The Government is currently consulting on two pieces of planned legislation, the Local Transport Bill (closing date 7 Sept) and the Planning White Paper (closing date 17 Aug).
In its press release (which can be seen on its website), Transport 2000 broadly welcomes the draft Local Transport Bill but says it doesn't go far enough. We agree.
In 2000 the Government pushed through a Transport Act which introduced the concept of quality contract, whereby the local authority specifies the routes and operators bid for the right to run them, similar to the system that currently operates in London. We believe that a system of quality contracts is a prerequisite of coordinated transport, which is at least as important in rural areas (where provision for visitors can be of great importance in keeping the system going) as in the conurbations. Unfortunately the conditions for introducing quality contracts were so restrictive that not one has actually been brought in.
The new Bill attempts to deal with this, though it doesn't go as far as we'd like in specifying the quality contract as the "default" system. We believe that some of the oft quoted objections to a quality contract system could be met by including both operators and passenger representatives in the management bodies for quality contracts, as well as representatives of adjacent local authorities (to ensure cross-boundary coordination).
One feature of a quality contract system is that local authorities have a financial interest in increasing bus patronage (which at present they only have for routes which they support). Hopefully this would make them look more favourably on priority schemes which would encourage people to travel by bus (which would also benefit local authorities where they reduced operating costs).
The Bill does little to reform the funding system. We call for revenue funding to be put on an equal footing with capital funding, ending the scandal whereby it's OK to spend over 100m on a guided busway while bus services elsewhere in Cambs are being axed for want of much smaller sums of money. At the same time we want to ensure that local authorities are not tempted to axe bus services to save on the cost of supporting pensioners' free travel (as has happened in Luton, which is a unitary authority so is responsible both for deciding the level of supported bus services (a county responsibility in Cambridgeshire and other non-unitary areas) and paying the bus fares of pensioners (a district responsibility in Cambridgeshire).
The Bill also sets out the terms for operation of road charging systems. We support the principle, and believe that traffic reduction (with consequent benefits for climate change, pollution and safety) should be considered at least as important as congestion reduction. The Bill downplays the option of a parking levy on the grounds that it would only apply to workplace parking, forgetting that this restriction was a result of the Government's own decision.
We support Transport 2000's suggestion that the Traffic Commissioners should assume a role as passenger advocates -- provided they import some new blood who would be keen on making that happen!
That's for the Local Transport Bill. About the Planning White Paper, Transport 2000 also has on its website a letter which it has (in conjunction with many other national environmental groups) written to the Secretary of State to express its grave concerns about the White Paper. Just about its only redeeming feature is that the existing system is working so badly that it can hardly be much worse!
The attitude of the Government seems to be that the planning system, and the public inquiry system in particular, is just a nuisance which delays the provision of much needed new housing, shops, jobs, roads, airports and power stations. Our viewpoint, however, is that the planning system should become a filter to ensure that only sustainable development proposals get through. We believe that developers would soon learn how to play the game, so development that's really needed wouldn't be held up for long. The problem, of course, is that the planning system is currently very ineffective as a filter. In public inquiries, especially those where environmental groups are pitting themselves against officialdom, one gets the impression that most inspectors aren't interested in taking people's views into account unless they are backed up by expensive experts who know how to play the system -- and even then the most likely outcome is that the developers will prevail, so that environmentalists will end up with a huge bill for which they get nothing in return.
One of the proposals would involve the setting up of a Planning Commission to "pre-approve" certain types of development, thus reducing the scope for argument at the local level. In principle this isn't a bad idea -- as long as "pre-approval" isn't a formality. There do not seem to be any proposals to impose a sustainable development duty on members of the Planning Commission, and there is the fear that this will not be a consideration in appointing its membership. If members of any Planning Commission do take problems like climate change seriously, they certainly won't be "pre-approving" most of the types of development most feared by environmentalists!
We believe that there is only one way to ensure that new development is sustainable: to require developers to earn the support of the local communities involved. This does not mean enlisting local villagers in support of the dualling of a stretch of road by tying it up with a local by-pass which could have been provided independently at much less cost. (This is what happened at Great Barford, as well as numerous other places.) Here is what sustainability might mean for certain types of development:
Housing: Build in compact style to minimise land take (which does not mean skimping on public open space). Selected areas to become car-free with guarantees of public transport levels which would also benefit neighbouring communities.
