This Saturday, 29 June, the Campaign for Better Transport and Railfuture are arranging a walk from Bedford to Sandy to highlight the case for restoring a rail link between Bedford and Cambridge. The walk will take place over the old trackbed. Participants should assemble at the Visitor Centre in Priory Country Park, Bedford at 10.30 for a photo at 10.45 before the walk to Sandy starts at 11.00. Note that if you don't feel you can do the walk you'll still be welcome at the assembly point to swell the numbers in the photo!
Note also that the campaign is not specifically seeking the restoration of the old route between Bedford and Cambridge, even as far as Sandy; while this is certainly an option, the objective of the campaign is merely to ensure that some route is provided. The Coordinator's preferred option would run via St Neots, where there would be interchange with Inter-City trains on the East Coast Main Line. This could use the old route for most of its journey between Bedford and Sandy, but a completely new route would be required between St Neots and Cambridge, preferably with an intermediate station at Cambourne. Additional curves would allow trains to run from Bedford to Sandy (and, with further new stretches of line, Stevenage, Ware and Stansted Airport) and from Cambridge to Huntingdon and Peterborough.
75 years ago the steam locomotive "Mallard" set a speed record of 126mph on the East Coast Main Line, still unsurpassed (anywhere in the world) for a steam train. The National Railway Museum in York (whose future, incidentally, was recently put into doubt, but the threat now seems to have been lifted) is organising a series of events to commemorate this, including an assembly of "Mallard" and its 5 sister locomotives at the Museum between 3-17 July and between 26 Oct-8 Nov, also at the NRM's Shildon site in County Durham between 15-23 Feb 2014. All these will be free to view and no tickets (other than rail tickets!) are required.
One of the locomotives in question, "Bittern", will be heading a (fully booked) charter train from London to York on 29 June. Though steam locomotives are normally limited to 75mph, this one has been given special permission to do 90mph on certain stretches of route. It should be possible to see this locomotive pass on your way to Priory Park – the train is scheduled to stop at Kings Cross at 08.18 and Potters Bar at 08.43-08.45, and passing times at selected points on the East Coast Main Line are as follows: Finsbury Park 08.23, Alexandra Palace 08.26, Welwyn Garden City 08.52, Stevenage 08.59, Hitchin 09.04, Sandy 09.14 and Huntingdon at 09.29.
Here are the options for reaching Priory Park from the East Coast Main Line. Bus 72 from Hitchin leaves Arlesey Old Oak, near the station, at 09.29. Bus 73 leaves Sandy Market Place, about 5 minutes walk from the road bridge near the station, at 09.31. Bus X5 leaves St Neots Cambridge Street, about 5 minutes walk from the road bridge near the station, at 09.28.
If you're using the 72 or 73, alight at Priory Business Park, the stop immediately after the big roundabout where the Bedford Bypass is crossed. Walk back towards that roundabout, turn into the Business Park, then keep straight on at another roundabout. Turn left soon after. This is the access road to Priory Country Park. Soon you'll see a map which shows the network of paths in the area and which you can use to find the Visitor Centre.
If you're using the X5, alight at Bedford's ring road, this being the next stopping place after Goldington Green. Turn southwards along the ring road. After about 5 minutes walk you'll come to a public footpath on the left, which will take you to the main entrance to Priory Country Park. The Visitor Centre is nearby.
In either case if you take the buses referred to you should be able to get to the Visitor Centre in good time.
Options for leaving the walk intermediately are as follows.
1. At Willington: from the village centre take a 27 which runs every 2 hours to Bedford in one direction and Great Barford in the other (continuing back to Bedford by a different route); or walk through the village to the main road where you can catch a 73 which runs half hourly to Bedford, Sandy or Biggleswade. The 27 route is also crossed about a mile and a half further on, though this is not shown as an official stopping place.
2. About half a mile after the crossing point referred to above, one reaches a public footpath. Follow it south to Moggerhanger (on the 73 route) or north to Great Barford (on the 27 route, or one can go right through the village to the X5 bus stop).
