For millennia the siege has been a tool of war. From Troy to Leningrad (or, to use the current names for the sites, from Hisarlik to St Petersburg), communities have been put under pressure by cutting their communications with the outside world.
In 1990 a Dutchman called Iman Wilkens came up with a theory that the site of the Trojan War was not Hisarlik but an area of East Anglia centred on Wandlebury. Wikipedia has an interesting article about the book and the reception it received, as well as a link to his official website.
Mark the date of 10 June 2012 in your diary, because then history is about to repeat itself not far from Wandlebury, in the village of Balsham. In the 2001 census Balsham had 1641 people -- according to archaeological evidence, more than that of Troy at the time of the Trojan War! Together with surrounding villages it is currently served by Stagecoach bus routes 16/A and 19, which provide regular links to Linton, Haverhill and Cambridge. Cambs CC's master plan for our transport, insofar as they have one, calls for the withdrawal of support for this service from September, which will completely isolate this village apart from weekly bus 46 to Newmarket (which may itself be under threat). Stagecoach, as is their right, have anticipated this and chosen to withdraw the service earlier to fit in with other changes they're making, and perhaps also influenced by this month's effective doubling of fuel tax for buses imposed by the Government. Following their consultation the County Council promised that services will not be cut until replacement facilities are available, but will they be able to deliver on this in time?
Nor is Balsham an isolated case. Also affected will be nearby villages West Wratting, West Wickham, Weston Colville} and Bartlow. The Citi 7 will cease to serve Duxford Heathfield, Hinxton and Whittlesford, though the first will have the Imperial War Museum shuttle until September. Whittlesford station is some way from the village centre. Croxton, currently served by the Citi 4, will have 8 Stagecoach buses passing through it every hour, but only occasional services run by other operators will stop. The Citi 5 won't serve Fen Drayton; the nearest bus stops, on the guided busway or eastbound A14, are some way away. The 65, which currently provides the sole service for Great Paxton and the Offords, is being axed completely -- and it's possible that northbound journeys on route 66 will cease to stop at Southoe (southbound services already do so because of the problems in crossing the A1). Highfields is losing the 14.
Numerous other links will be severed. Cambridge City is not excluded, as the Fen Estate and Coldhams Lane lose route 16, and evening buses are withdrawn from Huntingdon Road, also isolating Girton and Bar Hill, as well as Oakington village centre. Eltisley will lose its buses to St Neots (the Citi 4). Fulbourn will lose not only its links to Haverhill (the 16) but also the 17 to Newmarket, which is being cut back to terminate at the Wilbrahams. Waterbeach will lose its direct bus to Ely. Madingley and Dry Drayton will lose their commuter link to Cambridge. Not all these services are supported by the Council, but there can be little doubt that the combination of less support and higher fuel tax means that operators like Stagecoach are having to cut back on the services they provide.
It's fair to say that not all the changes are negative -- though some of the improvements do no more than go partway towards reinstating last year's cuts. Here are some of the main effects of the Stagecoach changes. For much of this we thank our member Suzy Scott, who has posted the registered timetables on her website with comments. Note that, in our comments below, for those routes whose numbers are duplicated between Cambridge and Peterborough, the Cambridge route is always the one meant unless otherwise specified.
It's also fair to say that at present we have no information on what other operators may be doing. Maybe some replacements are already arranged. But don't wait for definitive information on this before sending protests to your county councillor and anyone else you can think of!
And if when you see the timetables you find that they affect your travel in a way we haven't noticed, please tell us! Note that routes numbered between 14 and 33 currently receive some county council support.
Citi 1: Daytime service beyond Cherry Hinton reduced to half hourly (but see Citi 3). Some changes to first and last buses -- in particular the latter will run later, which would be more welcome if evening services didn't continue to just miss many of the more important train arrivals at Cambridge station!
Citi 3: Daytime service will split between 3 half hourly routes beyond Cherry Hinton, one of which will run to Fulbourn to supplement Citi 1.
Citi 4: St Neots extension is withdrawn, with Eltisley served by 18, St Neots by X4 and Croxton only by occasional services by other operators. It looks as if Citi 4 will no longer use its present route through Newnham but will run direct on Madingley Road, which will halve the service on the former and eliminate it entirely in the evenings and at weekends (including Saturdays). Also rail passengers will no longer be able to walk to the Catholic Church to pick up a bus for Madingley Road or Cambourne. The upside -- faster journeys between the city centre and Cambourne -- would be of greater value if this need weren't also being met by the new X4.
