Transport 2000 Cambs & W Suffolk

Newsletter 96, Mar 2007

Disclaimer: contents of articles do not necessarily reflect Transport 2000 policy at either national or branch level. Please give us your thoughts on any transport related topic, however small. This will help us develop our policies. We will try to pursue any complaint or suggestion or advise you how to pursue it yourself.


We start with a story. During the 1930s, a group of Jews in Germany were commiserating with one another over the latest Nazi atrocities. However one of them was laughing away. "How can you do this?" he was asked. He showed the Nazi propaganda he was reading and said: "Here it says we rule the world."

His view of reality was as distorted, in the opposite direction, as that of many motorists who complain that the Government is "discriminating against motoring". The facts show that in the last two decades of the 20th century motoring costs have at worst remained stable as against inflation, while bus and train fares have risen by 30-40% (DfT Transport Trends 2002, quoted on the Transport 2000 website). Meanwhile changes in land use have exacerbated social exclusion for some non-motorists, as businesses, shops and leisure facilities have migrated to out of town sites.

Motorists with this kind of distorted view probably form a large proportion of the signatories to the e-petition against road pricing. Of course, there are also those whose motivation is their fear that the technology needed for road pricing may enable the Government to track their movements -- though if they carry mobile phones they have already opened their movements up for tracking. (Of course, people aren't obliged to carry mobile phones; but neither are they obliged to carry their cars with them everywhere they go, rather than using other modes of transport or hiring a car when they need one. Readers of the book "Car Sick" reviewed in Newsletter 94 will remember that the author supports the idea that people should move from car ownership to community car hire, and we fully agree with this stance.)

The Government has been quick to point out that the scenarios put forward by the anti-pricing campaign do not represent Government policy. But is it thereby undermining some of the reasons why something like road pricing is badly needed? We can identify the following three reasons:

1. To reduce congestion. This would help public transport users by making buses more reliable.

2. To reduce overall traffic levels, which would cut greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution while enabling greater priority on our streets to be given to walkers and cyclists -- and also helping to underwrite the viability of public transport. This should need no explanation so recently after the publication of the draft Climate Change Bill.

3. To give a fairer deal to those who use modes of transport other than the car. (See the first two paragraphs above.)

It is no 1 that seems to concern the Government most, but we would be dissatisfied with a scheme that didn't fulfil nos 2 and 3 as well. We believe the ultimate aim should be to consign private car ownership to a "niche" market. It's taken for granted that most people will rely for their healthcare and education on the public sector -- why can't transport be treated the same way, with public transport satisfying most needs and community car hire used to fill in the gaps?

Incidentally, let's dispose of the argument that the petition represents an overwhelming vote of public opinion which the Government can't afford to override. In 2003 about 1.5m people demonstrated in London against the then proposed Iraq War. They didn't just sit in the comfort of their homes or offices and sign an e-petition; they actually took the trouble to make their way to London to demonstrate their opposition. And yet the Government went ahead. And it won a majority of seats in the subsequent general election, albeit considerably smaller than in the 1997 or 2001 elections.

If the Government reacts to the e-petition by watering down its scheme, or emphasising that it has no intention of doing anything which will fulfil 2 or 3 above (though it probably won't put it that way), it will look like a rerun of the 2000 fuel tax protests. Then the motorists sat at home and let the media plead their cause while lorry drivers -- the very people whom many motorists curse when they are on the road -- blockaded filling stations. (We won't be arguing about the merits of the lorry drivers' cause here, except to say that, yes, our economy wouldn't last long without lorries, but there is plenty of scope for transferring goods from road to rail or water, or for recasting production chains to reduce haulage distances, and the drive to achieve this faltered partly as a result of Government policy changes in reaction to the protests.)

To some extent the arguments used by the anti-pricing campaigners undermined themselves. For example, they cited the extra costs faced by a non-working mother in driving her children to school, or by a rural florist in delivering flowers. Children who live some distance from the nearest school at which a place is available are entitled to free transport. Even for children too young to travel on their own, a non-working mother can hardly complain about lack of time to escort her children to school without using a car. Indeed the ``school run'' is one of the types of car travel most targeted for reduction. As for rural florists, why couldn't they just put up their delivery prices to match any road pricing cost incurred? After all, floristry is hardly an essential industry -- and to the extent that it relies on flowers being flown in from faraway countries it is highly unsustainable.