Employment: Business parks and the like to have mandatory targets for limits to car use. These would be achieved by means such as limiting workplace parking, setting up public transport networks, and providing easy off-road access for cyclists and pedestrians. Again, these measures would bring benefits to the local community.
Roads: These would be provided only to solve clearly defined local problems -- which was the way Government policy seemed to be going after the 1997 general election. Roads would be designed to minimise traffic growth and to make good provision for walkers, cyclists and bus users crossing them or (in the case of the last) travelling along them. We would like to see a "Sustainable Highways" campaign to require the Highways Agency (and local authorities) to take such considerations into account, including a full feasibility study for Alan Storkey's coach interchange proposals which we featured in our last newsletter.
There has also been a suggestion that safeguards against out of town shopping would be reduced. Why? It's not people who are willing to drive around who need more shopping options, it's those who are tied to the bus route that serves their local community.
With the paper newsletter we include a renewal form for members from whom the 2007-8 subscription is now due. This shows the new membership rates GBP 3 concessionary, GBP 4 ordinary, GBP 5 household or affiliate, double for 2007-9 membership). Also a financial statement.
We welcome two new members: David Howarth, MP for Cambridge (Lib Dem); and P. Shearman of Otford, Kent. We also have a couple of corrections regarding our introduction to the new members in our last newsletter: John Smith is no longer a member of London Travelwatch, and Alan Storkey has asked me to point out that he conceived the idea of coach interchanges completely independently of (and probably before) its discussion under the auspices of the Institute for Social Inventions.
1. Transport 2000 promoted a "Sardine Man" campaign highlighting some overcrowded trains, including the 07.18 from Cambridge to Liverpool St. (Note to those of you who saw an article in the Cambridge Evening News about this, published 23 March: they featured a completely different train, the 07.51, so it's perhaps not surprising they didn't find any evidence of overcrowding!) This was, however, not one of the trains that featured on their "Sardine Man" tour which was covered in the national press (and on which details can be seen on their website).
We are slightly worried about the campaign because it may be seen to justify moves like that of First Capital Connect who banned certain tickets from certain off peak trains (see Newsletter 94). This, of course, is not what Transport 2000 is after; their immediate aim is to bring back into service the trains currently languishing unused in sidings to lengthen existing trains.
2. Throughout the summer the line between Cambridge and Hitchin will be closed on Sundays, and during the autumn trains won't start till 10.15. Passengers between the Cambridge and London areas have a choice between using the Liverpool St line, going by National Express coach, and using the replacement bus services provided.
3. Also due to engineering work, the line between Nottingham and Chesterfield is being closed every day for 2 months. As a result most Norwich-Liverpool trains will stop only at Chesterfield between Stockport and Nottingham, spurning not only Sheffield (which imposes a significant time penalty) but also Derby (which is actually on the diversion route).
4. Central Trains' cheap fares for the over 50s are back again, between 25 June and 14 Sept. Go to http://www.centraltrains.co.uk and download a voucher, or ring 0121 634 2040 (option 4). From Cambridge period returns are available to Birmingham, Manchester, Peterborough, Leicester, Nottingham, Liverpool or Stamford for 10, or one can get a day return to Stamford for 5. From Peterborough one can go to Cambridge, Oakham or Melton Mowbray for 5, Lincoln and Norwich for 5 day return and 10 period return, and Birmingham, Nottingham, Leicester, Manchester or Liverpool for 10 period return. Further offers are also available, e.g. Birmingham to Gloucester 5 day return or Hereford 5 period return. Tickets are available on normal permitted routes by all operators, and as with ordinary tickets break of journey is permitted on the return leg (and the outward leg too for day returns).
5. As stated in our last newsletter, Lakenheath station has a new Sunday service intended for visitors to the nearby RSPB reserve nearby. So has Buckenham, but people from our area can't get there till 15.48 because the first Cambridge-Norwich train is so late. However, an afternoon visit to RSPB Buckenham is still possible.
Incidentally, the RSPB also have a reserve at Berney Arms, which is inaccessible by road. But anyone wishing to visit it using an Anglia Plus ticket on a Monday to Friday must rely on a tight connection at Norwich or go via Yarmouth and not get in till the afternoon -- and in the autumn there'll then be no train back (presumably due to the alleged safety problems of dark stations). One thing one won't get is a replacement taxi!
For boat trips to the Berney Arms area see http://www.cyberforth.com/SouthernBelle -- we believe that this relates to this year's service -- (or telephone 0790 6020225).
