villages on the corridor, including services to Addenbrookes via Coton, Grantchester, and Trumpington Foster Road; to Hardwick, Caldecote Highfields, Kingston, Eversden and Haslingfield; Madingley, Dry Drayton, Oakington and Northstowe; and (at least at peak times) to Cambridge's Northern Fringe (e.g. the Science Park) via Madingley Village and the A14. Also a possible Comberton/Toft circular.

(d) We have again put forward the suggestion of a ``virtual station'' at Cambourne to be served by the X5 and avoiding the time penalty of this bus having to leave the A428. This would require the reinstatement of the bridge originally in the master plan for Cambourne but removed as a result of the developer's lobbying.

(e) We agree with the Council's identification of Eltisley as a problem spot for buses leaving the village for Cambridge, and have suggested a roundabout at the village's eastern end to which the B1040 from Hilton would be linked; also another ``virtual station'' to be used by the X5.

The Madingley interchange is probably the main new idea which we expect to put in our response to the consultation.

Coach News

We were gratified to be contacted by National Express who were concerned about the implications of the County Council's traffic management scheme (City Centre Core Scheme stage 4), which we referred to in Newsletter 86. The Membership Secretary compiled our response to the current stage of consultation which articulated our concern.

The current suggestion is for a new coach terminal on Victoria Avenue. We don't believe the site is appropriate: reasons include its exposed nature at night-time (there is talk about buses reverting to Drummer St after 19.00 but this would probably cause even greater confusion), the detriment to the amenity value of Midsummer Common, the less convenient interchange with other buses, the less convenient access to the historic centre that is the destination of many coach users, and the problems that will arise when there are events on Midsummer Common.

We have suggested that if coaches do have to leave their current site, Northampton Street may be an appropriate place, as it's much closer to the historic centre. If there's a terminus at Victoria Avenue coaches for London and the airports could stop at Northampton Street and Madingley Road Park & Ride en route to the M11.

The Coordinator and Membership Secretary had a useful meeting with National Express managers during which we walked around Cambridge to see the various sites and the likely problems with them.

We held up our last newsletter in the hope of getting news of changes to coaches in the 2005-6 timetable. But it now seems that National Express are only sending their printed timetable to agents and not to places where the public can peruse it. Even their leaflet publicity has declined -- for example there is no leaflet for the Cambridge-London service which shows the intermediate stops, and clearly articulates the ``no luggage'' restrictions on some stops that sometimes catch casual users, particularly foreigners, out. At our meeting, however, National Express said that they would review these restrictions and see if they were really necessary.

Cambs Bus Changes

Here are the main changes to buses in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough since our last newsletter.

Whippet have changed their timetables for many services. There are significant cuts on various routes serving villages on the A14 and A428 corridors (especially the 2 and 9).

Stagecoach 8, which served outlying parts of Cambridge, has been replaced by a combination of three services. The new Stagecoach 8, supported by the County Council, serves the Fen Estate. The others are run by Whippet -- their route 14 has now been diverted to serve the Meadows Estate and West Arbury, while their 114 (which is supported by the City Council) links some of the eastern parts of Cambridge with the City Centre and Addenbrookes. All three routes now have a Saturday service. The 8 remains hourly but the 14 and 114 are less regular (half hourly and hourly respectively, but with gaps). The last journeys continue to be appallingly early, with last departures from the City Centre at 16.51 for the 8, 15.45 (school holidays), 14.45 (Sat) and 14.15 (schooldays) for the 14, and 15.30 (Sat) and 14.30 (Mon-Fri) for the 114.

Peterborough has seen several changes. Most of them relate to services within the city's built up area, but there are two significant changes that affect the surrounding villages: the scrapping of the demand responsive facility on the New Eye Flyer, and the replacement of route 38, which serves villages on the A15 corridor north of the city, by a feeder terminating at Werrington. Demand responsive facilities still exist on several routes, including the Local Link in some areas north of the City Centre, and the Village Link and R47 routes west of the City. The high quality timetable produced by Peterborough City Council (who now run some of the bus routes directly, including the Local Link and New Eye Flyer) contrasts with the miserable quality of the printed publicity produced by Cambridgeshire County Council.

