Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 94, July 2006

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.


Two decisions were announced in recent months that may seriously jeopardise the prospects of providing an attractive rail link between Cambridge and Bedford.

The first was the Government announcement to increase its funding for the Cambs Guided Busway from GBP 65m to GBP 92.5m. This will still leave a significant funding gap, as the estimated cost has gone up from GBP 73m to GBP 116m, but it is expected that the balance can be recovered from developers along the corridor, particularly Gallaghers who are behind Northstowe and Arbury Park.

This contrasts with the refusal of the Government to fund increases in the cost of tramways in Liverpool, Leeds and Portsmouth. Of these, the Liverpool decision was perhaps the worst as the council had already spent money on buying now useless equipment, and Liverpool, as European City of Culture 2008, could do with a showpiece transport network.

However, we strongly suspect that in our area the Government regarded its hands as tied. The guided busway was regarded as essential for Northstowe, which in turn was an essential part of the Government's own housing strategy. Whether the guided busway will actually make a significant difference to the propensity for Northstowe residents to clog the Cambridge sub-region with cars is another matter -- at least lip service has been paid to sustainability.

Looked at in this light, should anti-busway campaigners have done more to promote alternative housing strategies, such as the proposal for the Waterbeach area? Last year our Committee had a useful discussion with the developers, and came to the conclusion that this site was far more sustainable.

The second was the decision by Bedfordshire County Council to approve the proposal for the Willington rowing lake, which will cut across the trackbed between Bedford and Sandy. The East-West Consortium, who are the group of local authorities promoting the rail link, say that the decision won't spell curtains for the Bedford-Sandy route option. As Bedfordshire is a member of the Consortium, they were probably bound to say something like that, and it's certainly literally true: there's no physical reason why a bridge can't be built over the lake. It's only a question of cost, and there can surely be no doubt that the business case behind restoring the line will be at least partly jeopardised.

One of the problems is that there is no statutory authority for long term route protection, and the Government has ruled out reopening for about 20 years. Nor has the recently released Inspector's Report on the East of England Spatial Strategy recognised the importance of the route. Who knows where else this route will have been jeopardised, and what other route options will have been jeopardised, by the time we finally decide that total reliance on road transport on this corridor is unsustainable?

We suspect that if Consortium members had prioritised the east-west link things might have got started. But, no, they had to include a long wish list of road schemes too -- with so many in the draft Regional Spatial Strategy as to attract the condemnation of the Inspector, who decided that the key objective should be to reduce car and lorry traffic.

While things may be moving forward west of Bedford, we in the east seem to be in a ``Red Queen's Race'' situation whereby our goal continues to recede as a result of the approval of incompatible development.

It is worth summarising all the incompatible developments so far. Between Bedford and the East Coast Main Line there are basically two options:

(a) Via the old route from Bedford to a point north of Sandy.

(b) Via the old route from Bedford to the A421 Bedford By-pass, then parallel to the A421 (including the nearly complete Great Barford By-pass) as far as the Black Cat roundabout where it joins the A1, then joining the East Coast Main Line south of St Neots.

And between the East Coast Main Line and Cambridge here are six options:

(c) Southwards along the main line then curving round to join the Hitchin-Cambridge line.

(d) Cross country from Sandy to Shepreth.

(e) Along the old line from Sandy to Cambridge.

(f) Close to the A428 for most of the way between a point north of St Neots and the outskirts of Cambridge, where it would join the St Ives line to the station.

(g) Ditto except that it joins the Trumpington route (i.e. the old route from Sandy).

(h) Along the St Ives line for most of the way from Huntingdon to Cambridge.

Many people, including us, are sceptical about the feasibility or value of option (c), which is the Consortium's own option (could this be because their consultants were Steer Davies Gleave who had already recommended what is to be the Cambs Guided Busway?), either because of operating problems on the existing routes or because the route would be too circuitous to be attractive. However this is no reason not to support the Consortium, because after their route (presumably (a) as we suspect that a combination of (b) with (c) would be regarded as a ``detour too far'') was built, it would be possible to add one of (d)-(h).

The London-South Midlands Multi-Modal Study recommended a route following the A421 and A428, which would seem to mean a combination of (b) with (f) or (g). As we said in Newsletters 82 and 86, it is likely that the cost of these three options will have been increased by the failure of the Highways Agency to design the roads with an eye to their compatibility with a future rail link, even though this Multi-Modal Study reported while the public inquiry for the A421 was still under way, and well before the statutory notices were published for the A428.

