Don't forget ** AGM 10.30 9 Dec, 1 Fitzroy Lane, Cambridge
Consultations have recently been going on about the future of Cambridge's north-western side; development proposals are about to be put forward for the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) site between Huntingdon Road and Histon Road, and a masterplan is being drawn up for University development on the sector between Madingley Road and Huntingdon Road. Exhibitions have recently been held about both these proposals, with the public invited to respond.
The official closing date for consultation has now passed, but there is still a chance to lobby your elected representatives. Especially as the questions asked in the consultation omitted some of the issues which we consider most important.
The NIAB displays showed a public transport corridor parallel to and south of Huntingdon Road, roughly extending Storey's Way, and curving to meet Huntingdon Road just short of the Girton interchange. No questions were asked about this in the consultation about the University site, but we believe that it could represent a last chance to establish a sustainable transport network for Cambridge. As a start, we would like to ensure that no development either side of Huntingdon Road takes place without a commitment to provide such a route, which could eventually form the backbone of a network fulfilling the following functions:
1. By way of a northward extension, providing a public transport corridor between the City Centre and Northstowe significantly shorter than the planned guided busway.
2. Thereby enabling part of the latter to be reclaimed for an east-west rail link.
3. By way of a westward extension, providing a public transport route between the City Centre and Cambourne avoiding Madingley Road, which whatever the Highways Agency say is likely to become increasingly congested when the widened A428 encourages commuters from the Cambourne area to drive into Cambridge.
4. In the longer term, an eastward extension by tunnel to Bradwell's Court could complete a Bus Rapid Transit system for the western side of Cambridge which would, for the first time, provide a fast route into the City Centre. A tunnel would, of course, be expensive, but as it could serve all corridors between Northstowe and the M11 there would be no problem about making full use of the capacity it would provide.
We therefore hope that members will lobby their elected representatives on Cambridge City Council, South Cambs District Council, and Cambs County Council to ensure that the above potential is recognised.
On other issues, the proposals for both the NIAB and University sites included an orbital road, and the University consultation asked whether this should be an all purpose road or one restricted (for through traffic) to non-motorised users and public transport, and, independently, whether it should be restricted to low speeds. Our response was:
(a) An all purpose route would encourage traffic growth so should be avoided.
(b) Speed reduction would not be necessary if traffic volumes were kept down by restricting the classes of traffic able to use the road, though we would not object to speed reduction should that be considered desirable anyway.
(c) An orbital public transport route would offer an opportunity for a Cambridge Outer Circle (or rather semicircle) bus route from the proposed Chesterton Parkway station to Addenbrookes via the Science Park, CRC, Arbury Park, NIAB, University Site, M11 between Junctions 13 and 12, Grantchester, Trumpington village and P&R, and a new station for Addenbrookes.
Also mooted was the possibility of north facing spurs at M11 Junction 13 (Madingley Road). We said that because of impending traffic problems on Madingley Road we would object to such a proposal unless combined with a public transport corridor avoiding Madingley Road (see 3 above).
Branch members and national supporters will find, enclosed with this newsletter, the notice for our AGM, which will be held at the Secretary's flat at 1 Fitzroy Lane at 10.30 on Sat 9 Dec. If you haven't received a notice, you will still be welcome if you turn up at the above time and place -- and, if you wish, you can join on the spot.
Any nominations for any of the posts referred to at the head of this newsletter (other than those relating to other Transport 2000 branches or other organisations) should be sent to the Coordinator to arrive before the meeting, or (if the consent of the nominee has been obtained) may be taken at the meeting.
Activities and financial reports will be circulated at the meeting, and sent to members with subsequent newsletter(s). Also to be circulated will be the minutes of the 2004 AGM.
The AGM will be followed by an open discussion on any topics members wish to raise (relevant to our remit). This will continue as long as members wish. The format adopted in 2004 and 2005 where the meeting was divided between two days will not be adopted this time (as the Railfuture Cambridge meeting will have been held the previous Saturday). However, the Secretary will be holding "open house" in her flat on Wed 13 Dec between 10.30 and 15.30, and any members who can't make the 9th can come then. Or, if you have any topics you wish to raise, you may contact the Coordinator before the 9th and ask him to put them to the meeting.
There are still some members who haven't renewed for 2006-7. If you have received a renewal slip with this newsletter, please send your subscription as soon as possible -- if it reaches us soon it will be included in our financial report for this year. Alternatively you can save on postal costs by paying your subscription renewal at the AGM.
Subscriptions remain at 3-50 ordinary, 2-50 concessionary, 5-00 household/affiliate. Why not renew for 2 years and save the trouble of having to send another cheque next year? We are unlikely to give any further reminders to members who do not respond to this call for renewal.