Incidentally some bad news: Peterborough buses no longer accept Sunday Rover tickets. This facility, which used to make journeys all over East Anglia cheap and easy, is now publicised by few councils and accurate information is completely unavailable.

Kimbolton: We have been told that this village is served by the North Beds DART route ND2 whenever it's required (ring 0845 601 6164). We mentioned this route in our last newsletter. Kimbolton is also served by routes 152 (from St Neots and Bedford), 400/1 (from Huntingdon), and 405 (from Huntingdon and Peterborough, on the second Wednesday of each month).

Rail News

Two items, both relating to Central Trains and both good news. Firstly, we were misinformed when saying that Central Trains had withdrawn day returns for most longer distance journeys. In fact there are some new fares e.g. Cambridge to Leicester. For day trips from Cambridge to Grantham, buy a day return to Sleaford; for day trips to Newark, buy a day return to Sleaford and another from Grantham to Newark (but that's only valid if your trains to/from Newark both stop at Grantham).

And, as we said in our last newsletter, Network Railcards are now valid on their trains between Ely, Cambridge, Audley End and Stansted Airport. Through ticketing is available at very advantageous rates for railcard holders for through journeys via the Stansted Airport to Colchester coach service, but if your destination is Colchester North it's cheaper to buy a ticket to Manningtree!

Leisure buses

As usual we split this into two sections, one dealing with services within reasonable day trip distance and the other going further afield. (BH = Bank Holiday.)

Beds: As stated in our last newsletter, North Beds DART ND1 serves Wilden Butterfly Farm 6 days a week, and without pre-booking. It goes from Harpur Street in Bedford, or can be picked up on Goldington Road. Also, East Beds DART EB6 serves the Shuttleworth complex 7 days a week by prior booking on 0845 601 6164, or use the 180 from Bedford to Ickwell (Mon-Sat) and walk. (Incidentally one of the other East Beds DART routes, the EB4, offers a potential link with the X5 at Great Barford, but at present it can't be used by passengers who haven't made a prior journey from the rest of the area it covers.)

Essex: There's the Dedham Vale Hopper (745) which leaves Manningtree station hourly from 09.15 to 19.15 on Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun and BH till end Sept, and serves both sides of the Stour Valley as far as the A12 corridor. Ring 01255 671852 to ask about wildlife cruises from Walton on Naze to the Walton Backwaters. From Cambridge, for both trips use the Stansted link (see ``Rail News'' above).

Herts: This county's two leisure services have run for several years but this year there's a special promotion under the title ``Enjoy''. There's the Shaw Shuttle 382 (Sun and BH till end Oct) from St Albans (11.40, train to Hatfield then frequent bus), or Stevenage (12.40) serving Shaw's Corner (where G. B. Shaw lived towards the end of his life, now a National Trust property) and Knebworth House. And there's the Chiltern Rambler 327 (Suns and BH till end Sept) from Hemel Hempstead (train to Hatfield then 301 or 340).

Leics: There's a set of open top tours in Leicester and the surrounding countryside. The Leicester tour runs daily till 3 Sept, the others weekly till 27 Aug from Market Harborough (Tue), Melton Mowbray (Tue), Loughborough (Thur), Ashby de la Zouch (Fri), and Hinckley (Sat). From Peterborough buy a day return to Melton, then by bus to Leicester or Loughborough (except for the Melton tour). From Cambridge use the 07.00 (06.40 on Sat) X5 to Bedford, then X2 to Northampton and X7 to Leicester (or Market Harborough, for which tour one needn't leave Cambridge till 09.10). There are plentiful buses from Leicester to all the starting points. It's not clear whether Arriva still accept the Stagecoach Explorers one would use if coming from Cambridge, though Hinckley also has Stagecoach buses from Leicester. Arriva have their own day out tickets which will take one from Melton via Leicester to Ashby, Hinckley or Market Harborough (or Loughborough for that matter, though this has a direct bus link to Melton). All tours allow free travel afterwards to Leicester, where Cambridge passengers can catch the 17.50 to Northampton, then train to Milton Keynes and X5 back.