The Cambs Guided Busway will eat up trackbed that would be needed for options (e)-(h). Option (h), already affected by development west of St Ives, and requiring the reuse of a section of the A14, would require the abandonment of most of the busway and must therefore be regarded as a non-starter unless the busway becomes a manifest failure. (Note: the relevant section of the A14 was recommended by the Cambridge-Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study for conversion to a ``public transport corridor'', but this idea had been dropped when the Highways Agency consultation proposals when they came out -- see Newsletter 89.) Options (e) and (g) would require the abandonment of the southern section, which is perhaps more plausible. Option (f) would require the abandonment of part of the northern section (between Histon and Milton Road, say); but it is not implausible that a replacement route could be built through one of the new development areas planned north-west of Cambridge.

The Willington rowing lake will inhibit option (a), which has already been affected by miscellaneous housing development in Blunham and Sandy.

And the new Trumpington Meadows proposal would probably remoce whatever remaining plausibility there was for options (e) and (g).

We believe that rail campaigners should embark on a wide ranging discussion as to the best way forward from here. Pending the outcome of such a discussion (and also any further development problems that may arise), we suggest the following combination of proposals as something to press for in the longer term.

1. Whichever of (a) or (b) turns out to be more feasible.

2. Option (f) taking over the guided busway east of Histon.

3. A new busway alignment between the Histon area and the outskirts of Cambridge passing through, and serving, one of the proposed new development areas on this corridor.

4. An interchange station between the east-west rail link and guided busway, where passengers coming off the latter would change to reach Cambridge's Northern Fringe (CRC, Science Park etc.), Cambridge station, or places beyond (including London and Stansted Airport).

You may wish to take up the following points with your elected representatives:

A: Are they prepared to fight to stop further degradation of possible route options?

B: Will they give the link sufficient priority so that when they seek to protect it it will be seen to have a real chance of getting built within the timeframe of the relevant plan?

C: Are they satisfied with a planning system where transport routes that our ancestors toiled hard to build are so casually discarded in favour of developments of more ephemeral value that can easily be put elsewhere?

Rail News

There's quite a lot of rail news this time.

To start with, an item that should have been in our last newsletter. ``One'' have introduced a cheaper fare for passengers from Cambridge using their trains. The basic fare is GBP 13 for a day return from Cambridge to London (GBP 10 for railcard holders), with Travelcards available at GBP 18 and GBP 12-50 respectively. On Mondays to Fridays start after 10.00 and don't return between 17.00 and 18.15.

As if to compensate, First Capital Connect, who run the Kings Cross service, have increased the cost of using their services during the evening peak. To be precise, day returns and Travelcards, as well as some other classes of ticket, are not valid on Mondays to Fridays between 16.15 and 19.00 from Kings Cross or Finsbury Park to stations between Stevenage and Peterborough or Waterbeach inclusive, either on their trains or those run by GNER.

Correction 2006-07-26: All operator day returns from Cambridge to London are, like the "one" ticket, banned on trains leaving Liverpool St between 17.00 and 18.15. However we suspect that the same workaround may allow one to use Travelcards on trains stopping north of Tottenham/Seven Sisters but within Greater London.

These restrictions have aroused considerable protest; to join this protest, or just to see what people are saying, visit the website.

There are, however, some workarounds. Passengers from Cambridge or Waterbeach can use ``One'' trains to Liverpool St; even if they wish to return between 17.00 and 18.15, or to use First Capital Connect for their outward journey, they can still use ``all operator'' day returns. They can also (if travelling from Waterbeach or south thereof) buy tickets to start from Ely; or they can buy a Travelcard and leave Greater London by a train which stops between Harringay and either Hadley Wood or Crews Hill, inclusive, as Travelcards are valid within Greater London and there are no new restrictions on journeys from stations north of Finsbury Park. Travelcard holders can also get a Transport for London bus to Potters Bar and pick up their train there.

It is also, of course, possible to use National Express. Remember they offer a range of stops within the London area, and you don't have to travel very often to make it worthwhile to buy a Multiride ticket (10 single trips within 6 months).

These restrictions were introduced to coincide with the new timetable on 11 June. They were slightly modified in July, and we believe we have got the new restrictions correct but can't guarantee this. Further modifications are expected in September -- what these will be we have no idea.