Please note that there have been some changes to the Committee's contact details. The Coordinator's new work phone and fax numbers are shown at the head of this newsletter. The email address that the Secretary has been using (please note that this has not been shown in newsletters) is no longer applicable. (As before, the Coordinator's fax number should not be used unless there has been previous notification that a fax is to be sent to it, as otherwise the document in question may not get through.)
Please also note that the contact details for CAST.IRON have also changed to those shown at the head of this newsletter, and we have added the contact details of Road Block (who now have the same address as national Transport 2000).
In mid September Transport 2000 arranged a study tour of urban areas in Denmark and Sweden. Here is the Coordinator's personal report.
There were a total of 16 participants on the tour, though not all of them were there all the time, and in particular one participant, who was touring Scandinavia at the time with a 3 week railpass, spent only one day with us. The participants included a tour organiser, Linda Beard from Transport 2000; a tour leader, Graham Smith from Oxford Brookes University; a contingent of no less than 6 people from the London Borough of Islington; with the remainder divided equally between campaigners and local authority officers.
The programme for the tour, with comments on how things actually turned out, was as follows.
Day 1: Arrive at Harwich for overnight sailing to Esbjerg in Denmark. A problem arose when the tour leader's journey to London was disrupted by a fire in a factory adjacent to the railway line between Reading and London, leading to the suspension of services on this line. As a result he had to travel to London by taxi in order not to miss the boat (which runs only three times a week). I don't know who paid for this taxi, but, whether it was Transport 2000 or the rail industry, it's surely an unjust imposition, and I would like to see legislation making those who cause major delays on railways and roads (or their insurers) responsible for compensating public transport users affected by these delays.
However, everyone booked on the boat did eventually turn up. The crossing was smooth, but visibility was poor and soon after leaving Harwich there was nothing to see.
Day 2: Arrive at Esbjerg, also in mist. Transfer to small "executive" coach for the journey to our hotel in Copenhagen. En route we stopped to have a look at the port of Vejle where a regeneration exercise was in progress -- though from what we saw most of the work seemed to be in the future. Then over the Great Belt Bridge -- one of the longest of its type in the world -- with the mist unfortunately still obstructing the view. On this bridge, the toll for a car is the equivalent of about 30-00 (and 60-00 for a small coach and 90-00 for a full sized coach) which makes Scottish complaints about Skye bridge tolls seem rather petty. This bridge is paralleled by a railway bridge/tunnel -- a facility not provided with any of the major postwar road bridges in the UK.
By the time we got to Copenhagen the weather had improved, and it was to stay sunny for the rest of the tour. We had arranged a restaurant dinner which the whole party attended.
Day 3: Pick up bikes at the station hire shop for a city tour. (Two of our party were victims of road crashes which made them unable to cycle; they would be taken on the tour route by rickshaw.) As one who hasn't cycled for years, I (and some others) had to say that I wouldn't feel confident on a bike whose brake was operated by back pedalling, and insisted on the type of brake I was more accustomed to.
During the tour we were taken to two presentations: one by Jan Gehl's firm of architects, the other by the city council. Jan Gehl, whose firm has done international work including, for example, a scheme for the proposed rebuild of the Elephant and Castle area of South London, has developed ideas for making the most of "public space", i.e. space available for informal public use, and is noted for having said "it is a wonderful thing to live in a city where one can feel that it is getting better every day": as one who feels the very opposite for Cambridge, and most other places in the UK, I can only envy those who can experience this attitude!
Following the afternoon presentation, those of us who still had some energy left cycled out to Orestad, where there is a new shopping development built near a major highway (but also next to an interchange between the Metro and main line railway). By that time we all were tired, so we had a meal at an Indian restaurant in the food court and took our bikes on the train back to the central station.
Day 4: After returning our bikes to the hire shop, we went by train on Denmark's other spectacular new rail/road bridge, on the international route to Malmo in Sweden. The railway is said to be the world's first international suburban rail system. We continued on the train to the university and cathedral city of Lund. Unfortunately the person who was supposed to have met us was unavailable, so we had a couple of hours on our own as tourists. Then back to Malmo where we were taken round a new waterside regeneration area, which included an internationally famed skateboard park and a twisted tower called the "Turning Torso", which unfortunately does not include a public viewing facility at the top. After returning to Copenhagen we picked up our coach for visits to Lyngby, a rather upmarket suburb of Copenhagen within the city's urban envelope, and compared with Richmond in London, and Allerod, a new suburb in the countryside built around a commuter railway.