Norfolk: The Coasthopper (36) continues to link Hunstanton and Sheringham via the coast, giving access to Blakeney Point (via Morston Quay or walk from Cley) and other nature reserves en route, and the Broadshopper (711) links Blickling and Acle via Aylsham, Wroxham, Ranworth and South Walsham. Both are daily except on winter Sun. There are many boat trips in the Broads area.

Northants: The Saunterbus continues to run on Sun and BH till 11 Sept, but there is no through ticketing with other services such as the Stagecoach Explorer which was valid when Stagecoach ran it, or the Sunday Rover which was valid when Alec Head ran it. Some of the routes have seen significant changes, and there are new routes to Market Harborough (7 and 29 Aug, also serving Brixworth, Cottesbrooke, Kelmarsh and Foxton Locks), and Warwickshire (21 Aug) serving Leamington, Kenilworth and Warwick, all of which however are easily accessible by conventional buses. Other trips remaining this year are to Rockingham (14 and 28 Aug), Rutland Water (4 Sept), and Daventry (11 Sept). All trips start from Northampton, the Rockingham and Rutland trips also serving Wellingborough and Kettering. The former skirts Corby and serves Weldon, the latter serves Corby, Uppingham, Empingham and Oakham.

This doesn't really belong here, but we would like to mention that Northants CC has recently ``consolidated'' some rural bus routes into regular interval patterns. These are Stagecoach 17/18 (Kettering, Loddington and Rothwell circular), Stagecoach 38/39 (Northampton to Wellingborough and Kettering via Broughton), and MK Metro 86/87 (Northampton-Towcester circular serving Stoke Bruerne and Gayton). The last gives access to canalside attractions.

Suffolk: A greatly improved bus service now links Ipswich and Orford (160), greatly improving access to the attractions of this village. On Mon-Fri buy a standard day return to Saxmundham, on Sat an Anglia Plus. You can get the 07.43 train to Ipswich and then the 10.10 bus to Orford arriving 11.32. If you're in time for the 09.02 train to Woodbridge (bus leaves 10.49) or Melton (10.54) you can catch that, or on Wed continue to Saxmundham for the 192 at 10.42 arriving Orford at 11.01. To ensure you're in time for the 09.02 get the 06.43 train from Cambridge, or give up the chance by starting at 08.06 and changing at Ely for Ipswich. The last return journey is the 18.38 Orford to Saxmundham: on Mon-Fri return via Ipswich to Cambridge (22.39), on Sat (engineering work permitting) via Lowestoft and Norwich to Cambridge (23.25). If you've finished in Orford by 16.40 it would be easier to get the bus to Saxmundham then. The main attractions that requires booking are the Lady Florence cruise (07831 698298) and the National Trust tractor tour of Orfordness (1st Sat each month July-Sept, 01394 450900). Unguided National Trust visits to Orfordness are also available (Tue-Sat till 1 Oct then Sat till 29 Oct), as are shorter river trips (01394 450169). Unfortunately, because one can't get from our area to Saxmundham in time for the 09.18 bus to Orford, the RSPB reserve at Havergate Island is only visitable on special event days (20, 22 and 23 Aug, book on 01394 385209).

There are two demand responsive buses in Suffolk giving access to places of interest: the Coastlink, daily from Darsham station (connecting with trains) to Minsmere (RSPB), Dunwich and Walberswick (book on 01728 833526), and the Brecks Bus (daily in summer, Mon-Fri in winter) from Brandon and Thetford to the surrounding area (book on 01842 816170). Booking is essential for both these services.

Surrey: Get a 1 day Travelcard, go to Surbiton where you can catch the Parks & Gardens Express (515, daily except winter Sun) serving the gardens at Claremont, Painshill and Wisley. Claremont School, which is adjacent to the garden, is also open on the first weekend of the month, and can be reached using the K3 bus from Surbiton to Esher on which the Travelcard is valid. Painshill in Cobham is close to Cobham Watermill, which is open on the second Sunday of each month.