The stated motivation for the new restrictions is to combat overcrowding on evening peak trains. This is particularly acute on the Thameslink route between Bedford and Brighton, owing to the diversion of rolling stock to Southern (whose parent group, Go Ahead, formerly ran the Thameslink franchise). The restrictions also apply to the Bedford route (for journeys from West Hampstead and south thereof to St Albans and north thereof, except that Travelcards are valid on trains which stop between Cricklewood and Elstree inclusive). However, they do not apply to the Brighton route, where fares are set by Southern.

There is, however, a suspicion that the new restrictions may have something to do with the tight terms of the franchise signed by First Group.

Next, Central Trains have reintroduced their ``Flat Fare Saver'' offer for the over 50s. Provided you fill in a voucher (which, if you don't have one, can be printed from their website, and, if you do have one, can be photocopied), you can travel from Cambridge to Peterborough or Stamford for GBP 5 day return, or for up to a month to Birmingham, Leicester, Liverpool, Manhester, Nottingham, Peterborough, Sheffield, Stamford or Stockport for GBP 10. Travel on Mondays to Fridays must not start before 09.00, and normal route restrictions (via Ely) apply. From Peterborough, GBP 5 tickets are available for day returns to Cambridge, Lincoln and Norwich and period returns to Leicester and Melton Mowbray, and GBP 10 period returns are available to the former stations and also to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham. All travel in both directions has to be completed by 7 Sept.

Most of these tickets are also available in the reverse direction. It is presumed that normal break of journey restrictions (not allowed on the outward part of the journey for Savers, but no restrictions on day returns) apply. Further destinations can be reached by using extra vouchers to buy further tickets, of which the most useful are likely to be those from Birmingham to Worcester, Gloucester and Cardiff, and from Lincoln to Grimsby. Full details of all tickets available are on the above Central Trains website.

This facility will be of great use in accessing some of the leisure bus services to be outlined below.

Agreement has been reached so that Oystercards will soon be usable on main line trains in the London area. They are already valid on all tubes and buses. Remember, if you do any travelling in the London area other than by Travelcard, it will normally pay you to buy an Oystercard, which requires a one time payment of GBP 3 and gives generous discounts on all single tickets for bus and tube travel. The prices are also ``capped'' so that you will pay no more (less, indeed) for a sequence of bus journeys than the price of a one day bus pass, and no more for a sequence of bus and tube journeys than the price of the appropriate Travelcard (though without a railcard reduction).

According to ``Rail'' magazine there is local pressure to increase the level of train service offered at Manea. This is an idea we have long supported in conjunction with a connecting bus service between Manea village and Wisbech, also serving Welney, Christchurch, Upwell and Outwell, and part replacing the ``Fenland Connections'' network on routes 60 and 61, on which more later, and the Manea to March service on route 333.

Finally, it has been announced that the National Rail Timetable will not be published from next year. (Parenthetically, a few years ago it was spotted, not in the ``Fiction'' section as in the old joke, but in the ``Best Seller'' section of one of the bookstalls at Victoria Station.) Instead one will be expected to download timetable files, which will, however, be kept up to date. We strongly suspect that this situation will be very unattractive to many visitors to Britain.

Branch News

Just a reminder that subscriptions are due from those who have not already paid (who will be receiving a renewal slip). The rates are unchanged -- GBP 3-50 ordinary, GBP 2-50 concessionary and GBP 5 household or affiliate, or double these rates for a two year renewal. Add GBP 8 (per year) if you wish to have Transport 2000's national organ, Transport Retort, sent to you as soon as we receive it. We do not undertake to send any further reminders for those who don't renew this time.

Planning News

Just three items this time.

Cambs County Council is currently consulting on proposals for the Hobson St area. There are several ramifications, including the loss of disabled parking. The proposals appear to involve the loss of the bus stop in Hobson St; we would like to see buses return to Sidney St outside pedestrianisation hours, as this would save considerable time, but the relevant council officer told us that this was not part of the scheme. For details of the proposals pick up the relevant leaflet or go to the website, with replies due by 19 Aug.

We have already mentioned the Trumpington Meadows proposals, covering the former Monsanto site near Trumpington Park & Ride and other land in this area. The area covered straddles the former Bedford railway, but there's not much point objecting on those grounds given that it has already been determined that the route between Cambridge and Trumpington is to be converted to guided bus. (Though those who believe that this corridor offers the best hope for a Cambridge-Bedford railway may wish to look for other grounds on which to object to the proposal.)