Day 5: Our coach took us past the famous Carlsberg Brewery which has some interesting "gateway" style architecture, over the Great Belt bridge again, this time in sunshine, to the city of Odense, whose most famous resident is Hans Christian Andersen. Here, again, we were given a presentation in the historic city hall, following which we took a bike tour (again with a rickshaw provided). Then we continued by coach back to Esbjerg, where we had a short time to look around the pedestrianised main shopping street before joining the boat back to Harwich.
During the coach ride to Odense we were all asked to speak to the party about our impressions of the tour. One of the participants, Elizabeth Pascoe, who had been involved in legal action relating to the future of her own neighbourhood on which a decision was then pending, said that several people had asked her for a briefing on the issue and she would therefore be addressing us about that too. Having heard her, when I got home I asked her for an article, which she provided and which forms the next section of this newsletter.
Day 6: Arrive back in Harwich -- by which time the mist had descended again, so that the outline of Sizewell Nuclear Power Station could be made out but not much else. On arrival it was raining. We all took the same train to London but alighted at several different points where we said goodbye to one another.
So what were my impressions of the tour?
1. Most of the cities and towns we visited have gone to a lot of trouble to tackle the problems faced by cyclists. This contrasts with the UK where, when facilities are provided for cyclists, they often seem to stop just where they are most needed. As a result Denmark enjoys one of the highest cycling rates in the industrialised world, with no less than 40% using bikes in central Copenhagen -- more than the number who use either cars or public transport.
As a result I felt reasonably safe cycling in Copenhagen in a way which I would not feel in any UK city, let alone one of comparable size. There was one stage where I got worried in Odense, but this was on a downhill slope as a result of my unfamiliarity with the back pedalling method of braking!
However, there's a downside: Danish cities have taken 30-40 years to get where they are now. If UK cities were to do the same, by the time cycling in UK cities had become equally pleasant most of us would be too old to enjoy it!
2. Most cycle routes were segregated from both the road and the pavement, at a higher level than the former but a lower level than the latter. There is controversy within the cycling movement as to whether segregation is the right way to proceed: all I can say is that the Danes seem to have made it work!
3. In the UK, where segregated cycle routes are provided alongside main roads, they are usually on just one side of the road and two way. However, in Denmark most main roads have one way cycle routes on each side of the road. Furthermore, these routes are wide enough (about a car's width) for cyclists to overtake one another, and can therefore accommodate both the "serious" and "timid" types of cyclist, riding respectively on the "road" and "pavement" sides of the cycleway. It is mostly serious cyclists who don't like segregation, but that may be because our type of scheme doesn't provide as well for them -- in fact the Cyclists Touring Club representative on our trip said that he was having to think again about the issue following his experiences.
4. In Denmark -- as in many other countries -- the "rule of the road" at intersections is quite different in that pedestrians (and cyclists) going straight on have right of way over turning traffic. That means that there's no need for separate "all red" phases for motor traffic, while pedestrians and cyclists have much shorter waits. Why can't we do things that way here?
Cyclists turning left (equivalent to turning right in the UK) will have a two phase manoeuvre. Let's suppose they are going north, on the cycleway on the east side of a north-south road, and wishing to turn to the west. Then in the first phase they will cross the east-west road with the lights; they will they wait for the lights to change, and cross the north-south road. Thus they will end up on the westbound cycle lane on the north side of the east-west road, which is exactly where they want to be. This manoeuvre may seem cumbersome to cyclists used to making a direct turn across traffic, but in Denmark it's accepted and I think it's a reasonable price to pay for the advantage that rarely does one have to look in more than one direction at a time before negotiating an intersection.
5. However, Denmark is far from immune to the same forces of "planning drift" that have led to the dominance of the car in most places in the UK. They are building car oriented developments like Orestad, even if such developments also have good cycle and public transport access; politicians are facing, and giving in to, pressure to provide more car parking, and to retain street parking where this conflicts with the need for new cycle routes; and we were told that whatever the quality of its walking and cycling environment central Copenhagen had less shopping turnover than suburban Lyngby, where a reasonable pedestrian environment (which the local authority was keen to enhance) was achieved without the type of parking restraint that forms one of the main deterrents to car access to central Copenhagen.
6. But let us end on a positive note by drawing attention to some of the special features we encountered. In Copenhagen, we saw a brand new cycle bridge to one of the new shopping developments; in Odense, traffic lights on one of the cycleways had been linked so that cyclists travelling at a certain speed could go straight through (and one's speed was measured by radar and shown on a display; also, we were taken on an attractive route through a riverside park to see where, following the relocation of a school, a high quality cycle route had been built so that pupils from the school's catchment area could cycle to the new site, with a subway under a main road specially designed to avoid the personal security problems often associated with subways; and in Malmo, the new waterside development offered such spectacular views that we were reluctant to turn away to get back to the central station to continue our tour!