Furthermore, the anti-pricing campaign's own proposals to beat congestion seem to be limited to building new roads -- in spite of reports like that produced by the Countryside Agency and the Council to Protect Rural England, which shows that this not only stimulates traffic growth on a scale far beyond what the Highways Agency is prepared to admit to, so the roads just fill up again.

We suggest that our members should, where appropriate, argue the case for road pricing, and in such a way as to help fulfil objectives 2 and 3 above. Those with access to email could sign the counter-petition at sign the counter-petition. (There's another e-petition but its deadline has expired as we write this.)

Branch news

Membership renewal is not yet due as we write, but members who have not already paid up for 2007-8 may wish to send us a subscription in advance. Please note that our rates for individuals have gone up, and are now 4 pounds ordinary and 3 pounds concessionary. Those who have already paid for 2007-8 at the lower rate will not be required to pay the difference. The household and organisational rate remains at 5 pounds. Two year subscriptions (i.e. for 2007-9) are available at double these prices, and add 8 pounds per year if you wish to receive Transport Retort.

We welcome the following new members (in alphabetical order): S. Dye, Hitchin; I. O'Brien, Cheveley; J. Smith, Sharnbrook; A. Storkey, Coton; and D. Zeichner, Cambridge. Of these people, Susan Dye is local Transport 2000 representative for Herts; John Smith is a member of London Travelwatch; Alan Storkey is the author of a report on developing coach travel, on which more below; and Daniel Zeichner is Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Cambridge.

In the contact details shown on page 1 we have added those for Transport 2000's local representatives for Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire, plus the email address for the coordinator of the Leicestershire & Rutland group; and we have shown the contact details of Transport 2000 HQ and Road Block together now that the latter has become fully incorporated into the former.

Bus cuts

In our headline article we accused motoring campaigners of views diametrically opposite to reality when they say that the Government discriminates against motorists. The continuing slide in bus services is yet another example of this. Later we will be giving full details, insofar as we are aware of them, about how Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are being affected; some of the local authorities that are overseeing service cuts of varying severity include Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hampshire, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Rutland, and last but not least, Worcestershire -- and that's just the ones we know about.

The report "Rural Transport Futures", produced on behalf of Transport 2000 by Lynn Sloman (author of "Car Sick" reviewed in Newsletter 94) and others, shows how many other parts of Europe have been much more successful than we have in retaining adequate rural bus networks. The common factors include regional network planning (in contrast to the deregulated system we have to put up with) and better funding (in contrast to the penny-pinching attitude prevalent here). In respect of the latter, it is pointed out that although most of the study areas spend more than we tend to do on public transport, they get better value because the systems they procure satisfy people's needs much better and are therefore much better used.

One of the factors in our bus crisis is the end of funding for schemes such as "Rural Bus Challenge" which underwrote many of the improvements in recent years. For example, in Worcestershire a scheme called "Malvern Matters" is ending -- evidently Malvern doesn't matter. And in some cases not only are the new services disappearing, but those that they replaced are not being reinstated, so that we're left with a vacuum.

The Government has promised some legislation to reform the deregulated system, but we suspect it won't go far enough to achieve satisfactory results. Our proposal would be that local authorities should be required to specify minimum standards for comprehensive local bus networks in their Local Transport Plans, and that they should receive sufficient LTP funding to support these networks. This could well replace some of the funding for the more extravagant road and -- yes -- guided busway schemes.

In Newsletter 95 we referred to rudeness by some coach drivers following the introduction of legislation requiring the wearing of seatbelts. We are pleased to report that we have not encountered any further instances, and that drivers are not refusing to drive a coach until all passengers are belted up (which could considerably slow the journey). Nor have we experienced any objections to passengers unbelting in mid-journey (e.g. to go to the lavatory, if there is one).