Uni 4: Little change, but will now provide the sole service through Newnham (see above).
X4: New half hourly service linking Cambridge (Parkside), Cambourne and St Neots, plus peak time journeys between Cambourne and St Neots station. It is not clear whether local movements in Cambridge will be possible. The daytime service will provide a joint 15 minute service with the X5. But wouldn't it be better to deploy some of the resources elsewhere, e.g. to provide a regular link between Cambridge, Cambourne, Papworth, Godmanchester and Huntingdon?
Citi 5 and 6: Evening buses withdrawn, also Sunday services on Citi 5. Bar Hill will still be served on Sundays by Whippet 1A, though there are gaps in the hourly pattern. Meanwhile people in Huntingdon Road and Bar Hill can look enviously at the guided busway which now takes all the evening buses to St Ives and Huntingdon.
Citi 7: The service to Sawston is little changed, but beyond all variations are withdrawn except for hourly buses to Pampisford, Duxford, Ickleton and Walden and a single peak journey to Whittlesford. Additional services on this corridor are provided in summer by Duxford shuttle (see below) and on Sundays by Myalls 132.
Citi 8: Earlier start on Mon-Fri, later on Sat, otherwise little change.
X8: This peak only service to/from Cambridge will terminate at Chatteris with connection to/from March by 35.
9/A: This is completely revised with hourly services Cambridge-Waterbeach, Cambridge-Ely-Chatteris and (connecting with the previous) Ely-Littleport, the second not serving Landbeach or Waterbeach. March will be served by connecting route 35 at more or less existing frequency. The Ely-Littleport route looks as if it will be run as a continuation of route 12, just as the 9A is at present, but Newmarket-Chatteris passengers will miss connections in both directions. It's a general improvement but only partly reinstates last year's cuts.
11 and 12: Changes to times but overall frequency remains the same. Last bus from Bury to Cambridge will move from 17.00 to 17.35, but later buses to Newmarket are withdrawn.
14: Withdrawn. This one is actually 15 months premature as withdrawal of support was not scheduled till 2013. Whippet 2 and 8 will provide an evening commuter journey for Highfields and shopping buses for Madingley and Dry Drayton but none of these will have both morning and afternoon commuter journeys.
16/A, 17 and 19: Withdrawn except for 4-5 buses a day on route 17 between Cambridge and the Wilbrahams, with a commuter extension to Stetchworth. The Burrough Green area is served by shopping bus 904 and Suffolk CC's Three Towns demand responsive service, while The Camps are served by 59 Haverhill-Saffron Walden. Other villages are only served by market day buses 29 and 46, and a morning (but no evening) commuter bus on route 13B.
18/A: Off peak journeys will alternate between Eltisley and Caxton, reducing each's service to 2 hourly (though the latter is also served by Whippet 28). There are also several cuts on the margin -- in particular to the shopping bus from Gamlingay to Cambridge.
30/31: This seems a classic case of how to make a service unattractive to users. The existing hourly network with connections across Ramsey is disbanded; instead there are irregular but broadly 2 hourly services linking Ramsey and Pondersbridge with Huntingdon and Pondersbridge, each looping in a different direction between the first two. With erratic connections between the 30 and 31 journeys such as Warboys to Peterborough will become much more difficult. However Warboys also has route 35. For journeys to Hinchingbrooke Hospital see route 66.
33: Service to March is increased to 2 hourly, but does not connect with 35 March-Chatteris.
35: 7 journeys March-Chatteris, connecting with 9 to/from Cambridge, and with 4 journeys extended via Warboys to Huntingdon -- an improvement on the present single journey each way, and supplementing existing (but probably threatened) service 21 which links Chatteris with St Ives. See 66 for journeys to Hinchingbrooke.
61-64: These St Neots local services are withdrawn except for some peak journeys. Some but not all of the missing links are provided by routes X4 and 66.
65 and 66: The 65 is withdrawn as are the Hinchingbrooke short workings on route 66, leaving just an hourly service linking Eynesbury Tesco, St Neots, Little Paxton, Buckden, Brampton, Hinchingbrooke (for hospital) and Huntingdon. It isn't clear what will happen to Southoe, but Great Paxton and the Offords will certainly be isolated by these changes. It looks from the timetable as if most buses will run through to/from Ramsey or Chatteris as route 30 or 35 -- we hope Stagecoach will advertise this because otherwise connections for hospital passengers would be too tight to rely on. Incidentally such connections will be very poor both ways for hospital passengers using route 46 from the A1 corridor.