Finally, Cambs CC is to refurbish Cambridge Central Library which will therefore close from January next year for about 15 months. They have promised an improved service from other libraries, but, being located in the suburbs of Cambridge, these won't be very conveniently located for those who live close to the centre -- or those who use it because it is convenient to get to by bus and offers facilities unavailable in their local library. Would it be possible to provide a temporary facility within the Shirehall site, which is probably as central as one can hope for and would be owned by the Council?

We are particularly concerned by the loss of access to the Council's collection of bus timetables, which, though far from satisfactory, are better than those available at almost any other library in the country. The only other library we know of which has a wide collection of bus timetables is Bishopsgate in London, open till 17.30 Mondays to Fridays (though it closes earlier on some Fridays, and opens late on Wednesday evenings). This is close to Liverpool St (see the ``One'' railway offer above) and Aldgate (for National Express), but it's an expensive and time consuming ride, unless of course you have other things to do in London.

And if we were concerned that taking land out of use for the Grand Arcade and Bradwell's Court redevelopment schemes might damage the city's vitality (see Newsletter 92), our concern is further increased by the news that the library will also be out of use.

Book Review: Car Sick by Lynn Sloman

GBP 10-95 from Green Books (01803 863260 ISBN 1-903998-76-X, 192 pages. May also be ordered through The Guardian Bookshop, which published an article on it.

Lynn Sloman was formerly Assistant Director of Transport 2000 and now runs a consultancy called ``Transport for Quality of Life''. She now lives in a small village in mid-Wales (and does not own a car).

The theme of this book is that a lot can be done to ease our transport problems without large infrastructure projects, either road or rail. Generally speaking, about 40% of car journeys could easily be made now using other modes of transport, and another 40% could be transferred given modest improvements to the alternatives. This figure, incidentally, differs little between urban and rural areas, contrary to the oft quoted statement that if one lives in a rural area, one will automatically need a car.

Figures are also produced to show that a significant proportion of motorists would be willing to switch if our leaders were to cease pampering motorists and showed the enthusiasm for traffic reduction which the campaign for the 1997 Traffic Reduction Act generated. (The traffic reduction plan we produced at the time is still on our website and may be worth a look even though it will be out of date.) There are often substantial benefits to the individual from switching, in addition to the even greater benefits to society as a whole -- there are no less than 8 major benefits, both to the individual and society, listed in Chapter 2.

The next few chapters go into the details of what might be done. Better information and incentives, school and workplace travel plans, personalised travel planning, better buses and cycling facilities, better land use planning, replacing car ownership with membership of car clubs. None of these require the scale of spending currently devoted to major roads, or, indeed, public transport schemes such as the West Coast Main Line upgrade, or, locally, the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway.

In Chapter 9 the author profiles three people, all living in mid Wales, who felt that not owning a car had enhanced their own quality of life. This leads up to the final chapter which gives an idea how to transform people's visions into reality.

There are however a couple of nagging worries. The first is the extent to which one can rely on altruism as a motivator for modal shift. Certainly many motorists who shift will face longer journeys and possibly a less comfortable environment, and it is not clear that the advantages -- savings in car operating costs, new opportunities for activity and interaction with other people -- will compensate. Unless strong incentives are introduced, people may switch back when they see people who continue to use their cars enjoying better traffic conditions. It was in fact precisely this argument that led us to put higher motoring taxes at the top of our list of policy changes required to reduce traffic (paragraph 5.1 in our plan).

The second is that throughout the author refers to individual trips, not distinguishing between short trips and longer ones. It is likely that the ``soft'' measures advocated in the book would be more efficacious in transferring the shorter trips. But would this have a significant effect on the demand for, say, motorway widening? Would it help non-motorists faced with virtually non-existent public transport on heavily used corridors such as the A14 west of Huntingdon? We suggest that people -- including environmentalists -- do attach considerable emotional importance to the longer journeys they make; those who campaign against unnecessary air travel still tend to enjoy talking about their trips abroad! This is why our Traffic Reduction Plan included several major infrastructure upgrades, and why we continue to regard the east-west rail link as the most important need for our region.

Cambs bus changes

As usual we conclude with a rundown of bus changes and recreational facilities in various parts of the country, divided into three parts, those within our area, those within reasonable day trip distance, and those that are further afield.

In our area, there do not appear to have been mass bus cuts in either Cambridgeshire or Suffolk, or indeed any other counties in the surrounding area, but both counties, and some others, have seen significant cuts on the margin.

Most of the following changes took place on 23 July, though some have been in operation for longer.

Whenever we quote a bus number, here and in the next two sections, the full timetable for the relevant service should be available on Traveline. If this doesn't work you can try going to the relevant local authority website from

3 (Papworth-Huntingdon): ``Village'' journeys will have to be rerouted due to roadworks at Papworth -- we don't have details.