One of the main grievances of sustainable transport campaigners is the way road (and other) planners draw lines on maps then inexorably seek to convert these lines into reality, in this instance a major road into an "urban motorway", regardless of the effect on local communities (in urban areas) or attractive and ecologically "vital" countryside (in rural areas). Notorious examples of the former include the M11 Link Road (now the A12) in Wanstead, East London, and the Aire Valley Road (the A650) in Bingley and Keighley, West Yorkshire. Notorious examples of the latter include Twyford Down (the M3 near Winchester) and the Newbury by-pass (A34).
One such "line" is the extension of the M62 to Liverpool City Centre, which currently has a frustrating (for road planners) single carriageway section in one direction, for the length of a landmark church (which cannot be used, as it is a dangerous structure) on the western end of Edge Lane (the A5047).
A regeneration scheme came up immediately prior to the road scheme, called Kensington New Deal for Communities, where a neighbourhood (which just happened to lay either side of the narrow point) was allocated 62m to pull itself up by the bootstraps (supposedly dependent on grassroots representations). The local authority, who couldn't afford to upgrade the road any other way, saw it as a great opportunity to realise their own higher aspirations.
Community input tended to be through what some coined "nodding dogs", well meaning typical community representatives who gloried in the limelight (went to tea with the queen etc.) who didn't realise they were acting as scapegoats. The term consultation actually meant that some distant consultants were flown in, rather than that the community were meaningfully consulted, and then what they "found" folded into the "Masterplan".
A substantial amount of our 62m funds was used for such consultants' documents e.g. a neighbourhood renewal assessment and blueprinting exercise. Thus various needs, indices of multiple deprivation, including the condition of our homes, were identified, donated to the road proponents, and were thus ready to be displayed as evidence against us, the statutory objectors, at the public inquiry for the Compulsory Purchase Order.
The stakeholders in "site assembly for potential developers" were Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all (representatives from 13 quangos) with a token gesture from the "grassroots" view (representing the 501 households to be disposed of, with property owners being offered 50% (or even 25% initially, before we wised up) of what it would cost them to replace what they were losing. (A number of acquisitions occurred long before the Compulsory Purchase Order, when people were not informed enough to know they should get comparable market value.)
At the Inquiry we put together 15 quite varied local community objectors (having been advised not to bore the Inspector) and 23 professionals, mostly pro bono, e.g. one from Friends of the Earth, one from the Civic Trust, one from Merseyside Civic Society (a head of department at Liverpool University), Prof Anne Power from the LSE, one from Save our City, one from Save Britain's Heritage, a Professor of Transport systems (background as a civil engineer), a chartered surveyor, a building surveyor, our MP, all our councillors plus another one (all of which went against their own parties), a property valuer, two civic designers (one more of a town planner), evidence from Shelter, from the Empty Homes Agency (with research from the Building Research Establishment), a couple of architects (5 of the 365 houses were owned by architects) and so on.
The inspector took not one bit of notice of anything we said. Not when the MP said she had been lied to (that the road junction improvements would not require demolition of homes) nor our spare councillor who volunteered to say the scheme had bypassed normal council scrutiny procedures.
I analysed the Environmental Impact Assessment for the road, which said it would be faster, less safe, more polluting (in every respect), and encourage a 66% increase in traffic, and analysed the Neighbourhood Renewal assessment which wrongly identified that 51% of the community wanted their homes destroyed. It was not 51%, quite, but 51% of 14% of 3% of...which ended up being approximately 3 people (out of 501 households).
Their rhetoric stated that the houses were structurally unsound. No structural survey had ever been done: as far as we knew only 3 of the 501 homes were entered and these found to be "satisfactory". Our own surveyor said all were basically OK, some very neglected of course.
The majority of those empty/neglected belonged to the social sector. For a considerable time before the Neighbourhood Renewal Assessment social tenants had been given 3,000 or more to leave, and the homes left empty (deliberately), making it look to passers by that there was housing market failure.
Why do that to us? Well that must surely be because we are zoned a residential area, the one closest to the city centre. The road scheme was just an excuse to shift ordinary people out of quality aesthetically pleasing Victorian terraced housing (affordable, but called obsolete), to replace us with yuppie apartments, which should get a higher council tax band revenue.
I acquired for myself an expert solicitor to write my objection letter, who identified the new powers being used as being unlawful. The Inspector, who isn't allowed to decide on legal issues, and the Planning Inspectorate both ignored that fact, adapted the law by inserting one word, which won for me in the High Court. Ironically if I had a better income/any capital I would have been ineligible for legal aid and unable to afford to go to court.