Duxford Shuttle: Between 10 June and 30 Sept will run hourly between Cambridge and the Imperial War Museum, with an additional 20 minute service via Trumpington Park & Ride on special event days (including one in October). A similar service has run free in past seasons, but will a fare now be charged?
In addition, there are minor timing changes to the following routes: Peterborough Citi 3 (and probably 1 and 2 as well), 45, school services 75, 95 and 96 (the first replacing Whippet 475), and park & ride 99.
Commenting on the changes, the County Council opposition transport spokesperson, Cllr Susan van de Ven (Lib Dem), said to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire that Cambs Future Transport (the organisation set up by the County Council to administer their programme) won't be ready for the earlier than planned withdrawals, Cambs CC created a subsidy regime to suit itself so no wonder this is happening, extra provision by Stagecoach is welcome but only the tip of the iceberg compared to what is needed, and that the Council has no rural transport strategy. She has added the following: Stagecoach as a commercial operator is making a number of changes; the county council is notable by its absence. The result is good news for some people and bad for others. The County Council as the local transport authority needs to take great care to accommodate those people who will be left stranded. It should also be exploring how best to support the new routes which Stagecoach proposes to trial, as it should be doing for all bus routes -- plus transport interchanges, cycle parking and disabled parking bays, and feeders to bus corridors by community transport providers.
Our usual roundup of branch news before we return to Cambridge's buses.
The Campaign against Climate Change is arranging a "Caravan" around some of Britain's major cities as part of its Million Climate Jobs campaign -- we reviewed its pamphlet in Newsletters 104 and 107. The Caravan will be visiting Cambridge on Wed 16 May and we are planning, perhaps in collaboration with Cambridge Friends of the Earth, a public meeting on sustainable transport in connection with it. This will be a lunchtime meeting (12.00-14.00) in the Unitarian Church in Emmanuel Road by the corner of Victoria Street. The meeting will be very informal, so if you work in Cambridge please drop in and out as you like during your lunch hour -- in fact that's why we're doing it this way! We particularly want to see people who live outside Cambridge who are worried about the future of their buses or feel that their existing services are already deficient. Speakers are likely to include opposition county councillors and a representative from the Campaign for Better Transport.
We enclose renewal forms for all members (and only those members) who haven't paid up for 2012-3. You can renew for 1 year (2012-3) or 2 years (2012-4). Due to high postal rates we'll probably raise our subscription rates this year, so why not renew now for 2013-4 at existing rates?
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Incidentally, Transition Cambridge -- the local branch of a movement aimed at easing the transition to a low carbon economy -- is planning a meeting on sustainable transport in June. This will be an evening meeting. It's hoped that a representative of the Campaign for Better Transport will be among the speakers.
We now return to the topic of buses in Cambridge, where two major issues have recently come up (in addition to the idea, about which we have no details, of guided buses running beyond St Ives and Huntingdon). One is the opening of the bus interchange at the railway station. At present this is used only by guided buses and southbound Citi services. We believe there are plans to increase its usage when building work in the area has finished; however we fear that they will not fully exploit the interchange potential of the area.
The other relates to the County Council's bid to the "Better Buses" fund, one aspect of which, ironically, is a major threat to bus users in some parts of the city. To be specific, it involves moving Citi routes 1 and 2 from Magdalene Bridge to Victoria Bridge, which will end all use of stops at the west end of Chesterton Road and all through buses from Bridge St to the station and hospital (and Bridge St has no other buses on Sunday evenings).
We believe it's possible to secure significant improvements on all fronts if the pedestrianised area of the city, formerly used by the free shuttle, is opened up to a limited number of city buses. While we don't want to see too many buses in this area, we believe that buses every 10 minutes or so would be environmentally acceptable -- especially as these areas are open to traffic anyway before 10.00 and after 16.00.
Unfortunately in the competitive environment in which buses run it's difficult to allow some buses into an area without a free for all. However this can certainly be done by means of a Quality Contract, which enables the local authority to specify bus services in a given area and ask local operators to tender to provide them. We would expect that operators would be free to ask for variations provided sufficient use must be made of the pedestrianised area to serve the city's needs, but not so much that it's dominated by buses.