C4 (Cambridge-Cambourne): This is the new number for route 14. Upgraded to every 20 minutes and diverted via West Road and Grange Road (to match the present route of the C4, now U4, see below).

U4 (Addenbrookes-Madingley Road P&R): This is the new number for route C4. Will run every 20 minutes in off-peak as well as peak periods, with a combined 10 minute service with the new C4. No longer free to University Card holders who will have to pay a flat rate of 50p. However, in compensation it is hoped to offer this flat rate on all Citi routes for a trial 3 month period this autumn.

X4 (Peterborough-Milton Keynes): Cuts to weekday evening services at either end.

X5 (Cambridge-Oxford): No timetable change, but a reallocation of bays in Bedford bus station has ejected eastbound journeys (i.e. from Oxford to Cambridge) to the National Express stop at the north-west end of the bus station area. This may inconvenience passengers making connections; it will also reduce the availability of comfortable under shelter seating, and may lead to longer layover times because drivers have to walk further to change overa Westbound buses will still use the main bus station area. Also, evening journeys will be rerouted owing to roadworks at Papworth.

6 (Hampton-Peterborough station): Extended from bus station. There's also a new higher priced taxibus, operated by Stagecoach on behalf of GNER, which offers a door to door service during the morning and evening peaks (and afterwards for passengers staying in London till after the end of the restrictions on off-peak tickets, see above).

C7 (Cottenham-Granta Valley): Upgraded to every 10 minutes during Mon-Sat daytimes between Cottenham and Sawston, with journeys continuing to half hourly to Pampisford, Duxford/Whittlesford and Hinxton, and the last extended further to Saffron Walden every hour. The last replaces Burtons 32, leading to considerably extended journey times -- 75 minutes between Cambridge and Saffron Walden (at one time there was an express service taking just 25 minutes). There is now no direct service between Addenbrookes and the Granta Valley via Babraham Road P&R and Hinton Way.

X7 (Peterborough-Skegness): New summer service between Peterborough and Skegness (till 3 Sept). On Saturdays leave Peterborough at 09.10 and return at 20.00 -- over 50s can connect from Cambridge cheaply by train. On Sundays the times are 09.45 and 19.40. In principle this should connect with National Express to/from Cambridge, but the return connection is only 5 minutes, otherwise one will have to return by train or Whippet bus. Explorers not valid, but there is a special fare of GBP 9 for adults which also covers travel on local buses between Skegness, Butlins Fantasy Island and Ingoldmells, which is now operated by Stagecoach in Lincolnshire, who have taken over Lincolnshire Road Car.

12 (Peterborough-Market Deeping): Uses main road through Peterborough.

X13 (Cambridge-Haverhill): Extra journey from Cambridge at 16.20.

14 (Peterborough-Thrapston): One extra journey each way between Peterborough and Oundle, including what becomes a through journey from Thrapston leaving 14.25.

16/16A/17 (Fen Estate-Cambridge-Fulbourn-Haverhill/Newmarket): Hourly service between Fen Estate and Fulbourn, with off-peak journeys extending alternately to Haverhill and Newmarket. This is operated by Stagecoach rather than Burtons. Extra peak journeys on route 16A, which replace former route 44 but now terminate at Great Thurlow and no longer run to/from Haverhill. Replaces Stagecoach 8 which formerly served the Fen Estate (and gives one extra journey).

18/A (Cambridge-Cambourne-St Neots): Withdrawal of evening services on Mondays to Thursdays. Also, service will be rerouted due to roadworks at Papworth.

19 (Haverhill-Burrough Green): New 2 hourly ``village'' service via The Camps, Linton and Balsham.

R47 (Peterborough-Uppingham): Reduced from 5 to 3 journeys each way. Demand responsive facility is withdrawn, and selected journeys are scheduled to serve Seaton and Tixover Grange without the need for special request.

60/1 (Wisbech/March-Downham Market): Saturday service considerably reduced and no longer enables visits to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Welney. Monday to Friday service is unchanged and still allows such visits, catering for people who want to start late enough to get reduced train fares to Downham Market.

402/4 (Peterborough-Stamford via villages): New 404 Sunday service serving Duddington, part replacing 9A/B to Rutland which were withdrawn in June -- a significant loss in recreational access. On Mons, Thurs and Sats some journeys are transferred from 402 to 404.

