Earlier this year the House of Commons Transport Committee invited people to submit evidence for an inquiry into the problems of isolated communities. The Coordinator put in a submission, though not on our organisation's behalf, to avoid the hassle of devising an agreed response.
Parenthetically, we should say that we encourage our members to put in their own submissions to any consultations etc., and to air their own views on what might go into such submissions on our e-groups: the Cambridge Public Transport group (or email to subscribe), which covers public transport issues in and around Cambridgeshire, and the Cambs Sustainable Transport Forum (email to subscribe), which covers other local transport issues.
The theme of the response was that the decline of community services was not a law of nature but an artefact of the way our country is run. If we want to solve the problems, what we have to do is to create a framework in which local authorities will ensure that all communities get the services they can reasonably expect.
A parallel can be found by considering education. By and large, people need education to qualify for jobs, to conduct their personal affairs efficiently, and to make the most of their leisure time. In modern society they also need transport for the same purposes. So why are transport and education treated so differently?
If education was treated as transport is now, local authorities would be free to reduce council tax by providing minimal or even no schooling, and telling people that if they were dissatisfied they would have to make provision privately. In areas where many voters are already using private education, or are holiday home owners who have their children educated elsewhere, this could very well happen, especially if the elected councillors, too, relied on private education.
Instead, they are required by law to provide education for every child who lives within their area. For children who live too far away to walk, they are required to provide transport. To ensure that the level of provision is satisfactory, extensive league tables are compiled to highlight the underproviders. And there are also powers for organisations to get public money to run schools when they can demonstrate a need. One can argue about whether these measures are appropriate, but that's not the point, which is that central government regards education as being too important to be left to local discretion.
One should also note that private schools don't run thousands of people over every year, don't cause massive pollution and climate change emissions, don't take over vast areas of space in our cities and countryside. All the more reason why public provision is at least as important for transport, which does all these things. (Yes, buses do bring significant pollution problems, but these could easily be controlled if we put our mind to it.)
Of all communal services, transport is probably the most important. If a village loses its shop, surgery, pub or whatever, then, provided the village retains its bus service, people can travel to another community to access these services. No similar substitution is possible if a community loses its public transport.
What sort of transport services should people be entitled to expect? The following categories would cater for most needs.
It should also be noted that the same journey can cater for more than one category of demand. Rural buses can cater for both local residents and visitors, and the same journey can carry workers, schoolchildren and shoppers. Sunday evening buses can cater for evenings out, long day trips and weekends away. The trick is to try to bring all these categories of demand together rather than to write off each of them as insufficient to support a viable network.
One has to recognise, of course, that people living in tiny communities off the main routes might not be able to expect all of the above. But the problem has spread far beyond this level, so that even city neighbourhoods are facing some of the problems of isolation, while new developments (such as the expansion of Papworth Everard) are being built with completely inadequate transport provision (in this case, no evening or Sunday buses at all -- and even the daytime service is far from frequent). Towns such as Chatteris and Ramsey are also isolated in the evenings and on Sundays. In the whole of Cambridgeshire (excluding Peterborough), only the following buses run on Sunday evenings: Cambridge Citi 1 and 3, First X1 (Peterborough-Wisbech-Kings Lynn), Peterborough Citi 5 (which serves Yaxley and Farcet), X5 (Cambridge-Bedford), and 13 (Cambridge-Haverhill).
It should also be added that even with a reasonably comprehensive public transport network people might find themselves faced with the need to make journeys not covered by it. But if these journeys were only occasional, as they should be for most people, they could do so without owning a car by joining a local car club which provides short term hire on a neighbourhood basis. Car clubs exist at present (see for example zipcar), but they are very much a niche market. They should become the default means of access to cars.
So what sort of framework do we need to rebuild a comprehensive public transport network?
One idea would be based on the concept of an "isolation allowance" to be paid to residents of areas with inadequate transport facilities. It would be paid on a sliding scale to reflect how far the area fell short of the desiderata of 1-5 above. (6 is not relevant here because it doesn't relate to where people live.) It should be means tested so that people who can afford to live anywhere don't choose to move to isolated areas to get the allowance.
The isolation allowance would be paid by local transport authorities, so they would have a definite incentive to provide a comprehensive network so as to minimise this payment. The aim should be for all urban neighbourhoods and all large villages to have a sufficient service to avoid isolation payments altogether; and for even small communities to have sufficient services to cater for the needs of schoolchildren, workers and shoppers in the nearest (or otherwise most suitable) town. (Note that this would normally cater for some other needs, including short day trips by residents and leisure visiting from other areas.)