We've tried to resist the temptation to use the specifications as a means of securing even much needed improvements, apart from more buses to serve the station interchange and a new route via Brooklands Avenue to Trumpington; the specifications below are therefore based on the present network as amended by the Stagecoach changes described earlier in this newsletter. In fact we had to make significant amendments when we learnt of the proposed changes to the Citi 4, 5 and 6! It cannot be emphasised too strongly that this does not mean that we are satisfied with this network. Any comments before we put these ideas forward "officially"?
Guided buses: reroute southbound via Bridge St, Trinity St, Kings Parade and Downing St, with stops in Bridge St, St John's College, Kings Parade and outside John Lewis; and northbound via St Andrew's St, King St, Jesus Lane and Bridge St, stopping at St Andrew's St and Bridge St, and shortcutting via Sidney St when this is open to traffic. Routes A and C to stop also at Mitcham's Corner and one stop on Chesterton Road. Route B to extend to the station. On weekday evenings, when this extension might otherwise require an extra vehicle, we suggest linking the B with the 13 between Cambridge and Haverhill, both being hourly. C and daytime journeys on route B would stop at the Centennial Hotel en route to the station, with passengers for the city centre and beyond boarding there.
Citi 1 and 2: reroute via Victoria Bridge, as per the proposals, except in the evenings when they would maintain their present route. (No change to Citi 3.)
Citi 4, X5 and new X4: use a common route through the central area to the station -- perhaps via Northampton St and New Square with additional stops inward at Emmanuel St and the Centennial Hotel and outward at Parkside. Citi 4 to extend further to Addenbrookes on Sundays, and X5 to cater for local journeys on Sunday evenings when the other routes don't run.
Uni 4: divert via the station in both directions -- southbound by double run from Brooklands Avenue and northbound being rerouted via the Catholic Church. At the Hospital end buses would loop via Long Road 6th Form College where passengers could board for the return journey.
Citi 5 and 6: reroute from Castle St via Chesterton Rd, Victoria Bridge and Emmanuel Rd in both directions. The 5 to extend to Hills Rd, Brooklands Avenue, Trumpington village and Shelford Road from which it would return as Citi 6 via the Addenbrookes Access Road and Hills Rd to the station and city centre. Similarly Citi 6 to follow the reverse route and return as Citi 5. On Sundays, however, when Citi 5 won't be running, south of the city centre Citi 6 would use the Citi 5 route via Trumpington, turning at Addenbrookes.
Citi 7 and 8: reamalgamate to provide through services across the city. The lost journeys between the city centre and Addenbrookes would be replaced by Citi 6, also Citi 4 on Sundays.
Whippet 1, 1A/B and 5: No route change, but we would like to see more regular operation (hourly for 1, with the others providing a combined half hourly service on weekdays and hourly on Sundays).
Park & Ride: reorganise with one service linking Milton and Trumpington, one linking Newmarket Rd and Babraham Rd, and one running in from Madingley Rd to Bridge St, Maids Causeway, Grafton Centre, Emmanuel St and back via Bridge St. The first of these routes would extend in the evenings to serve Milton village and Trumpington Shelford Road (both in a one way loop after setting down at the car park) and would continue at reduced frequency after the existing close of service primarily to cater for local passengers. The existing arrangement whereby all stops are served after 18.30 needs to be better advertised.
We would like to see National Express coaches to London and the airports rerouted to serve the station interchange and Addenbrookes before continuing by whatever route to the M11. We would also like to see the development of other stops, and hope that the Parkside terminal could be moved back into the city centre if a greater spread of stopping places led to a reduction in dwell time in the city centre. (Note that buses normally have to go into the city centre after leaving Parkside, so this will not lead to additional vehicle movements there.)
This package would bring the following advantages: many more through buses to the station and hospital or near the former; faster journeys into the city centre on Citi routes 1, 2 and 7; new direct links to Trumpington; better access to the Centennial Hotel stop on Hills Rd which is now bypassed by southbound buses serving the station; better access to the historic centre for the less agile; restoration of the useful stop at Emmanuel Rd as an interchange -- stops by unguided buses having been removed in recent years; better coordination on the Madingley Rd corridor; and improved potential for coordinated services on routes operated by Whippet.