6. The Sunday service on the Stourbridge Town branch in the West Midlands, operated by the Parry People Mover, has been suspended in spite of a highly successful run, with a 100% reliability record and much reduced fuel consumption and emissions compared with the DMUs used on weekdays. However, it may be reinstated following the refranchising of services in the area in November. We believe that the Parry People Mover and similar systems are the way forward for areas such as Cambridge that need an alternative to road transport for local travel. (This is in addition to our need for new strategic routes such as the East-West Rail Link.)
7. An operator who has for some time done boat trips from Boston (and occasionally from Wisbech) is planning to run a new boat from Ely -- see http://www.maritimecruises.co.uk/index.html for details or phone 01205 460595. We hope that the new boat will be in service soon. Will there be trips between Ely and the National Waterways Festival at St Ives before and after the August Bank Holiday weekend?
A: The dualled A428 between Cambridge and Caxton Gibbet, against which we campaigned strongly, is now open. It is used by the X5 Cambridge-Oxford bus route, but we presume that the C4 between Cambridge and Cambourne uses the local road. We do not expect any adverse effects immediately, but we are sure that it will in due course worsen traffic problems on connecting local roads in the Cambridge area. And, of course, any traffic increase will have an adverse effect on global warming. Meanwhile, predictably, local authorities are pressing for the dualling of the remaining section between Caxton Gibbet and the Black Cat roundabout, as if they hadn't done enough damage by supporting the loss of the most feasible alignment for a Cambridge-Bedford railway.
B: The Highways Agency has made a preferred route announcement for the section of the A14 between Milton and Fen Drayton. The announcement for the section between Fen Drayton and Brampton has been delayed by the legal action that required the consultation to be rerun (see Newsletter 95). Needless to say there is no evidence that the Highways Agency has taken any notice of environmental concerns, such as their admission that the scheme would spur traffic growth in the Cambridge area.
C: Outside our area, various sections of the M1 widening (current estimated total cost 5.1 bn) are moving through the machine, with the section between Junctions 6 and 10 currently under construction and the definitive proposals for the section between Junctions 10 and 13 now published.
D: The "Outer M25" scheme which officialdom won't admit to is also pushing forward, with Buckinghamshire County Council putting forward proposals for the A418 between Aylesbury and Linslade and a preferred route option having been selected for the Dunstable Northern By-pass. These two routes will connect with each other, with a logical extension cutting right through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty en route to Stansted Airport. The A418 scheme will also connect with the controversial Linslade By-pass now under construction, where the local authority has reacted to cost increases by -- you guessed it -- reneging on promises for a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists to link communities which the new road will sever. Local Friends of the Earth groups are trying to raise money to fund an "alternatives report" to the A418 proposals.
E: Having decided not to appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the redevelopment of the area around Cambridge station, the developer has come up with new proposals -- which, however, appear to be little changed from the old ones.
F: A new cycle and pedestrian route has appeared alongside the railway between Cambridge (Addenbrookes) and Shelford.
G: Following the death of a girl crossing the A1307 east of Horseheath en route to her home at Shudy Camps after getting off a bus from Cambridge, there have been calls (though not from her family) for the bus stop to be closed. This would only lead to bus passengers having to cross the A1307 somewhere else, as there's no suitably sited bridge -- and of course they'd have a longer walk. A better solution would be to provide safer crossing facilities, e.g.\ by imposing and enforcing a speed limit.
Mostly more cuts. The credibility of the county's review procedure has been further undermined, as of the services that have been cut only a minority went through the review procedure.
1 (Cambridge-St Ives via Papworth, Sun): Whippet's (unsupported) service is withdrawn except for journeys from Papworth to St Ives. These are interworked with new one way services 3 (Huntingdon to Godmanchester and Papworth) and 5 (St Ives to Huntingdon via the Hamingfords and Godmanchester) to provide 3 circular trips. Passengers between Godmanchester, Papworth, Hilton or the Hemingfords and Cambridge or other towns must now change at either St Ives or Huntingdon (or walk to another town or village).
1A/5 (Cambridge-Huntingdon-Peterborough, Sun): Withdrawn from Godmanchester and the Hemingfords (except for the one-way short workings referred to above), RAF Wyton and Oxmoor (some areas of which are served by route 330). 4 journeys each way serve Houghton village, the rest run direct between St Ives (Hill Rise) and Hartford. 2-3 journeys each way are removed from the former overall hourly pattern between Cambridge and Huntingdon. Also, the 1A between Huntingdon and Peterborough is reduced to just 3 journeys each way, none serving the Alconburys or Glatton, and timed with the effect of preventing convenient day trips from Cambridge or St Ives to places north of Huntingdon.