Or get a 465 bus from Surbiton to Dorking (Travelcard valid) and catch the Surrey Hills Explorer (NT1), which runs weekends till end Oct and serves the National Trust properties at Polesden Lacey, Hatchlands and Clandon (the last Sundays only), as well as Abinger Common (Sats), Ranmore Common (Suns), and Britain's largest vineyard at Denbies (road train tours available).

Sussex: For those prepared to make a longish train ride there are buses from Brighton to Devils Dyke, Stanmer Park and Ditchling Beacon (77-79, Sun all year, Sat in summer, the Devils Dyke route runs daily in high season); the Cuckmere Rambler between Berwick station, Alfriston, Seaford and Exceat (Suns all year, Sats in summer); the {\bf Michelham & Middle Farm Rambler} from Berwick station to Hailsham, Polegate and Alfriston (Sun all year); the coastal bus (12/13) between Brighton and Eastbourne via Seaford and Exceat, also Birling Gap and Beachy Head on Sun; and the 100-2 from Burgess Hill station to Bramber and Pulborough, also serving Billingshurst on Mon-Sat and Amberley Chalkpits Museum on Sun.

Further afield: Most National Parks have long standing leisure networks, which unless otherwise stated are believed to be unchanged from last year.

Cheshire: The Big House Bus is a tour service serving Arley Hall (which is otherwise very hard to reach), also Tabley House, Tatton Park and Dunham Massey (which all have other buses). Starts Chester Visitor Centre (09.00) or Altrincham Interchange (10.00 or 11.45) on Sun till 11 Sept. Book on 0870 8741800.

Denbighshire and Flintshire: The Clwydian Ranger network now runs on Sun till 25 Sept with some routes running on Tue and Wed till end Aug.

Hampshire: The New Forest, Britain's newest National Park, has an open top tour bus daily till 4 Sept linking Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst station, Lymington town and pier, Exbury Gardens (new this year), and Beaulieu, starting and finishing at Eastleigh (09.45/19.00).

Gloucestershire: The Cotswold Lion continues to run at weekends till 2 Oct; on Sat it is day trippable from Cambridge by using the X5 to Oxford, frequent buses to Witney and 233 to Burford (Stagecoach Explorer valid on all of these). It serves National Trust properties at Chedworth Roman Villa, Lodge Park and Sherborne as well as pretty villages. There's also the Forest Hopper in the Forest of Dean, running Wed, Sat and Sun till 4 Sept from Lydney and Coleford (starting and finishing in Cinderford). All three of the above towns have regular bus links with Gloucester (Lydney also has trains).

North Yorkshire: The usual services run round the Dales and Moors National Parks, but there have been considerable rearrangements to the latter this year.

Pembrokeshire: The excellent coastal network continues to run daily till 2 Oct then 3 days a week through the winter. There's also the {\bf Preseli Hills} route which runs Tue and Sat till 1 Oct on a different route to last year. And just across the boundary there's the 600 which links Cardigan and New Quay via the coastal villages (Mon-Sat till 24 Sept). Recommended scenic route to this area is by train from Birmingham to Aberystwyth then by bus along the cost with a West Wales Rover.

Shropshire: The network is severely depleted from last year, consisting of the Long Mynd and Stiperstones Shuttle (linking Church Stretton, Bridges and Minsterley) and the Secret Hills Shuttle (linking Craven Arms, Clun, Bishops Castle and Bridges), both on weekends till end Oct. Bishops Castle and Minsterley both have daily buses to Shrewsbury, but Church Stretton and Craven Arms are only served by train on Sun. There's also an all year weekend shuttle round the attractions of the Ironbridge Gorge area.

Warwickshire: The Heritage Hopper runs from Banbury to Leamington on Sun till 4 Sept. First departures 09.55 Leamington and 11.05 Banbury (both from the station).

West Yorkshire: Daytripper buses till 3 Sept run from Leeds (950, Tue-Sat), Wakefield (953, Wed & Sat), Huddersfield (956, Tue, Wed & Sat), and Holmfirth (957, Wed, Thur & Sat) to local places of interest. All routes also run on Bank Holiday Monday. West Yorkshire Dayrovers are valid.