But the victory is hollow for two reasons. One is that most of the community have left, including those who didn't want to go, so that much damage has already been done. Small businesses, often dating back several generations, went under, as their client base - the 40% of residents who were social sector tenants, so had not a lot of choice - had gone, and those remaining, owner occupiers, had empty properties either side and were therefore improperly secured and subject to vandalism, arson and flooding, as well as drug addict squatters with associated prostitution. Often very elderly widows were determined to dig in, but their families said "Please Mum, we are so worried about you, give up".
The other reason is that we are now hearing that the proponents accept they didn't use the right powers, so they now intend to do it all over again, this time properly. So that is another two year prison sentence for me. I have just spent about 100 hours a week for almost every single week of the last 2 years on this, which has caused me to shelve my PhD which I had been working towards for about 3 years - and to prepare for which I first did an environmental science degree, part time over 5 years, because I was also doing all I could to contribute to the Kensington New Deal process for 5 years, with up to 7 meetings a week, as I thought it was a wonderful idea. Silly me. Not one word I ever said was even minuted. I did an architecture degree in the 1960s. And since then I have done a great deal of community work, e.g. started the Grand Western Canal Trust in the West Country where I used to live. I had intended just to facilitate and thus help bring forward the aspirations of my neighbours, not make the decisions.
So, stalemate. I am hoping to pressurise the proponents into a compromise. A simple scheme for the road, solving the tight spot, saving the housing, which can be refurbished at 25% the cost, both in financial terms and to the environment (other research indicates a ninth of the environmental cost). I had hoped for green roofs, solar panels, Jan Gehl style public space (see report on visit to Denmark), with bicycle lanes, and so much else. But, with the "starting all over again" looming up, and other reasons, I think it better to try to get this compromise instead.
The victory has had far reaching effects, which is good of course, and part of what I wanted to achieve. But I also hope to do something for my neighbours as a few remain, and others want to return. The stress has been dreadful, as has the sadness of seeing people go who have lived here maybe 50 years, one lady 72 years, another 59 years (aged 98 and 80). They had to get rid of their big old furniture - as one said when I told her how good it looked: "I have cared for it for 56 years, never let the children put their feet on it, and now I can't even give it away. And there will be nowhere for my wedding presents (crystal bowls and candlesticks on show on the big oak sideboard) in that little modern flat. Still, I guess it would all have had to go sooner or later, when I died." It is too sad really to see their spirits broken after a lifetime of strength.
Finally, why is this of national importance? Because we fought back, we gave that example. And the proponents now know they can't get away with it.
On 18 Sept new road safety laws came into operation. Typically, the media have covered features like new requirements for seats adapted for children under 12, but not laws requiring bus and coach passengers to wear seat belts under certain circumstances.
Roughly speaking, one is now required to wear a seat built for any bus and coach journey -- including journeys on buses substituting for trains during engineering work -- which satisfies the following three conditions.
1. Seat belts are fitted to the bus or coach.
2. Standing passengers are not allowed. (This information should be displayed on board. It is not relevant whether any passengers actually are standing.)
3. The bus is not on a purely urban route. (Passengers making purely urban journeys on rural or inter-urban routes will still have to wear belts if the other two conditions are satisfied.)
This legislation came out of the blue in that we were unaware of any public discussion or consultation. Consequently we can't help wondering whether it has been thought through properly. In particular:
(a) Does the legislation include the exemptions which must be required for practicality: for example, is an offence being committed if the driver doesn't wait at every stop for passengers who have just joined to belt up? How can coach passengers go to the lavatory while the coach is on the move? How do passengers sitting at the back alert the driver when they wish to alight? And if their belongings fall into the aisle are they allowed to pick them up?
(b) Are the Government sure that the legislation won't be self defeating by encouraging passengers to drive rather than use public transport now that seat belt requirements apply equally to both? An analogy might be the observation that in some places laws requiring cyclists to wear helmets have resulted in large decreases in the popularity of cycling.
The Coordinator has exprienced several cases of rudeness by bus and coach drivers which might be linked to the new legislation. Can drivers really be blamed for this if they feel that they may become the fall guys if passengers are found not wearing seatbelts? Fortunately most drivers seem to be fairly easy going about this.
Generally speaking, can the legislation be viewed as yet another step towards the degradation of the travel experience? This applies to all modes of transport, both sustainable and unsustainable:
A: Motorway scenery is usually much more boring than to be seen from all purpose (rural) roads; high speed railway routes are similarly more boring than local (rural) rail routes; and there's usually still less to be seen from an aeroplane.
B: When cycle tourists and ramblers plan their routes, the quality of the scenery has to yield priority to the need to ensure that one can get across all the major highways one is likely to encounter, especially on a route that includes an urban area.
C: Many bus operators (practically all local transit operators in the US) impose "no eating or drinking" restrictions. This is particularly worrying because it eliminates one of the prime advantages of using public transport -- the chance to use one's travel time to do things that have to be done anyway.