We've covered quite a lot of issues in recent months, including some issues where the Coordinator has responded as an individual and encouraged members of our e-groups to do the same. We follow with reports on the Cambs CC consultation, A14 Challenge, High Speed railway, Local rail aspirations, Northstowe, Ely crossing and Shape Your Place.
Cambs CC consultation. In addition to the bus consultation featured in our last newsletter, the Coordinator and Chair attended a meeting in Trumpington in October aimed at voluntary groups in the south of the county (there was another meeting in the north), and the Coordinator also attended a follow up countywide meeting in Chatteris in February.
For the Trumpington meeting, the format was very open, with participants invited to say what they wanted whether or not it was compatible with the county council's expressed views. While we naturally said that we gave high priority to maintaing bus support, we also put forward ideas for improving buses by other means (such as opening up school or positioning workings to the public). There was little evidence that this meeting had significant influence on the county council, but we did make some useful contacts.
In the follow up meeting the council reported back on its decisions and there was a discussion on whether the consultation process had been of value. The general consensus seemed to be that the council was not taking heed of the views expressed by the groups represented, and we'd probably have regarded the meeting as a waste of a day had it not given us the chance to make more contacts, including a separate meeting with a participant in Chatteris Shape Your Place (see below).
Neither meeting was easy to get to. For the Trumpington meeting the Coordinator used the guided bus, but had to go to the city centre first as it doesn't stop at Mitcham's Corner, and ended up waiting over 20 minutes at the Emmanuel Road stop. For the Chatteris meeting again the guided bus was used, this time to St Ives where a 21 was caught. The last 21 back from Chatteris is at 16.33, and we asked for the finish of the meeting (originally scheduled for 16.30) to be brought forward so we wouldn't have to leave early, given the propensity for meetings to overrun. The meeting was rescheduled to finish at 16.00, and actually finished at 16.15, comfortably connecting with the bus.
In addition to the above events, we attended a rally organised by Cambs against the Cuts at the county council Cabinet meeting at the end of January, and were gratified to find that bus services were highlighted by other campaigners. We borrowed one of the "Save Our Buses" banners of the Campaign for Better Transport, which showed the range of organisations supporting that campaign.
Meanwhile Cllr Susan van de Ven, whom we mentioned earlier, is continuing to campaign on this issue. See her website, in particular the links to her e-petition against cuts to buses (under "Useful Links") and to "Briefing Note: Bus cuts and next steps" (under "pages"). Note in particular her statement that the cuts lost the Council 5m pounds of Government money (the Government, understandably, wasn't interested in using its money to paper over the cracks in the county's own policy), and the utter failure of the Duxford Pilot which represents the council's new thinking.
A14 Challenge: The Government were consulting on alternatives to its predecessor's A14 upgrade scheme, and Sian Berry, sustainability campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, coordinated responses between them, us, the pressure group Freight on Rail, and the local campaigners we'd been in touch with in the runup to the aborted public inquiry. Visit the at Campaign for Better Transport's website for the first three of these responses. The highlights are as follows:
(a) Reduce local commuting by measures such as demand management, better buses, a workplace parking tax, park & ride at Brampton Racecourse, and reducing the need to travel by better planning.
(b) Transfer long distance freight from road to rail. Most of this traffic serves Felixstowe and other Haven Ports, but we also drew attention to traffic between the Straits of Dover and Eastern England which currently uses the M25, M11 and A14 to join the A1.
(c) Provide better alternatives to driving for longer distance passenger traffic. In the shorter term this would be by means of an express bus service between Cambridge, Huntingdon, Kettering and Rugby, with rail connections at all four places. In the longer term we seek the restoration of east-west rail links between Cambridge, St Neots, Bedford and eventually Northampton.
In our response to the previous A14 upgrade proposals we supported the principle of taking the A14 out of Huntingdon but objected to the high cost and the way in which that would be done. Local campaigners, by contrast, objected to any new alignment but sought major improvements to the A428 to provide an alternative route, which we didn't like. See Section 4 of our response and the second bullet point of C of CBT's to see the compromise we came up with.
We should also mention CBT's oppostion to funding road upgrades through tolls, one issue where they see eye to eye with some sectors of the roads lobby! They point out, for example, that the M6 Toll Road has done little to relieve congestion on the ``old'' M6 through Birmingham.