However, some less welcome news. We have long been used to the idea that buses running in rural areas with no fixed bus stops will stop pretty much at will, though there may be safety problems in particular locations, especially on major roads. The Coordinator was therefore shocked to encounter a driver on MK Metro's 1B route (Northampton-Milton Keynes) who refused to stop anywhere along a 4 mile stretch (between Horton Gates and Stoke Goldington) that skirted a significant visitor attraction (Salcey Forest). This evoked a vision of being stranded as darkness approached and peak traffic was building up, had the walk been undertaken the other way round. As usual, a complaint didn't lead to any definite action -- Northants CC (who support the route) said they'd examine the case for providing extra stopping places but couldn't make any promises. But when stops are restricted to designated places that don't have bus stop flags, how are prospective passengers supposed to know where they are? Why do so many bus drivers -- whether under instructions from their companies or otherwise -- give the impression that they are playing a game in which their object is to frustrate as many non-regular passengers as they can?

Coach development

Readers of environmental campaigner George Monbiot's latest book, "Heat", will have noticed reference to proposals to develop a national coach network aimed at largely replacing car travel. This section of his book was excerpted in his Guardian article of 5 Dec 2006. The basic idea is to develop very frequent services connecting at key motorway interchanges and thus avoiding the time consuming detours to/from town centres now faced by coach passengers.

This idea is not original with Alan Storkey, the author of the paper referred to by George Monbiot. I believe it was first introduced into public discussion by Nicholas Albery through the Institute for Social Inventions (now the Global Ideas Bank) which he was involved with. This led to a meeting to discuss how the idea could be developed, some of the results of which can be seen at (Unfortunately the various papers mentioned on the web page are no longer available, as far as we know.)

However, Alan Storkey has developed the idea considerably further. His priority is to cover orbital motorways such as the M25, rather than the radial routes that were the priority of the people involved in the above discussion, and he proposes very high frequencies (so that waiting times would be minimal), which could be supported if a sufficiently high proportion of existing car traffic could be transferred. His report goes into great detail to show that coaches could offer a competitive service to cars if conditions were right, and that there would be considerable consequent savings in motorway congestion and greenhouse gas emissions (which is why George Monbiot has so strongly supported his ideas).

It's surely true that it is orbital travel where there is the greatest need to improve public transport to compete with the car. But can the proposals work? We don't know, but we do believe

(a) that they are worthy of further investigation, and

(b) that it would be more complicated that Alan Storkey makes out.

The reason for the second belief is that the system might not work without dedicated junctions for coaches, which would have to be built, because many existing junctions -- such as M1 J14 which serves Milton Keynes Coachway (on which more below) -- are highly congested, especially at peak times, and if a coach was to serve many such junctions its end to end journey speed would fall rapidly. Also, the layout of many junctions makes it difficult to incorporate bus interchanges (a fact recognised in the report by Alan Storkey).

Could there be a case for a "Sustainable Highways" campaign to redesign motorways and trunk roads to fit in better with the needs of buses? This could also encompass better facilities for buses on trunk roads to serve nearby villages, and better crossings for walkers and cyclists.

It must be emphasised that such a programme is not an alternative to rail development -- indeed, coach/rail interchange would be a major feature. Money to implement it should come from the roads budget -- after all this would relieve road congestion much more effectively than futile capacity increases to keep up with ever rising traffic.

We conclude with a possible set of interchanges on the M11.

(a) Either J10 Duxford (opposite the Imperial War Museum, with a footbridge thereto), or near the Sanger Genome Campus near J9 at Hinxton. (Coaches from Cambridge would access the latter via Four Went Ways or possibly Sawston.)

(b) A "rest area" close to Audley End station, with a shuttle bus linking both the interchange and the station with Saffron Walden. This could also serve a multiple park and ride role: motorists on the M11 could park and get a bus to Saffron Walden, while motorists in the local area could park and get a coach to London or one of its airports (including Stansted), or Cambridge. What would not be provided would be a facility for cars to join the motorway at this point (though buses may be allowed to).