D: "Cherry picking" by bus operators means that many of the routes more interesting to travel on have disappeared. Higher frequencies on "main road" routes are no compensation for people who want to enjoy their journeys.
E: Ever growing suburban development means one has to go further to get into the countryside at all.
Following the success of legal action by residents of the Offords (for more information see http://www.offordsa14actiongroup.co.uk) the Highways Agency has agreed to restart consultation regarding the western section of the proposed A14 scheme (i.e. west of Fen Drayton). They say that the projected completion date for the scheme -- 2015 -- is unaffected.
While we generally support the concerns of the Offords residents, our main concerns, as described in Newsletter 89, are different:
1. The widening of roads in the Cambridge area beyond the environmental capacity of the local road network, and the consequent high cost (which escalated from 192m when the Cambridge-Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study (CHUMMS) reported to 490m now).
2. The missing of many opportunities, including the diversion of Huntingdon bound traffic off the existing A14 to the A1198 allowing the former to be used as a public transport corridor (as recommended by CHUMMS); the provision of a park & ride site at Fen Drayton where the old and new A14 separate; and the diversion of traffic between the A428 and M11 off Madingley Road by providing appropriate slip roads on the Girton interchange.
Not all of these concerns will be addressable by the new consultation when that emerges, but we hope to highlight those that are.
However, given the ever growing evidence of the importance of the climate change issue, we must ask the question whether the whole roads programme shouldn't be shut down or at least drastically slimmed. With this newsletter we are enclosing some "Road Building Fuels Climate Change" postcards which will be sent to the Minister. If you have received one (we may not have enough to send to everyone) please sign it and return it to Road Block, the coordinator of this campaign, as soon as possible. If you feel you can get more signatures, ask Road Block to send you more postcards (and send them the postage, as they are far from well heeled!). Their contact details are at the head of this newsletter.
Please note that we're calling for the scrapping of the roads programme. That wouldn't necessarily mean the end of all road development -- there may be individual schemes that could be justified on their environmental or social benefits while not encouraging traffic growth. So if you want traffic off your street and can provide good reason why this can only be done by building a new road, don't be put off signing the postcard! (In fact, it is arguable that these environmental and social problems could be solved more quickly if the Highways Agency and local authorities weren't trying to use them as an excuse to push through capacity increases.)
Meanwhile, the A421 Great Barford By-pass is now open (though not for bus passengers on the X5, who must continue to use the slower route through the village); and work is continuing on the A428 west of Cambridge and the A1198 Papworth by-pass, which will together create a "relief A14" encouraging motorists to continue to drive into Cambridge rather than use buses, guided or otherwise.
We start with the east-west rail link. According to the latest issue of Railfuture's newsletter "Railwatch", experts consulted by the Bedfordshire Railway and Transport Association have quoted a figure of 125m for the cost of bridging the planned rowing lake at Willington. Meanwhile the Government has refused to call in the decision for public inquiry.
This means that if the rowing lake goes ahead we really need to look at other options for restoring the railway, in particular that suggested by the London-South Midlands Multi-Modal Study, who recommended that the route should follow the A428 and A421.
Starting at the Bedford end, the stretch of old trackbed west of the A421 will not be affected by the rowing lake. One can then follow the new A421 to its terminus at the A1 Black Cat roundabout, join the East Coast Main Line through St Neots where interchange with the East Coast Main Line would be provided, and swing round north of the town to follow the A428 towards Cambridge.
Unfortunately the failure to plan for the railway when the roads were being designed will no doubt increase the cost of adding it on, but we'd be surprised if it wasn't much cheaper than providing a 125m bridge.
But how to join the existing main line through Cambridge when the guided busway has taken both the former trackbeds west of Cambridge? We believe that the easiest option would be to reroute the guided busway via the proposed public transport corridor south of Huntingdon Road (see headline article), which can be done whether or not this is a guided route, so that the former rail route through Histon can be reclaimed as a railway.
The cost of reclaiming the route would be reduced if the contractors for the busway don't dig up the earth and ballast for drainage, but merely lay the guideway on top -- as has been approved in principle by the county council for part of the route. Contact details for the contractors are as follows: write to the Head Office, St James House, Knoll Road, Camberley, Surrey GU16 3XW, ring 01276 63484, fax 01276 66060, or email firstname.lastname@example.org These details are as shown on their website.
The restoration of an east-west rail link is just one of a number of projects which we believe are needed for a sustainable transport network for our county. Here are some others -- and these are not intended to be exhaustive so don't worry if we've omitted your pet scheme.
1. Completion of the Thameslink 2000 project, which will enable trains from the Cambridge and Peterborough routes to run through Central London to the South. We are glad to report that all the planning problems have now been sorted out, though finance has not yet been allocated.