C1-7 (Cambridge Citi routes): From 1 July the 50p discount fare for University Card holders will be restricted to the C4 east of the West Cambridge Site. It will also continue to be available on the U4 between Madingley Road P&R and Addenbrookes.
X5 (Cambridge-Oxford): We reported in our last newsletter about the curtailment of this route so that it no longer serves Oxford railway station. We have a copy of a letter from Stagecoach in which they attribute this to new European driving hours regulations. We suspect that the loss of the Northants Saunterbus (see next section) may also owe something to this. We have been told about a plan for a European Day of Action by the bus industry about these regulations. We hope that this will bring home to our decision makers that as long as the option of using a car exists regulating buses out of existence will not improve safety or anything else.
C6 (Cambridge-Oakington, Sun) and 436 (Somersham-Huntingdon, Mon-Fri): We reported cuts to these routes in our last newsletter (the former as compared with Myalls 2), but didn't say that any rational transport policy would try to encourage public transport users on these corridors in anticipation of the guided busway. The 436 which formerly operated as a commuter rail link is now useless for that purpose (while still remaining too early for off peak rail users), and the economy of interworking with the X14 (Huntingdon-Cambridge Science Park) is no longer achieved.
13/A, Cambridge-Haverhill): The timetables introduced in April have meant a later start for buses from Cambridge, especially on Saturdays. Combined with the later start on Bury route 11 (see last newsletter) this makes day trips from Cambridge to certain parts of East Anglia significantly harder.
104 (Cambridge-Cottenham, Sun): This has been retained by Myalls on a commercial basis competing with Stagecoach's C7. The 104 provides the only Sunday evening service.
132 (Cambridge-Saffron Walden, Sun): Contrary to what we reported in our last newsletter, the reason Essex CC weren't aware of any change to this route in April was because there wasn't any. Thus our fear that Saffron Walden would be totally cut off on Sundays wasn't realised. However the 132 was cut in May, with the evening service removed and most daytime buses running nonstop between Trumpington and the Imperial War Museum. It now runs under contract to Essex County Council.
196 (Waterbeach-Cambridge via Horningsea): There's now only one commuter journey each way (Mon-Fri) plus one shopping journey (Mon-Sat).
203 (Corby-Peterborough via villages, Sat): Alec Head lost its operator's licence in April, and generally its services were taken over by Stagecoach. Most of these were unchanged, including the 205 (Wed) and 209 (Thur), which are the other routes in this group that enter Cambridgeshire or Peterborough. However the 203 is reduced to just one round trip between Thrapston and Peterborough, with the effect that there is now no direct access between Thrapston and Corby. Stagecoach has also taken over the operation of the following services which run wholly in Northants: 207 (Fri), 210 (Thur), 216 (Tue) and 217 (Fri). One should also mention the 206, which serves Peterborough on Thursdays, which was and is run by a different operator unaffected by the changes.
333 (Ramsey-Chatteris-March-Manea): At some stage in the past, this service was reduced so that there are no journeys on Saturdays and almost all the Ramsey-Chatteris/March service is schooldays only. All journeys from Ramsey serve Benwick, so now that the 353 has been withdrawn Puddock Bridge is completely unserved.
We start with a few items of good news before featuring a lot of bad news.
Windsor: Try out the new "Royal Landscape Link", route 300 operated by First in Berkshire and running seven days a week till late October. This goes through Windsor Great Park, using roads closed to general traffic, by a different route to any previous regular service, including the White Bus that has long linked Windsor with Sunninghill and Ascot (also an interesting ride, especially the journeys via the Royal Lodge). The 300 serves the new visitor centre at the Savill Garden and Virginia Water Lake. Unfortunately the Mon-Fri timetable ends too early for a proper day out for people not wishing to pay peak rail fares, though there are afternoon buses serving Virginia Water on route 500 between Camberley and Staines (see Surrey CC website). To use the 300 be at Windsor Parish Church at 10.15 or Virginia Water station at 09.45. Note that First Day tickets are not valid on this route. We hope that next year the service will start early enough in the year to serve the magnificent spring floral display in the Valley Gardens (nearest bus stops Savill Garden or Virginia Water lake), which hit the national press last year when the Crown Estate proposed fencing them off and charging visitors to see them (a proposal which was withdrawn after an outcry). If the 300 doesn't start early enough, though, one can use the 500.