701 (Peterborough-Whittlesey-Coates): Evening service withdrawn.

Regional bus changes

This covers facilities within reasonable day trip distance of Cambridgeshire.

Norfolk: We have already referred to the cuts to services 60/1 to Welney. The Suffolk CC supported bus route between Bury and Diss no longer serves Bressingham. This major visitor attraction still has some buses, but is now significantly harder to get to.

The county's three recreational services are all running every day this summer: the Coasthopper 36 between Kings Lynn/Hunstanton and Sheringham via Wells; the Broadshopper 711 between Blicking and Acle via Aylsham and Wroxham; and the Peddars Wayfarer PW1 between Swaffham and Thetford via Watton. Users of the Coasthopper, which also runs daily in winter though at lower frequency, can buy a ``Coasthopper Rover Plus'' ticket on buses from Kings Lynn to Fakenham; this is also valid on the Coasthopper and on routes from Fakenham to Cromer and Wells, as well as the First service between Kings Lynn and Hunstanton (though it can't be bought on this service). On Sundays it is also valid between Cromer or Fakenham and Norwich.

Suffolk: The Dedham Vale Hopper has been withdrawn.

Bedfordshire: Stagecoach, which trialled its ``planets'' rebranding with the Mars services in March, has now fully implemented the system. In order of planetary distance from the sun, here they are:

Mercury: M50 links Bedford with Kettering hourly. No longer serves Oakley but now serves Radwell, Felmersham and Sharnbrook. This is now mainly worked from Bedford bringing later return journeys from Kettering and Rushden. However, the (2 hourly) Sunday service no longer runs beyond Rushden, isolating the communities of Irthlingborough, Finedon, Burton Latimer and Barton Seagrave. At the same time, route 51 (Bedford-Oakley) is upgraded to run every 20 minutes, and 52/3 which formerly served this area are withdrawn. There are also timing changes to the 125/6 group of services, but the basic off-peak pattern is unchanged. Bletsoe is now unserved.

Venus: V1 links Bedford with Cranfield half hourly, up from hourly. Passengers still have to change at Cranfield for Milton Keynes, with no evening or Sunday service. Stagecoach had to deny rumours that routes 160/5, which link Bedford with Leighton Buzzard, were being withdrawn -- they are continuing with no change.

Jupiter: J1 links Bedford with Dunstable via Clophill hourly, up from 2 hourly south of Flitwick, though only alternate journeys serve Harlington, Tebworth and Wingfield. Hall End village is only served in one direction. J2 links Bedford with Flitwick via Houghton Conquest half hourly, up from hourly. The Sunday service to Luton via Toddington, provided by another operator, is renumbered J4.

Saturn: S1 links Bedford with Luton hourly (2 hourly Sundays), and now offers a joint half hourly service north of Clophill with J1.

Pluto: P1 links Bedford with Northampton, no longer serving the Bromham estates or Olney. Journey time is down to 50 minutes. Departure times from Bedford are 06.15, 07.30, hourly to 16.30 and 17.40 on weekdays, 10.30, 13.30 and 16.30 on Sundays; from Northampton 07.15, 08.30, hourly to 16.30, 17.40 and 18.40 on weekdays, 11.30, 14.30 and 17.30 on Sundays. Like the M50 this route is now worked from Bedford, giving an earlier outward journey on Sundays and a later return on weekdays. However the number of journeys has been significantly reduced, especially on Sundays. MK Metro 29 provides a substitute service from Olney to Bedford via Lavendon and Bromham estates (2 hourly end to end with extra journeys east of Bromham).

Herts: Last time we mentioned the Taxibus between Wheathampstead and Shaw's Corner, and the Chiltern Rambler 327 (Hemel Hempstead circular) and extension of 343 (St Albans-Dunstable) to Whipsnade. To use any of these get a train to Hatfield from which there are regular buses (Sundays included) to St Albans and Hemel Hempstead.

Northants: We have already mentioned routes P1 (formerly X2), X4, 14, R47, M50 (formerly 50) and 404. The other major change is to route 16 (Kettering-Thrapston-Raunds), which is reduced from hourly to 2 hourly. Also Stagecoach has withdrawn route 33 between Northampton and Milton Keynes via Hanslope, which is now run less frequently by another operator. MK Metro has withdrawn route X34 between Daventry and Milton Keynes.