2. Provision of a new island platform at Cambridge station, which will provide enough capacity for all the trains one can reasonably expect.
3. Provision of a local rail network, including new stations each side of Cambridge (Chesterton Parkway and Addenbrookes), and for many of the communities close to existing or former railways in the surrounding area.
4. Reopening of the Wisbech branch, which will improve links to and within a relatively remote area of the county.
5. Provision of a further east-west rail link to the south of Cambridge, linking Milton Keynes, Stevenage, Harlow, Stansted Airport and the East Coast ports.
6. Restoration of the Melton Mowbray to Nottingham route to the national network, using a new link between the Old Dalby test track and the Cotgrave colliery branch, which run only a few miles from each other and both of which are currently not required for their former purposes. If the Norwich-Liverpool service was run this way it would ease capacity problems on the East Coast Main Line, especially in conjunction with Thameslink 2000 (see above).
Transport 2000 nationally is pursuing a "Growing the Railways" campaign (see their website) which aims to make politicians aware of the social, economic and environmental benefits of giving rail the capacity increases, new routes and competitive fares necessary to allow it to take significant traffic off the roads. We urge members to write to their MPs asking them to support this campaign. We hope to enclose a copy of the Transport 2000 leaflet.
One particular overpricing problem was mentioned in the last newsletter; see next section for more on this.
We start with the holdover from the last section -- the saga of First Capital Connect's changes to the validity of day returns.
This issue has aroused a lot of passion, and we were represented at a meeting held in the House of Commons between Passenger Focus, local MPs, and rail user groups. Unfortunately, probably due to a pensioners' lobby held the same day, none of the Labour MPs who had indicated their intention to attend turn up, nor did the sole Lib Dem representing the area affected (David Howarth, Cambridge). And the lobby also had the effect of lengthening the queue for people to enter the House, though fortunately some of us were able to get through by means of a separate entrance. But when the meeting got under way it produced some useful discussion.
We were reminded that operators had been asked to bid for the franchise under the assumption that stock leased to Southern and operated by Thameslink's previous owners (Go Ahead, who also operate Southern) would be available, only to find after the franchise was accepted that this was not the case. This led to an unacceptable gap between the passenger capacity FCC could provide and the peak demand, and it was this that had led FCC to impose the new restrictions. However we were also told that the restrictions had been largely ineffective in shifting demand, and that even if the capacity problem was resolved FCC would be unlikely to remove the restrictions.
Passenger groups were advised to keep the pressure up on FCC; even if we can't win this time we will still deter them from introducing further detrimental changes.
One issue we emphasised was the problems faced by those who have buses to catch when they reach Cambridge or other stations. By the time the first post-peak trains have arrived many of the bus routes have ceased, and even for those that continue to run frequencies are drastically reduced. Nor can passengers who have had to wait till 10.00 to get their railcard discount be expected to leave London before the cut-off time of 16.15.
Ironically, when the formal part of the meeting closed at about 16.30, many of us had time to fill in before we could use the return halves of our tickets to get back home!
There are also three other issues involving fares. Two are good news, one bad. We start with the former.
Cambridgeshire's various district councils have managed to come to an agreement on allowing free county-wide travel for holders of pensioners' passes. Cambridgeshire County Council's website lays the blame for the delay on the Government -- quite unfairly, as many other counties managed to get full county-wide availability from day one, and some of them enjoy a better system than ours in that all journeys to or from the county are covered, and at all times (there's still an 09.30 restriction in Cambridgeshire on Mondays to Fridays). And let's not forget that the Government has agreed to provide national availability from 2008.
As presaged in our last newsletter, a flat 50p fare has been introduced for holders of University Cards for all journeys on Stagecoach's Cambridge Citi routes C1-7 (except C7 north of Histon or south of Stapleford). This applies for an experimental period till the end of the year. We urge cardholders to make as much use of the facility as they can, because if it is seen to encourage more bus use it will improve the prospects for retaining the scheme permanently. The 50p fare for cardholders on the U4 will remain independently of what happens to the experiment.
Finally, Stagecoach have announced that their Explorer ticket will be revamped from the beginning of next year. In particular, a new and presumably more expensive ticket will be required for those wishing to use the X5. This applies even to those only using the route as far as Bedford -- a section on which there is no reasonable alternative. This contrasts with the old "Blue Explorer" ticket which was valid on the X5 between Cambridge and Milton Keynes.
And to make things worse, we understand that the agreement with Arriva Shires for mutual acceptance of each other's Explorers is likely to be terminated. The agreement with Arriva Fox went a couple of years ago (unpublicised, of course), so all that's left will be Huntingdon and District and First's X1 route between Peterborough and Lowestoft (assuming they survive).