(c) Where the motorway crosses the Stansted Airport branch, with a station where passengers could shuttle to the terminal under the runway. Again possible park and ride role but no direct access for cars to the motorway.

(d) Where the motorway crosses the former Central Line near North Weald. The tube could be extended back with passengers for Stansted changing to coaches here. There could also be interchange with local buses including the popular North Weald Saturday Market nearby.

Rail and Water news

A miscellany this time.

1. The East-West Consortium has produced a new report on reopening the line between Oxford and Milton Keynes.

2. We are concerned at plans to "gate" Cambridge station, which are due to be implemented this year. There are many services provided on the platforms which may be needed by non rail travellers. Of these, one of the most important is the Trains Europe office which issues European rail tickets, outlets for which are few and far between. There's also the newsagent, the cash machine, the lavatories, and various notices including details of timetable changes due to engineering work. There are other stations where "gating" has resulted in the closure of certain access points for most of the day, which can cause considerable inconvenience to former users of such access points. (This doesn't apply to Cambridge, though it might in future if we ever get a new island platform leading to the much needed access to the station from the eastern side.)

3. From this summer Lakenheath and Buckenham stations, both near RSPB nature reserves, will be served by Sunday trains. Rail passengers will be admitted to the reserves free of charge (or possibly at reduced rate). However, the weekday calls will be dropped (at Lakenheath anyway). We believe that Lakenheath could provide a useful bus/rail interchange if local buses were suitably rerouted. It would certainly give Lakenheath villagers better access to the national rail network than the 292 bus to Ely withdrawn last year (see Newsletter 95).

4. Soon Yarwell station, the current western terminus of the Nene Valley Railway, will have full public access for walkers (at present one isn't allowed to join or leave trains there).

5. Restarting will be the Southern Belle boat trips linking Yarmouth, Reedham, Cantley and Oulton Broad. However, we haven't been able to find a 2007 timetable on the Internet.

6. Also restarting this summer will be the award winning Spalding Water Taxi, which links the Springfields complex (which includes the Fenscape museum as well as an outlet centre) with the town centre. One route option to get to Spalding from Cambridge is to use the train to Kings Lynn then half hourly bus 505; alternate buses stop at Springfields.

7. If you want to go to the other Holland, you can no longer use the high speed ferry from Harwich, which has been replaced by a conventional ferry. However, the night ferry is now available to foot passengers (or will be from May), albeit at an extra charge of 30 pounds per single journey to cover compulsory berth fees (and a free breakfast). Unfortunately passengers from Cambridgeshire have no way of getting to Harwich in time for the day sailing which leaves at 09.00 and returns at 20.15, except via London! Cambridge passengers may be able to benefit from the 29 pounds inclusive fare for travel from any "one" station by using the 04.48 to Liverpool St. The return journey should be possible if the boat's on time (20.38 ex Harwich), otherwise, again, travel via London. See for details.

8. The European Union is currently considering legislation to require train operators to carry bikes. The scope of this legislation, if it ever materialises, is not known at the time of writing, but it may also apply to ferries. We hope that it would also require the ferries (and the Channel Tunnel shuttle trains) to carry foot passengers. (Thomas Cook's European timetable shows that almost all the European ferries that don't carry foot passengers serve UK ports -- what have we done to be treated like that?)

9. The National Trust website mentions a ferry from Burnham Overy Staithe (on the Coasthopper bus route between Kings Lynn/Hunstanton and Sheringham) to Scolt Head Island -- for details ring 01485 210456.

10. Following First Capital Connect's new ticket restrictions last year, South-West Trains has announced major fare increases for trains arriving in London in late morning. How much longer while rail travellers have to put up with these "stealth taxes" on top of above inflation annual fare increases? (As we asked in the headline article, who is being discriminated against?)

11. A solar powered ferry now operates throughout the year across the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, London.

Planning News

We start by mentioning a campaign supported by Transport 2000 and several of its affiliate organisations to preserve what there is of democratic input into planning decisions, following the Barker Report which we believe prioritises the desires of developers over the public good. See for details.