Pembrokeshire: The network of coastal buses continues, as does the Preseli Rambler. Services on the Cardigan-Tenby corridor have been revised so that the former through journeys on Tuesdays and Saturdays are replaced by extension of local journeys out of Cardigan (route 430) six days a week to Narberth where connections can be made with route 381 for Tenby. A new service, the Bloomfield walkers' bus, is promised to serve the part of the National Park around Lawrenny and Landshipping, but no details are yet available.
Leicestershire: The open top bus tours are back this year, with a slightly longer season -- see http://www.goleicestershire.com/news.bustours.htm for details. Each "country" tour runs once a week between 3 July and 25 Aug. The Rutland tour now runs on Wednesdays instead of Sundays, making access easier. On all tours one can return to Leicester on the positioning journey at no extra cost.
The Charnwood (Thur), Heart of the Forest (Fri) and Bosworth (Sat) tours can be accessed via Leicester -- over 50s can get cheap train tickets (see Rail and Water News), otherwise the cheapest route from Cambridge is probably to use an Explorer via Bedford and Northampton, plus a return train from Northampton to Milton Keynes. For the Rutland tour, there are both buses and trains from Peterborough and Stamford to Oakham, as well as buses from Corby to Oakham. For the Melton & Belvoir tour (Tue), go by train to Melton or go via Leicester as above. For the Harborough & Rockingham tour (also Tue), from Cambridge go via Northampton as above, from Peterborough go by bus via Corby (see below).
Northants: Services on the Corby-Market Harborough route have been recast with significant improvements.
Ceredigion: Cuts to evening and Sunday services have been reported.
Oxon and Bucks: Cuts to various services on the border between these two counties. Regarding places of interest, the 108 no longer serves Waterperry Gardens (though one can walk from route 260), the 14 no longer picks up at Thame for a day trip to Boarstall or Brill, the 124 no longer serves Stonor (though the service was formerly completely out of line with house opening days). Bus links to the Oxford Tube at Lewknor are removed, though people from Thame, Chinnor and Stokechurch can use the new "Line 40" and walk from the Lambert Arms on the nearby A40. Some of these cuts may be replaced by a new Watlington community bus, but we have not yet seen details. There are also cuts further south to routes such as Stokenchurch-Reading and the villages between Stokenchurch and Marlow (now served by sporadic services 101-3).
Leisure services: We start with a list of services that won't be running this year. In our last newsletter we mentioned the loss of the Broadshopper in Norfolk and some of the services in the Yorkshire Dales. Others include the Peddars Way Explorer from Thetford or Swaffham, the Surrey Hills Explorer from Dorking, the Saunterbus in Northants, and the Sandstone Rambler in Cheshire. We believe that the Heritage Hopper in Warwickshire and the Sunday Wigglybus in Wiltshire won't be running this year either.
In the Lake District and other parts of Cumbria certain services will continue to run (including the Hadrian's Wall bus which mainly runs in Northumberland), but not the Ennerdale Rambler, Haweswater Rambler (except for the shopping service which terminates at the northern end of the lake), Caldbeck Rambler Sunday service or the cross-boundary route to Hawes in Wensleydale for its market day. And some services are only running thanks to support from the local amenity group (as in the Yorkshire Dales, as we said in our last newsletter).
By contrast, leisure services that will be running in what might broadly be called south-east England include the Coasthopper in Norfolk, the Chiltern Rambler (327, circular from Hemel Hempstead); the Ayots Explorer (Taxibus 904 from Wheathampstead connecting from St Albans); the 510 from Redhill (1 journey) and Oxted to the Surrey and Kent Weald; the New Forest open top tour (including connections from Eastleigh and Southampton); various services in the South Downs (100-2 Burgess Hill-Pulborough, 77-79 from Brighton to Devil's Dyke, Stanmer Park and Ditchling Beacon, 713 serving Beachy Head, and the Cuckmere Community Bus weekend routes from Berwick station); and various routes on the Isle of Wight.
Elsewhere seasonal services continue to run on the Jurassic Coast and other coastal areas of the West Country; in the Dartmoor, Exmoor, Peak District, Snowdonia, North York Moors, Brecon Beacons, Loch Lomond and Cairngorms National Parks; and in the Sherwood Forest, Shropshire Hills, Spurn Head and Malverns areas. Several of these areas also have opportunities for boat trips. This list is not intended to be exhaustive!