The Saunterbus is running again this year, but with a much depleted timetable. Two of the routes have been withdrawn, and the remaining five are only served on two days each (and in most cases one of them has now past). Here are the journeys that still remain at the time of writing:

Harborough Saunter: 30 July and 28 Aug. Leaves Northampton at 13.00 -- connect from Cambridge at 09.10 changing at Bedford, or from Peterborough at 10.10. A longer day out is possible by using the train between Bedford and Market Harborough. Return to Cambridge either by X7 from Market Harborough (17.33) or Kelmarsh (17.40) to Northampton then X4 to Milton Keynes and back by X5, or by train from arrival at Northampton to Milton Keynes. Peterborough passengers do the same but need to catch a train from St Neots. This service visits Cottesbrooke Hall (only open on 28 Aug), Foxton Locks (museum and boat trips available), Kelmarsh Hall (fully open 28 Aug, gardens only 30 July), and the Northampton & Lamport Railway. Note that this trip may be affected by long term roadworks at Market Harborough. On 28 Aug over 50s may also go by train rebooking at Leicester.

Rutland Saunter: 6 Aug. From Cambridge, bus at 08.10 to Bedford then train to Wellingborough for 11.03 start from Church Street. From Peterborough, bus at 10.10 to Corby for 11.40 start from the Civic Centre. Return same route. Does circuit of Rutland Water with its many attractions including boat trips between Whitwell and Normanton, also visits Lyddington Bede House.

Warwick & Kenilworth Saunter: 13 Aug. Difficult to get to and not recommended because it sticks to main roads.

John Clare Saunter: 20 Aug. From Cambridge, as for Rutland Saunter but a taxi may be needed at Wellingborough station if the train is late because start time is 10.33. From Peterborough, one can cover the main circuit by using the 10.10 to Oundle for a start time at 11.38, but there's no easy way to see the villages between Thrapston and Oundle. Attractions include Barnack Hills & Holes, Burghley House and Garden, Nene Valley Railway, Prebendal Manor House at Nassington, and museums at Peterborough, Oundle and Stamford.

Rockingham Saunter: 27 Aug. From Cambridge, 08.10 to Milton Keynes then X4 to Kettering for 12.55 start from Newland Street. Return same route from Northampton at 18.35. From Peterborough use 11.10 to Kettering returning at 18.25. Visits Boughton House, Deene Park, East Carlton Country Park, Kirby Hall, Rockingham Castle, Rushton Triangular Lodge and West Lodge Rural Centre.

For full Saunterbus timetables see the website.

Leicestershire and Rutland: We have already mentioned cuts to 9A/B and R47, also the Rutland and Harborough Saunters. Some positive news is that the series of open top tours in Leicestershire is running again this year: on Tuesdays from Market Harborough and Melton Mowbray (both with significantly improved routes), Thursdays from Loughborough, Fridays from Ashby de la Zouch, Saturdays from Hinckley, and, new this year, Sundays from Oakham. Anyone thinking of doing the tour from Melton Mowbray may be interested to know that this year it takes a private road through the Belvoir Castle estate.

All tours except Rutland are easily accessible by local bus from Leicester: to get there use the Flat Fare Saver if you're over 50 or, from Cambridge, buy an Explorer and go via Bedford and Northampton (and on the way back you may need to go by train from Northampton to Milton Keynes). For the Market Harborough tour, alight there from the Northampton bus, or go from Bedford via Kettering. All tours have positioning workings to Leicester, and for the Rutland tour this leg of the journey is worth the ride. The Rutland tour is only practically accessible by train, though keen walkers can try catching the 10.15 from Peterborough to Duddington, Collyweston or Easton on the Hill and walking to Empingham.

Also worth noting is the introduction of a new series of routes serving the villages in SE Leics called Rural Rider. Buses operate commuter and shopping services to Leicester, Market Harborough, Uppingham, Oakham and Melton Mowbray.

Surrey and Sussex: Last time we mentioned routes NT1 from Dorking, 510 from Redhill and Oxted, 77-79 from Brighton, 13 along the East Sussex Coast and the Cuckmere and Charleston Ramblers from Berwick, Polegate and Seaford. Also still running is the 100-2 westward along the Downs from Burgess Hill. On Sundays this service has a distinct route serving Amberley Chalkpits Museum, and is operated by Stagecoach. However, the Chichester Harbour bus no longer runs, making it difficult to join boat trips from West Itchenor, though during the main season there are trips from Emsworth.