3. At Blunham. This is one of those villages that has really lost out since the closure of the railway (on which it had a station); now its only public transport is a peak service plus some buses that run on certain days of the week (which don't include Saturdays). So leaving the walk here is only recommended for those sufficiently energetic to follow the River Ivel right down to Roxton where one can pick up an X5. But this is probably the prettiest option for those who can make it.
4. The route of the walk through Sandy crosses Engayne Avenue near the Quince Court bus stop served by the 73. This stop is served by buses in both directions, which in one direction go to Sandy Market Place and Biggleswade and in the other go to Bedford.
Those who still owe a subscription for 2013-4 will receive a renewal slip with this newsletter, offering the options of renewing for 1 or 2 years at the prices shown on the first page of this newsletter and on our website.
Members will also receive copies of the various reports presented at the AGM in December.
Here's another campaign event, a bit further afield. The Campaign for Better Transport is also arranging a rally near Hastings on Sat 13 July to protest about the re-emergence of the roads programme, including the soon to be built "1066 Road" near the rally site. In the early afternoon there will be 3 guided walks leaving Bexhill station at 11.45, West St Leonards station at noon and Crowhurst recreation ground (about 15 minutes walk from Crowhurst station), also at noon. Then all parties will meet up at Crowhurst Recreation Ground from 14.00 onwards, with speakers from 15.00. There will also be a free bus from Brighton (10.30), Lewes, Polegate and Bexhill to Crowhurst; afterwards it will do a shuttle to Bexhill before returning to Brighton.
Participants may wish to buy a Southern Daysave ticket, which is valid on all trains operated by Southern and costs 14 pounds (no railcard discounts). Daysave tickets have to be bought online at least 7 days in advance. Note that the Southern route from London is considerably slower than the more direct Southeastern route from Charing Cross, on which the Daysave is not valid (and which is the only route serving Crowhurst and West St Leonards stations). For those wishing to reach Crowhurst by service bus, route 304 runs from Hastings to Crowhurst Turn, about 2 miles from the recreation ground.
The event will express the concern of transport campaigners at more than 200 road schemes throughout the country, including our own A14, which may be given the go ahead in the current spending review. A common theme is that what might be acceptable as a bypass, designed with provision for non-motorists (including bus users), is completely unacceptable when designed solely with motorists in mind. The A14 scheme is designed to solve some real problems but it does so in such a way as to completely negate most of the potential benefits for non-motorists. Other examples are the Hindhead bypass (see Newsletter 109) which opened 2 years ago, where the lack of provision for buses means that the beauty spot of Hindhead is no longer accessible by National Express coach (and it's since lost its local buses on Sundays too); those who are concerned about the contribution of road traffic to climate change will find it particularly ironic that Hindhead was the home of the scientist (John Tyndall) who proved the existence of the Greenhouse Effect. The recently approved Dunstable Northern Bypass would have been welcome as a single carriageway link to a new parkway station on the Midland Main Line, but not as a dual carriageway link giving access only to the motorway – and, if some of the roadbuilders have their way, an extension through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Not far from the last is the Linslade Western Bypass which opened in 2007. We reported in Newletter 98 that an express bus between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes had been introduced when it opened, thus giving non-motorists some benefit therefrom. Well, it's now been axed, leaving only the slower route 150.
The line between Doncaster and Goole or Scunthorpe, which has been closed for several months due to the subsidence of a nearby coaltip, will reopen on 8 July, with a full passenger service starting 3 weeks later.
Full timetables for the replacement buses and diverted trains during the Nottingham remodelling (20 July-25 Aug), mentioned in our last newsletter, are now available on the East Midlands Trains website (linked from ours). To repeat and expand on what we said last time, trains on the Norwich-Liverpool route will divert between Peterborough and Chesterfield via East Midlands Parkway for the duration; southbound trains will go via Alfreton but northbound trains will divert via Derby (not stopping). There will be no trains in either direction between East Midlands Parkway and Langley Mill – surely an important link to improve connectivity while Nottingham is out of action? – nor from East Midlands Parkway to Alfreton. There will be nonstop buses between East Midlands Parkway and Grantham, also Newark Castle on Mondays to Saturdays. There will also be nonstop buses from Nottingham to Skegness on Saturdays (in this direction only). There will be trains running east from Nottingham for part of the period, but to the west the line will be closed throughout.