Bus News

The move of Cambridge's main coach terminal from Drummer St to Parkside has now taken effect. Its effects are generally deleterious -- though less so than that of some of the other sites suggested by the County Council: the new site is further from local bus interchange (of particular concern to people with luggage, not all of whom want to fork out for a taxi), and has no lavatory or inspector's office nearby.

This has been accompanied by the addition of a new stop at Madingley Road Park and Ride, served by midday coaches to London and the airports and some cross country services. Cambourne Business Park is also served by some cross country services. The timetables are considerably altered, so don't rely on your 2006-7 leaflet. However general service patterns, both for Cambridge and Peterborough, remain much the same. The leaflet for the London service seems to show that the Trumpington Maris Lane stop has been discontinued, but we believe this is a printing error.

Cambridge library has closed for over a year for refurbishment. Unfortunately the County Council has not provided any alternative site -- existing Cambridge libraries are well out of the centre, and smaller so they will not have all the reference information that was formerly available. Particularly of concern is the collection of bus timetables (though it was never anywhere near comprehensive). Many people believe that the Internet provides an adequate replacement for printed information, but many people who use both don't share this view, including timetable expert Barry Doe (see entry for 20 April 2006).

The situation is worsened by the fact that another library which also had a fair (but again nowhere near comprehensive) collection of bus timetables, Bishopsgate, conveniently sited near Liverpool St station in London, has been reorganised and no longer stocks timetables.

Does anyone know of any other library, anywhere in the UK, which has convenient timetable information which aims at nationwide coverage, even if like Cambridge and Bishopsgate it's some way from achieving it?

Next, the news that M1 Junction 14 and nearby Milton Keynes Coachway are being upgraded. We are concerned that the work for the former will adversely affect the timekeeping of peak-time journeys on the X5 towards Oxford, and we may not even get any long term benefit because the proposals seem designed to prioritise traffic coming off the motorway (rather than off the southbound A509, the route used by the X5). However Milton Keynes Coachway will certainly benefit from a new access from the A5130, which will enable peak-time X5s to avoid Junction 14 altogether (albeit by using a longer route). Also the normal route for eastbound journeys will only have to negotiate the junction once.

Work on the Cambs guided busway has now started in earnest. At the time of writing the Luton-Dunstable Translink scheme has not yet been approved, but if it is the total cost of the two schemes will top 200m pounds -- think how far this money would go in reversing the service cuts inflicted on bus users in both counties (on which more below)!

We are pleased to report that Uttlesford District Council turned down a planning application to expand Stansted Airport citing climate change as their reason. An appeal is pending. This is independent of the expected future planning application for a second runway, on which the British Airports Authority is currently consulting on surface transport options. The simplest way to get to the relevant web page is probably to go to the airport site and search for "surface access".

And the Addenbrookes Link Road has received final approval. Our readers will know that we opposed this scheme as being unnecessary (especially in combination with the Cambs guided busway) and destructive of what's left of the tranquillity of the Cambridge "green finger" that provides the first view of the city for rail passengers arriving from London.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough bus changes: At the beginning of the year the County Council consultated on the future of various supported rural services. On 15 Feb it announced that most of them had been saved due to better bargains being struck with the operators. However, there may be another explanation: Stagecoach has registered several new Sunday services, and the Council has used this as an excuse to withdraw corresponding supported services, but the former will only run during shopping hours while the latter ran until the evening, so this represents a substantial cut.

Here are the details as far as we are aware (excluding what we believe to be minor timing changes). Most changes take place around Easter.

E1 (Biggleswade-Gamlingay): Replaces 188 at lower frequency, though some additional facilities are available by changing between E3 and E2 at Potton.

2 (Cambridge-Oakington, Sundays): Withdrawn, replaced during shopping hours only by C6 (and this doesn't include the section serving the railway station).

C2 (Addenbrookes-Milton): New hourly Sunday service during shopping hours only, with the first journey starting at Landbeach and Waterbeach and the last journey returning thereto. On weekdays, extra peak-time journeys serve these villages. This replaces part of 4A, X9 and 19.