Hampshire and Bournemouth: A new open top tour serves Southampton Docks, using non-public roads. Every hour between 09.30 and 14.30 from Southampton rail station, daily till 3 Sept. The New Forest also has its open top tour again, with positioning workings to/from Eastleigh and a new access point at Hythe, accessible by ferry or bus from Southampton. Portsmouth and Bournemouth both have unusual viewpoints: the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth and the Bournemouth Eye, the latter a ride in a tethered hot air balloon! The Hamble River Bus runs daily to 3 Sept and on the weekend of 9-10 Sept, linking Hamble with Manor Farm Country Park.

Wiltshire: Last time we mentioned the Kennet & Avon Sunday Wigglybus between Bedwyn and Bardford on Avon. This runs every week till 22 Oct, leaving Bedwyn at 12.10. If you want to connect off the 12.08 train arrival from London (remember Network Railcards are valid to Bedwyn), it's best to ring 01225 757511 by the previous Friday. This service can be used to visit Prior Park near Bath, which is notable as being the site of a successful experiment to show that the National Trust could attract visitors to sites without their own car parking. (There's an account of this experiment in the book ``Car Sick'' reviewed above.) Full details of the service can be seen on the Traveline South-West website (look for bus routes 55 and 66).

The new Mere Wigglybus also provides day trip facilities to Longleat, Stourhead and other major visitor attractions. For Longleat, served on Saturdays, go by train to Warminster (it's probably best to rebook at Salisbury) whence buses leave at 10.15 or 11.45. Or, with careful planning, go to Shaftesbury by bus from Salisbury or Gillingham in time for the 10.55 Wigglybus. For Stourhead leave Gillingham rail station at 12.30 on Tues, Wed, Thurs and Sats -- prebook on 01747 861222. See full details.

Berkshire: The National Waterways Festival is being held at Beale Park this year. As usual it's over the August Bank Holiday weekend. The nearest station is Pangbourne, from which one can walk or, probably, catch a shuttle boat. As far as we know this time the railway line between London and Reading won't be closed for engineering work, as it was last time the Festival was at this venue.

Next year the Festival moves to our area, at St Ives. Would any of the organisations that have campaigned on the guided busway issue find it useful to hawk their wares at this event?

And further afield...

Dorset: Contrary to what we said last time, Lulworth Cove is now served by two routes: Nordcat 103 and Travelguest CE. The latter, running out of Wool station, also serves Durdle Door, Lulworth Castle and Bovington Monkeyworld, and runs about 2 hourly every day during the high season. The former provides demand responsive links with Dorchester and Wool.

Also worthy of note are the ``Discover Dorset'' minibus tours which run from Bournemouth and Christchurch to Purbeck and the New Forest, both visiting areas off regular bus routes. See details.

Northern England: Areas with well established recreational bus networks that can be reached relatively cheaply by the over 50s using Flat Fare Savers include Sherwood Forest, Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Lancashire, the North York Moors and the Lake District. Possible railheads include Nottingham, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Stockport or Manchester.

The Mountain Goat route across the Hard Knott and Wrynose Passes that we mentioned last time is in the Cumbria CC timetable, but we've been told that it isn't running. Another notable withdrawal is the evening and Sunday service on trunk route X84 between Ilkley and Skipton.

Wales and the Borders: We mentioned the Shropshire Hills Shuttles, Malverns Hillhopper and Pembrokeshire Coastal network last time. Other well established services include the Beacons Bus (serving the Brecon Beacons), Snowdon Sherpa, Clwydian Ranger and Sandstone Rambler between Runcorn, Frodsham and Whitchurch. However this year the last runs on Saturdays only. Possible Flat Fare Saver railheads include Birmingham, Cardiff, Stockport, Liverpool and Worcester.

Contrary to what we said last time, the excursion minibus based on the Clun Forest Shuttle does not appear to be running this year. And although route 759 between Worcester and Tenbury Wells is running, the timetable makes it of little use to visitors.

Scotland: The Heatherhopper, which we last heard of some time ago, has been restored this year. (We have no idea whether it has run in recent years.) There are two routes: 501 Ballater-Grantown-Inverness (Mon-Sat till 30 Sept) and 502 Aberdeen-Ballater-Pitlochry-Perth (Mon-Sat till 19 Aug -- season may be extended, ring 01343 544222 or 01224 212266 to check).

Also worthy of note is the Loch Ness Express, a boat covering the full length of the loch, linking Fort Augustus, Foyers and Dochgarroch with minibus connection at the last to/from Inverness.

Further south, route 93 links Aberfeldy with Killin on Saturdays till 7 Oct, also Tuesdays during the school holidays (which finish much earlier in Scotland than they do in England).