As there isn't much news this time we aren't bothering to provide a separate section for changes in Cambridgeshire.
One set of changes introduced in May unnoticed by us was the axing of a number of bus routes supported by Suffolk CC. This affects the following:
200/354 Newmarket-Mildenhall-Thetford/Bury Sunday service. Omitted from the December issue of the Suffolk CC timetable books, presumably by accident, the timetables found their way back in the June issue with a footnote saying that they would be withdrawn after 24 May. Is this accidental or deliberate incompetence? And might these services have survived if the two county councils had got together to offer a through service to/from Cambridge replacing the 11 which runs (at reduced frequency, see Newsletter 93) between Cambridge and Newmarket?
282 Thetford-Cambridge peak (what happened to commuters who needed this route to get to work?).
292 Lakenheath-Ely (so how do Lakenheath people join the rail network -- Lakenheath station has only one train a day, and at a meeting several years ago the Suffolk CC representative defending this suggested Ely as the appropriate railhead).
345/386/753: Sunday services have also been axed between Bury and Haverhill, Stowmarket and Sudbury, leaving only (in this part of Suffolk) route 90C which still links Haverhill, Sudbury and Ipswich every 2 hours, though not at times suitable for people wishing to make day trips to the seaside. The first part of the comment above on routes 200/354 also applies here.
The only other change affecting the Cambridge area is the withdrawal of First's X4 to/from Norwich -- which, as we argued in Newsletter 93, wasn't much use to Cambridge people anyway, though it could have been.
We also have a correction in that the stop in Bedford used by westbound X5s is not where we were led to expect but on the other side of the bus station. It's closer to other bus stops, and also to the lavatories (when they are open), but still has no shelter or seating.
We now move to Whittlesey where, after a lot of instability, the town now has the following mix of services to/from Peterborough:
Stagecoach 3: every 20 minutes daytime, hourly evenings, no service Sundays. The introduction of this service represents a big improvement.
Cavalier 331/7: about every 20 minutes Mon-Sat, 2 hourly Sundays, no service evenings. (331 runs to/from Ramsey about 2 hourly; some 337s run to/from Coates, March or Chatteris.)
Judd 701: about hourly Mon-Sat daytimes only (some journeys run to/from Coates).
There have also been changes to the routes west and southwest from Peterborough, with the following effects.
X4 (Peterborough-Milton Keynes): No longer serves Peterborough rail station, and Sunday service reduced to 2 hourly (except between Corby and Northampton).
13/13A/14 (Peterborough-Oundle area villages): significant cuts. Elton retains hourly service but only 3 round trips (on route 14) now run to/from Thrapston. These and some other journeys now serve Tansor and Cotterstock. Routes 13/13A have been revised to offer 2 journeys into Peterborough in the morning and 3 journeys back in the afternoon, serving villages such as Kings Cliffe.
R47: Minor route changes. The 14.00 from Uppingham, which serves all villages on the route, is not affected by these.
In the Wisbech area there have also been timing changes to some routes to/from Norfolk. As far as we are aware, these do not have any major impacts, either positive or negative.
We now leave Cambridgeshire and mention two recreational services which, though no longer relevant for 2006, may be worth keeping in mind for next year. In Suffolk a Sunday service ran linking Woodbridge, Orford and Bawdsey making three circular tours, with a commentary. And in Gloucestershire the Dean Forest Open Top Bus ran again, this time on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The number of the latter (essential if one wants to look up its timetable on the Internet) was 791, while the former, operated by Gemini (the same operator that ran the Dedham Vale Hopper), was "numbered" TT (Tours and Tales).
Milton Keynes: Services on the 1 group via Olney have been reorganised, and now run hourly to Northampton and 2 hourly to Bedford (replacing route 29), while the remaining journeys in this group deviate at Newport Pagnell to run 2 hourly to Cranfield. (Cranfield is also linked to Milton Keynes by routes 17 and 17A, with 5 journeys on each route.)
Northants: As well as the X4, 13/13A and 14 mentioned above, there have also been cuts to two other council supported services -- 8 between Kettering and Corby via Geddington, and 16 between Kettering and Raunds via Thrapston, which are both down to 2 hourly.
Postbuses: All routes in Staffordshire and West Berkshire have been withdrawn. Various replacement facilities have been provided, though usually there have been cuts in either the frequency of operation or the range of places served.
Birmingham: National Express's "flagship" 24 hour coach service to/from London no longer runs. From London Victoria there are no coaches between 01.00 and 06.00, from Birmingham between 21.00 and 03.00.
Quite a long list this time. Note that as usual all items are covered in greater detail elsewhere in the newsletter.