E3 (Gamlingay-Bedford): Replaces 178, though on most journeys passengers beyond Sandy must change there.

4A (Coleridge-Meadows Estate): Withdrawn, replaced during shopping hours only by C2. West Arbury and the Meadows Estate are no longer served at all on Sundays.

C5 (City-Bar Hill): New hourly Sunday service during shopping hours only. Will this lead to the dropping of the 1A and 5, the existing supported service for Bar Hill on Sundays, when the guided busway provides an alternative route from Cambridge to St Ives and Huntingdon? If so, Fenstanton will be wiped off the map, and Bar Hill and Huntingdon Road in Cambridge will lose their Sunday evening service.

X5 (Cambridge-Oxford): Evening diversions via Papworth withdrawn in February. The new timetable was registered while the consultation on the withdrawal was still under way -- we have been told that it is illegal to prejudge a consultation in such a way. As a result of this, late evening departures from Cambridge are significantly earlier. Further changes are planned at the end of April, including the withdrawal of the extension from Oxford bus station to the rail station. Apart from this, most of the changes are minor, but the 05.40 ex Cambridge will be withdrawn on Saturdays (but retimed earlier on Mondays to Fridays).

C6 (City-Oakington): New hourly Sunday service during shopping hours, part replacing 2.

7/X7 (March-Cambridge): This peak-time journey is renumbered from 7 to X7 and takes a shorter route through Cottenham and Histon. It will now run on Saturdays.

007 (Station-Grafton Centre): Will only run Mon-Fri peaks and Saturday daytimes.

C7 (Cottenham-Duxford): New hourly Sunday service during shopping hours, part replacing 132 (and 104?). Also timing changes on weekdays.

X8 (Chatteris-Peterborough): New 1-2 hourly service replacing northern section of X9 and also route 36. However there appear to be some evening cuts.

X9 (Cambridge-Chatteris): This will continue to provide an hourly service on the southern section of the current X9 on weekday daytimes, but will now run direct along the A10 to Stretham missing out Waterbeach, which will be served only by the 9, peak-time journeys on the C2, and what's left of the 196. There will be more southbound buses from Chatteris in the early evenings. There will also be 4 Sunday journeys (only) as far as Ely, again missing out the villages, with the first starting at Chatteris and the last extended thereto.

10-12 (Cambridge-Newmarket corridor): Mostly minor timing changes, but the first arrival at Bury from Cambridge will be significantly later.

18A (Cambridge-St Neots via Gamlingay): Section between Gamlingay and St Neots renumbered 28. The timetable suggests that buses will continue to work through between routes 18, 28 and 18A, much as now.

19 (Cambridge-Wisbech, Sundays): Withdrawn, X9 and C2 provide limited replacements.

28 (Gamlingay-St Neots): Replaces part of 18A.

36 (Peterborough-Thorney): Renumbered X8.

R47 (Peterborough-Uppingham): Withdrawn from end March except for morning peak journey into Peterborough and evening return. A fortnightly shopping service may be added later. This is an incredible comedown from the former well used 2 hourly inter-urban link to Leicester and Birmingham that operated prior to deregulation (including a Sunday journey).

61 (March-Downham Market): Slight cuts from the beginning of April. The afternoon journey from March to Three Holes will no longer call at Welney, which makes it much more difficult to use the service to visit the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

104 (Cottenham-Cambridge, Sundays): We haven't been told about the withdrawal of this service, but given that it will be covered by the C7 its survival looks unlikely. If it is axed Cottenham and Histon will lose their Sunday evening service.

132 (Cambridge-Saffron Walden, Sundays): Withdrawn, C7 provides replacement for the northern section, though by a longer route and during shopping hours only. Unless Essex County Council does something (and their latest publicity seems to suggest that they aren't even aware of this change) Saffron Walden will become one of the largest towns in the UK to be inaccessible on Sundays, despite its importance as a tourist centre. It's not so long ago that it was actually a hub for Sunday buses!

178 (Gamlingay-Bedford): Withdrawn in February, E3 provides part replacement.