In our response we took every opportunity to highlight the side benefits (i.e. not related to existing A14 movements) that would accrue from our proposals, which would be relevant to any business case that might be put forward for them.
High Speed Railway: This issue has provided a major focus for debate, which has tended to focus on two questions: is the project justified, and if so is enough being done to avoid environmental damage to local residents.
Both our group and the Coordinator personally have stood aside from this debate, but our parent organisation has signed up to the Right Lines Charter, a compilation of principles aimed at making the project more acceptable.
Regarding the first question, the Coordinator believes that our transport system is much more flawed at local level than for the long distance movements that high speed rail is designed to cater for, and that priority for money should therefore go to local transport. However, high speed rail could form a valid part of a long term vision for transport in this country, but the principles of network planning must be incorporated at the outset. The "Y" network of lines from London via the Birmingham area to Manchester, Leeds and beyond is acceptable in principle, but should be supplemented by the following:
1. A reorganisation of London terminal arrangements to reduce the need for environmentally destructive expansion at Euston, and to provide better links for passengers changing to other services including Eurostar and domestic high speed trains to Kent.
2. Extension of the Birmingham spur to Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury on the one hand, and Bristol and Plymouth on the other, mainly using existing lines but with some new construction.
3. Extra stations between London and Birmingham, which would not however be used by all services (so would not increase fastest end to end journey times).
4. Extra routes coming off the "Y" to Lincoln, Ipswich and Bournemouth -- again mainly using existing lines, but also including a new route between Northampton, Bedford, St Neots and Cambridge which could reduce Cambridge-Birmingham journey times to about 1.5 hours.
These ideas were not fully developed when the official Government consultation closed, but we did mention the Cambridge-Northampton link in our response to the A14 Challenge (see above). It must be added that the Bournemouth and Ipswich routes would be aimed at helping to raise the modal share of railfreight at Southampton and Felixstowe respectively, and that routes from Bournemouth and Plymouth to Manchester and Leeds would take over many of the long distance functions of existing rail operator Cross Country.
Local Rail Aspirations. We were invited to a meeting organised by consultants working with the Association of Train Operating Companies who wanted to discuss what we thought about the rail network. With us were representatives of other campaign groups, a couple of city councillors and someone from the Chamber of Commerce. A lively discussion followed. The meeting was worthwhile (especially as participants received payment for their time, which the Coordinator made over to Cambs CBT), but there were no particular highlights. Two issues which we mentioned after the meeting were problems with acceptance of bank cards by ticket machines and the dearth of seating at the new Kings Cross concourse.
Northstowe. As we write the consultation period for the outline planning application for Northstowe has just expired. Some of the points mentioned in the Coordinator's response:
(a) Any development that entailed upgrading the A14 would be opposed. The official position is that the first stage of development, which was the subject of the outline planning application, would not do so; but as it's not going to stop there we're entitled to ask whether the developers have done all they can to ensure that further development can be accommodated without the need for massive amounts of public money to upgrade this section of the A14.
(b) The developers should be required to underwrite the public transport network serving the development from day 1 so that residents do not start off by getting to the habit of relying on their cars for all their transport needs. This would also improve the benefits for other people in the area. Our prime aspirations were a "spine" bus route to Chatteris and/or Ramsey via Willingham, Earith and Somersham; Sunday evening guided buses to Cambridge and Huntingdon; and local links to places such as Cottenham and Cambourne. We sent an (acknowledged) email after the official closing date for submissions adding to this list the restoration of evening buses to Cambridge via Bar Hill and Girton, whose withdrawal hadn't been announced in time.
(c) A cycle route independent of the B1050 should be provided to link Northstowe with Bar Hill. This could use an existing bridleway which, however, currently terminates short of the A14. The previous A14 upgrade would have provided a bridge, but in the wrong place. We also suggested a new river crossing to Holywell as part of a regional cycle network, but this is probably too remote from Northstowe for it to be an appropriate condition of planning consent.
(d) Design of the development so that all residences are within walking distance of basic facilties (shops, bus stops, primary schools, surgeries etc.) at all times.
In addition three other issues were mentioned: the idea of a pedestrian and cycle bridge at Holywell to link with the guided busway and cycle route alongside it, which will serve Northstowe; the problem of water supply -- we're the driest part of the country, and in the middle of a drought, and it would be reckless to assume that this was just a blip; and unconfirmed allegations about deterioration in the road quality on the guided busway -- as this will be the main public transport artery for Northstowe, this must be investigated before the site is developed.