The blockade at Selby, also planned for this summer, was postponed to ensure that there would be adequate capacity out of Hull if the reopening of the route between Goole and Doncaster had been delayed. It will now take place next year. If the arrangements are as had been planned for this year, there will be nonstop buses between Hull and York, no details of local replacements were shown in the national rail timetable.
Closer to our own area, the new flyover at Hitchin has now been brought into use. For the time being it is to be used on Mondays to Fridays by trains leaving Moorgate at 10.52, 11.52 and 12.52 (and Hitchin 65 minutes later), though note that this is subject to short term requirements.
Not much has happened in Cambs since our last newsletter, but we are pleased to report that following the completion of roadworks buses are now running as normal through Bridge St. We hope that the scheme to divert them permanently will arouse sufficient outcry to force its abandonment.
We asked Cambs County Council's Lib Dem transport spokesperson Susan van de Ven for a statement about supported bus services in Cambridgeshire following the elections, at which the ruling party lost their absolute majority (though not by enough to lead to a new administration). Here's what she said: "The Passenger Transport team reported that the 7A service running to Babraham Park & Ride, which launched in March, is doing well. This is good news and we'll have to see how the service performs over the coming months. Cambs Future Transport has had a very slow start and is now having to recruit an entirely new team, but as budgets have been safeguarded to improve public transport in areas where bus subsidies have been in place, it is important to try and support the project for the intended outcome. It would appear that some bus services could end up remaining in place, in an altered format. The new structure of the county council could have an impact on CFT's flexiblity – committee systems and a more consensual style of decision making will replace the Cabinet and Strong Leader modal next May, and one can feel the wind change already." We'll have to see how this pans out in practice – in the meantime keep writing to your county councillor to express your concern!
We conclude with our usual summary of some of the services running this summer which could be useful for those planning day trips or longer holidays in the relevant areas.
Bedfordshire: During the summer school holidats, an hourly service will be running on Mondays to Fridays on the leg of route X31 from Luton that runs via Whipsnade Zoo to Hemel Hempstead. (Note, however, that the Saturday service on the leg that runs to Toddington and Harlington has been withdrawn.) For timetable details for this and the Rutland Water buses see the Centrebus website (linked from ours).
Also note the boat trips from Bedford that will be running on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays between 13 July and 31 Aug. Online bookings can be made by following the relevant link – though not for the trips advertised as running to/from Great Barford on the last Wednesday of the month.
Rutland: Until 1 Sept there will be a daily service of 4 buses in each direction round Rutland Water (route 44). Empingham and Oakham can be reached by Kimes 9 from Peterborough. Kimes are part of Centrebus so if you're going that way you may be able to use a Midlands Network day ticket – ask the driver. There's also a separate day ticket for the 44. There are also boat trips between Whitwell and Normanton, both on the bus route, and cycle hire at both sites. Bikes can be carried on the buses, and probably on the boats as well, so enjoy a multi-modal day out! (Note: the cycle hire company also has shops at Grafham, in our own Cambridgeshire, and Fineshade; why can't the former be complemented by buses and boats in the same way? Our "A14 Challenge" proposals suggested that people should be able to get off an express bus at Ellington, 3 miles from Grafham Water, and hire a bike. Fineshade in Northamptonshire is accessible by demand responsive Call Connect bus from Stamford, but it's nowhere near a reservoir so don't ask for boat trips there.)
Hants: We mentioned the New Forest Tour in our last newsletter but didn't give a website for further information. While there was then a site which showed the timetable, fuller information about times and fares is now available – all routes run daily from 29 June to 15 Sept. In other parts of the county, buses are running from Eastleigh to Marwell Zoo on weekends till 1 Sept and daily in the summer school holidays; and there's a free bus that runs up the Test Valley from Romsey and Dunbridge stations to Stockbridge, and on some days Longstock Park Water Gardens, on Sundays and Bank Holidays till 22 Sept. Timetables for both can be seen at threeriversrail.com.