188 (Gamlingay-Biggleswade): Withdrawn in February, E1-3 provide part replacement.

196 (Cambridge-Waterbeach via Horningsea): Support has been reduced for the off-peak service, so expect significant cuts -- on top of the loss of the X9 which provides another route between the termini.

306 (Peterborough-Maxey): Saturday service withdrawn, 411 provides replacement.

352/3 (Peterborough-Holme/Benwick): Support for these has been withdrawn, though as far as we know no withdrawal date has been announced.

404 (Peterborough-Stamford): Afternoon journey from Stamford serves Duddington, possibly in lieu of R47.

411 (Peterborough-Maxey): Various extra journeys and retimings.

436 (Somersham-Huntingdon rail link): Service cuts expected.

The following services formed part of the consultation but were reported as having been reprieved: 8/9 (Elsworth area services), X14 (Huntingdon-Science Park), 101 (Whittlesford-Saffron Walden), 125 (Ely-Gold Hill), 129 (Ely-Blackhorse Drove), 199 (Newnham-City), 213 (Ely-Bury), 337 (March-Peterborough, Sundays), 414 (Graveley-St Neots), 431 (Gt Raveley-St Ives), and 901-4 (villages south of Newmarket). Here are some ideas we had which were aimed at making this network (including routes X5, 19, 196, 352 and 436 where support has been cut) more efficient:

1. Use school workings to improve access to/from villages (applicable to 125, 129, 352/3 if day of operation changed, 414, 431).

2. Amalgamate with other routes (applicable to 8, 125, 129, 196, 213, 414, 901-4).

3. Improve rail connections (applicable to 196, 436).

4. Divert other services to provide replacements (applicable to X5, 8, 19, 101, 125, 199).

National Nature Reserves in Cambridgeshire: We picked up a copy of this publication, by English Nature (now Natural England), shortly after the consultation was closed -- otherwise we might have amended our suggestion for route 352, which involved moving it from Saturday to another say. The publication lists National Nature Reserves in Cambridgeshire, and attempts to give some access details, but these details are usually wrong! Here is a list of the nature reserves with more correct details.

Barnack Hills and Holes: In Barnack village, served hourly by 201 from Peterborough.

Bedford Purlieus: Close to A47, served by 404 from Peterborough. Convenient journeys run Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Castor Hanglands: Most convenient access is from Ailsworth (route 9 hourly from Peterborough). May be closed in winter for shooting.

Chippenham Fen: Access without permit is restricted to a right of way from Fordham, served by route 12 hourly from Cambridge, Newmarket and Ely. There are few buses to/from Chippenham itself.

Collyweston Great Wood and Easton Hornstocks: As for Bedford Purlieus, but a permit is required (01733 405850).

Holme Fen: 415 from Upwood or Conington Turn (connections from Peterborough, Ramsey, Huntingdon and other Cambs centres) on Wednesdays, or, while it lasts, 352 from Peterborough on Saturdays. May be closed in winter for shooting.

Monks Wood: 415 from Upwood on Wednesdays or RH3 from Upwood on Thursdays, alight Wood Walton. Connections from Peterborough, Ramsey, Huntingdon and other Cambs centres. It may be necessary to walk to the B1043 afterwards and pick up the hourly service to Peterborough or Huntingdon -- and if one's prepared to do this one can also arrive on the return journeys of the 415 from Peterborough or RH3 from Huntingdon.

Upwood Meadows: Upwood is served on weekdays by route 331 from Ramsey and Peterborough, with connections from Huntingdon and other Cambs centres.

Wicken Fen: Use 117 from Ely to get there on a Thursday, but one will have to walk back -- Burwell is probably easiest and has a half hourly service to Cambridge and Newmarket. Or of course one can walk both ways.

Woodwalton Fen: As for Upwood, alight at Ramsey Heights.

We conclude this section by reporting that Stagecoach has confirmed that passengers with Stagecoach Explorer tickets that do not include validity on route X5 can pay the difference (1 pound) to purchase an upgrade which will give unlimited travel on the X5 for the rest of the day.