Ely Crossing. At present the A142 at Ely station has an underpass with a height limit which means it can't be used by large vehicles (buses as well as lorries). The adjacent level crossing is closed to road traffic for long periods and this is liable to get worse if aspirations for more freight and passenger trains are met.
The County Council's proposed solution is a bypass which will link the A142 with the south side of Ely. However this is the most expensive of the options chosen for consultation; it has raised objections on the grounds of damage to the landscape setting of Ely; and it won't provide a proper route for traffic (especially buses on route 12) needing to reach the station.
One of the options put out for consultation is to rebuild the existing underpass to take higher vehicles. It might also be possible to build a new underpass or bridge to link with the roundabout that currently gives access to Tesco, which may be moving to a new site. Any of these solutions would be more acceptable to us and other groups with whom we have been working.
How about this as a preferred option: new underpass to link with Tesco roundabout; removal of level crossing; existing underpass reserved for cyclists and pedestrians; new back entrance to station (should the main car park be moved there?); and new pedestrian link running west of railway from station approach alongside the railway to meet the riverside walk.
Shape Your Place. This is not a campaign issue but a new open forum dealing with issues affecting Cambridgeshire communities. It started in Fenland but has recently grown to include East Cambridgeshire; Huntingdonshire will be next. Anyone, including those who live outside the area, can contribute to its discussions, and both councillors (county, district and town/parish) and ordinary people have done so. To put your ideas forward visit shapeyourplace.org.
One of the most popular discussions is "Guided bus connection via Chatteris". This discussion has diversified into a general discussion of Chatteris's public transport or lack of it, and it is worth visiting just to see how badly local people feel that they have been let down. It was this discussion that led us to suggest in the Northstowe consultation that Northstowe needs a bus link to Chatteris, and one contributor suggests that it might have been responsible for the forthcoming improvements.
We have already mentioned the new Kings Cross concourse -- visually impressive but needing more seating and better signage. Our impression is that walking distances are longer, too.
In December the new platforms at Cambridge opened. At present, they reduce delays by trains approaching Cambridge but increase the time one needs to allow to catch a train. However the former will become much more important if more trains serve Cambridge -- and the new platforms would be essential to the local rail network we would like to see as a longer term aspiration. Complaints have been made that the staircases are not well designed for cyclists.
Subject to satisfactory financial arrangements, agreement has been reached for a new station north of Chesterton Junction, to be called Cambridge Science Park (though it will be some way away). It has been stated that guided buses will serve it, and so we presume will Citi 2 -- strengthening the case for these to serve Bridge St (see "Cambridge City Buses" above). Otherwise the access arrangements are not yet clear. The station does not appear to be well sited to provide an interchange -- we believe that a station in the Addenbrookes area would have been much more valuable, at least for this purpose.
Again subject to satisfactory financial arrangements, agreement has been reached for restoration of trains between Oxford and Bedford. We will be campaigning for dedicated bus links to Cambridge, with through ticketing at both ends, from the beginning. Note that the buses might link with Oxford-Bedford trains not at Bedford but at a station to the south, thereby avoiding congestion in Bedford town centre; they should, however, serve both St Neots and Cambridge stations.
The issue of extending this line to Cambridge was discussed at the recent East Anglia branch AGM of Railfuture; there was a consensus, with which we agree, that it is important to offer a direct route to Cambridge which is competitive with road travel. As stated above (see "A14 Challenge" our eventual aspiration is a link beyond Bedford to Northampton with trains taking about 1.5 hours to Birmingham. (Note: Northampton is about halfway, and if trains from there to Birmingham didn't stop at the smaller stations west of Coventry they'd take only 50 minutes.)
All in all, rail passengers can be thankful that the lobby on their behalf is strong enough to spare them the insecurity that has been imposed on bus passengers -- an insecurity which partly explains why so many people want to be reconnected to the rail network.
Not very much has changed recently.
Cambridge station: As previously referred to, Citi routes serving the station now use the new link road for southbound journeys only.
Guided buses: Minor timetable changes.
Whippet 6 and Meridian Line 29: We're not sure when these came in, but they provide shopping and school services between Papworth and St Neots, also serving Hilton and Comberton Village College respectively.