Dorset: During the summer school holidays route X43 will again be linking Swanage with Weymouth via Monkeyworld and Lulworth Cove. Alas, there is no sign of First's open top bus that has previously linked Weymouth with Portland Bill, competing with Southwest Coaches' all year service that was axed last December (see Newsletter 113). A service that is in principle all year but which we suspect may disappear soon is the 328 from Wimborne to the National Trust's Kingston Lacy House, which runs on Fridays and Saturdays. Wimborne has frequent bus links to Poole and also a direct service to Bournemouth station. Near Kingston Lacy are further National Trust attractions: Badbury Rings and the White Mill, the former always open but the latter only open at weekends. The White Mill is close to Sturminster Marshall (X8 from Poole or 83 from Wimborne) and also 2 miles walk from where one crosses a minor public road while touring the gardens at Kingston Lacy (en route to the kitchen garden).
Devon: The Sidmouth Hopper mentioned in Newsletter 113 is running again this year, daily till the end of September, with the route extended to serve Oakdown Caravan Park. Elsewhere in the county, bus route 187 continues to link trains at Okehampton and Gunnislake via Lydford, Tavistock and Morwellham Quay on Sundays, but service 82 via Moretonhampstead has been considerably reduced and now offers only 1 round trip (and to Tavistock via Yelverton rather than to Plymouth) on Saturdays and Sundays. Both routes run till 15 Sept. There's also route 271 which does a loop from Newton Abbot to Haytor, Widecombe and Manaton on Saturdays till the end of October. In addition, the Exe Valley community bus is now advertised as doing scheduled runs from Oakford to Tiverton, South Molton or Barnstaple on 3 days a week throughout the year, though return journeys stop to set down only.
Cumbria: In addition to long standing services such as those from Keswick to Buttermere or Caldbeck, and the Hadrian's Wall bus, note the following: route X30 from Hawkshead to Wray Castle, Grizedale and Satterthwaite, daily to 4 Nov; route X33 from Ambleside to Ravenglass, weekends till end Sept, daily in summer school holidays (but note that this uses the A593 and A595 and does not go over the tops like the old Mountain Goat service); route 100 from Alston to Crook, extended from Stanhope to replace the (at least temporarily) closed Weardale Railway, runs Sundays 7 July-6 Oct – note that Crook has regular buses on Sundays to Durham and Darlington; route 111 which does a loop from Penrith to Shap and Burnbanks on Tuesdays throughout the year; route 352 from Blackpool to Newcastle via Kirkby Stephen and Barnard Castle, Fridays and Sundays, also Mondays in summer; route 564A/B – the former branches off the main weekday 564 route between Kendal and Brough at Sedbergh on Saturdays to serve Dent village and station, while both combine on Sundays till 8 Sept to link Sedbergh and Hawes with Dent and Garsdale stations; route 572 from Ravenstonedale to Barnard Castle via Kirkby Stephen, Wednesdays throughout the year, and in summer the morning journey does a scenic diversion via Middleton in Teesdale; and route 888 from Newcastle to Keswick, daily 5 July-29 Sept, on Sunday mornings it is possible to connect out of the 100 for journeys from Durham via Crook and Alston to Keswick, though unfortunately the connection cannot be made in the other direction.
Northumberland: In addition to the Hadrian's Wall bus and 888 mentioned above, the following services are worthy of note. The 14 links Morpeth with Rothbury and Thropton on Mondays to Saturdays all year, and is currently diverted to run past the entrance to the National Trust's Cragside due to a landslip. The X18 and 418 serve the scenic coastal stretch between Alnmouth and Belford. The 477 from Berwick serves Lindisfarne (Holy Island) on Mondays to Saturdays (except August Bank Holiday) between 29 June and 30 Sept, at times dependent on the tides; there's a tie in with an exhibition of the Lindisfarne Gospels at Durham Palace Green Library (bookable on the website) during the same period. Note also the boat trips from Seahouses (on routes X18 and 418) to the Farne Islands (Inner Farne, Staple Island and Longstone Island) and Holy Island. The Farne Islands are noted for their birdlife and Longstone was the the home of Grace Darling, who achieved national fame as a child when she helped her father, the lighthouse keeper, to rescue people off a wrecked ship.
Yorkshire: As usual there are the Dalesbus and Moorsbus networks – but note that this year may be the last for the latter in its present form (see Newsletter 111).