Bedfordshire buses

A major upheaval took place in Beds in February. Stagecoach did a "cherry pick", deregistering several services (including routes 178 and 188 serving Gamlingay in Cambs) and the county council was left to pick up the pieces at relatively short notice. Having supported the East Beds Dart since Rural Bus Challenge money ran out, it redirected this service to replace the Stagecoach buses, resulting in very substantial cuts for the area it served. It is now planning to consult on a county-wide review of bus services. We hope that this isn't just a question of spreading the misery more equally. Here are some proposals involving Cambridgeshire which we are planning to submit to the review.

1. Cambridge-Biggleswade 2 hourly, as 18A to Cambourne and Caxton then direct to the Gransdens, then via Waresley, Gamlingay, Potton and Sutton. Last journey from Biggleswade to Cambourne connects with a post-peak train from London.

2. St Neots-Biggleswade 2 hourly via Abbotsley, the Gransdens then as above.

3. Cambridge-Bedford 2 hourly, as 18 to Bourn, Longstowe, Caxton, Cambourne, as 18 to St Neots, then via Eynesbury, Little Barford, Tempsford, Blunham, Chalton, Moggerhanger and Willington village loops.

4. Cambridge-Sandy 2 hourly, as 75 to Croydon, then via East Hatley, Gamlingay and Everton.

5. Royston-Biggleswade 2 hourly, as 127 to the Mordens then via Wrestlingworth.

6. Two partly demand responsive circuits connecting at Kimbolton. One would connect at Sharnbrook and Melchbourne turn for Bedford and Rushden, the other at Wilden and St Neots for Bedford.

7. Shopping service between Biggleswade, Langford, Edworth, Hinxworth and Ashwell then to Hitchin or Royston.

8. Restore demand responsive evening and Sunday journeys from Biggleswade and Sandy to the East Beds Dart area, and add Gamlingay and Tadlow. Tadlow would also be served as required by some daytime services.

We would also like to see changes in cross-border services to Milton Keynes, with new through services to Biggleswade, Wellingborough, and Bedford via Cranfield, and redirection of the Bedford-Olney-Milton Keynes service to run beyond Olney to Northampton via Stoke Goldington.

The replacement of Stagecoach by other operators has reduced the utility of their Explorer ticket. We will therefore be suggesting the idea of an all-operator rover ticket for Bedfordshire, preferably interavailable with Cambridgeshire's Multibus and Hertfordshire's Intalink Explorer.

It is worthy of note that a Bedfordshire MP, Nadine Dorries, has submitted an Early Day Motion (620) condemning the cuts, although she belongs to the party that runs the county council. Another Tory MP, Nigel Evans, has submitted a similar Early Day Motion (622) condemning bus cuts in Labour controlled Lancashire -- though we don't know what these cuts actually are.

Other bus news

An outline of cuts elsewhere in the country.

Essex: Services cut in the Dengie Peninsula with the end of Rural Bus Challenge funding.

Norfolk: The County Council is withdrawing the sections of the Broadshopper route that serve the main places of interest (Blickling Hall, Ranworth and South Walsham). The last two were served by a Norwich service before the Broadshopper was introduced, but this isn't being reinstated, instead we're told to rely on a "Flexibus" which is supposed to run according to passenger demand, but this often seems to be a euphemism for the operator's convenience.

Also, the Council has withdrawn the Norwich Orbital bus service -- even as it pursues plans to spend 100m pounds on "almost" completing an outer ring road for Norwich, of the type which led to uncontrollable sprawl in the very similar city of York. And the countryside which will be spoilt by the Norwich road is a lot more attractive than that which has been jeopardised by the York road!

Hampshire: Numerous cuts around the county, including some demand responsive "Cangos".

Worcestershire: Numerous cuts around the county, some jeopardising the accessibility of parts of the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Powys: Several of the county's rural postbuses were axed last year.

North Yorkshire: Many of the (largely well used) summer Sunday services linking the main urban centres with the Yorkshire Dales have been axed. In some cases a limited replacement service is being provided backed by the volunteer Yorkshire Dales Public Transport User Group. For details see