Acme 11: This northwest Essex service runs only on schooldays.
Whippet 21: Holywell is now served only on Mondays.
Charter Travel 28: Now terminates at Comberton Village College and does not serve Cambridge.
Whippet coastal services: Reintroduced for 2012 with some changes, but the basic route network is the same.
Saffron Walden: The new owners of regional rail franchise Greater Anglia have promised better links to Audley End station. Currently the town has no evening buses at all and no Sunday services except for a few journeys to Cambridge -- we hope these gaps will be filled.
Fares News: Fares went up this month on Stagecoach in Cambs, and this has been a general trend across the country as a result of the Government decision to reduce Bus Operator Service Grant, which, as we said earlier, amounts to a doubling of fuel duty. This will lead to local authorities having to fork out more for concessionary fare reimbursement, which will reduce the benefit to the public purse.
At the same time the X5 Dayrider Gold ticket, valid on Stagecoach buses in most of southern Britain, has been replaced by an East X5 Dayrider Gold, costing 12 pounds for a single adult, that is advertised as being only valid on the X5 and other services operated by Stagecoach in Cambs, Beds and Oxon (i.e. not on Northants services, for example). We believe that this may be because these tickets are (now or in the future) being provided by smartcard rather than on paper and only the above subsidiaries can read smartcards. If what's on Stagecoach websites is to be believed that one can get round this and indeed save money by starting off on a Stagecoach in Cambs service, asking for a Dayrider Gold (now 7-50) and paying a supplement of 1-20 every time one uses an X5 -- but we'd appreciate confirmation of this. One should add that one correspondent has said that when he asked for this ticket what he was given specifically said "valid on all Stagecoach services in Southern Britain"!
Incidentally Multibus tickets are still advertised on both the Stagecoach and Cambs CC websites. The single adult price is now 7-80. They are valid on all Stagecoach services operated from Cambs (including Peterborough) except guided buses (which considerably limits their utility in practice) and the 11 between Newmarket and Bury, plus the X5 within Cambs. They are also available on services operated by Myalls and Whippet (including, we presume, their guided buses) -- area not specified. The Cambs CC website also mentions A&P, Burtons and Cedars, but Burtons have ceased operating and the others don't run any services in Cambs!
Somerset: large scale cuts, especially to market day services of the type that were almost eliminated in Suffolk last year, are scheduled for 28 May. If you're planning a holiday there go before then -- and consult the Somerset CC website for details of what's happening! Of the two routes provided primarily for Exmoor National Park visitors, the 300 is to be reduced and the 401 eliminated. There are other services in the National Park, one should add (though some of them are under threat).
Shropshire: To commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic movement in Much Wenlock the Wenlock Wanderer (781) has been reintroduced to join the Long Mynd and Stiperstones Shuttle (780), with both running on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. The former runs along the north side of Wenlock Edge and past Acton Scott Farm Musum to Church Stretton, where the second takes the hills by a circular route to Minsterley. Positioning workings will run to Coleham near Shrewsbury town centre. Unfortunately following cuts Much Wenlock is now a dead end on Sundays and Bank Holidays, though it has links to Telford, Ironbridge, Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury on Saturdays.
North Yorkshire: The Yorkshire Dales network is reasonably intact as a result of devolution to a Community Interest Company. The Moorsbus network will run this year and next, though only on Sundays and bank holidays (which makes things difficult for many people relying on connecting transport to get there, and also prevents people from staying several days in high summer and using the Moorsbus every day to visit somewhere different), but after that it's under threat (though the National Park say they are committed to continuing support for public transport).
Lakes: Some good news -- a new Saturday minibus to Wasdale connecting with Cumbrian Coast trains, enabling walks linking with the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway. Reservation advised -- ring 01946 723227. For timetable see.
And finally...We understand that the Dover Harbour Board are planning to demolish the passenger terminal at Dover Eastern Docks and limit use of the ferries to people with vehicles. This is outrageous -- the Pas de Calais used to be a popular day out destination and how else do people get there? Eurotunnel doesn't take foot passengers either, and Eurostar stops few trains at Calais Frethun (which is out of town anyway) and charges passengers the same fare as to Lille, a lot further on. The concept of limiting access to ferries to people with vehicles seems to be peculiarly British -- last time we checked with the Thomas Cook European timetable every service with restrictions on foot passengers served a UK terminal at one or both ends.