The money would come from higher fuel taxes. In 2000 the then government abandoned the fuel duty escalator; one of its motives was to appease those who claimed that they were being exploited by it because they had no alternative but to drive. Well, the isolation allowance would provide an alternative means of compensating such people -- and it would be better targeted, going only to those who really do suffer from isolation (and including non car owners).
To make it easier for local authorities to procure comprehensive networks, it is suggested that they be required to set out minimum standards for every community, and empowered to set up franchise arrangements for a corridor whenever an operator introduces a commercial network which makes it uneconomic to secure the required standards by adding tenders. For example, suppose the minimum standards included a 10 minute frequency between Cambridge station and both Bridge St and the west end of Chesterton Road. Then if Stagecoach chose to divert the Citi 1 off these roads, as they have done, without leaving comparable gaps elsewhere which would enable the County Council to tender a complete route, then the County Council could franchise relevant city routes in such a way as to fill the gap. (See "The Magdalene Conspiracy" in Newsletter 114, also others including below in this one.) Similarly, if Stagecoach runs a service on the A428 corridor which doesn't provide a link between Cambourne and St Neots, then the County Council could franchise this corridor and specify a network which does provide this link.
Of course some "tweaks" might be necessary. In the case of major new developments, the developer should be expected to underwrite any extra support needed to ensure that its residents had adequate services as soon as they moved in. Local authorities should not be required to pay isolation allowances in respect of development proposals which they did not support.
There should be an independent source of finance for leisure visitors, reflecting the fact that many of them come from outside the relevant local authority area so have no say in itse policies. Such finance used to be provided by the Countryside Commission until it was abolished. Some of the money could come from higher fuel taxes, but it could also be provided by redefining priorities within the countryside and heritage budgets.
Finally, the concessionary support system needs to be rejigged to ensure that local authorities weren't motivated to discourage visitors for fear of having to pay the fares of those with passes, as they now do.
It is, incidentally, pertinent to mention the report on London's buses recently published by the London Assembly. To see the report visit london.gov.uk, click on "Bus Services in London", from which there is a direct link to the report. It is notable that London's problems are the problems of success -- many of London's buses are crowded even late at night. Why aren't people asking how London's success can be replicated elsewhere in the country? Higher subsidies can't be the whole answer -- they are offset by higher running costs due to higher wages and slower speeds. The "deregulators" often quote the few cities -- Brighton, Oxford and Nottingham -- which have bucked the trend of inevitable decline that has prevailed elsewhere in Britain, but don't tell us how to roll out their success to the rest of the country.
London is the main driver for the UK's economy -- even the "Cambridge Phenomenon" is surely partly due to its proximity to London -- so, if its transport success is a causal factor, rolling this out could help economic growth. Surely even the possibility of this should act as a warning to a government that is busy removing the underpinning for the skeletal transport systems that many of us in the rest of the country have to put up with.
Certainly London isn't perfect -- the report makes a number of useful recommendations for improvements -- but many of the issues dealt with in the report relate to issues that aren't even asked in places like Cambridge -- contrast Recommendations 3 and 4 (for better network planning and consultation) with the complete lack of consultation in Cambridge, as evidenced by the Magdalene Conspiracy.
Our AGM will be held on Sat 30 Nov starting at 11.00 at the Secretary's residence in 1 Fitzroy Lane, Cambridge CB1 1HE. To get there from the bus station, walk along Christs Pieces, cross Emmanuel Rd at the traffic lights, continue across New Square to Fitzroy St, turn left at the entrance to the Grafton Centre, and press the relevant button at the entryphone on the left. Some stair climbing is needed -- if this is a problem please inform the Coordinator or Secretary in advance. A separate notice is being sent to all members with this newsletter.
Two items will need discussion this year: the impact of changes in the bank we use (the Co-op), and what venue we might use for future AGMs given that this one may no longer be available. And as usual we will be holding a wide ranging general discussion on local transport issues when the formal business is concluded.
There are still some members who haven't paid up for the current year (2013-4). If you are in this category you will be receiving a renewal slip with this newsletter. Unless you renew you will be removed from our membership list when we circulate our next newsletter.
And, incidentally, we would welcome new memberships from those who currently receive this newsletter by email -- details are on our website. If you join you will receive our annual reports too.
These were discovered shortly after the newsletter was circulated, and details were emailed to some members, but here they are for the record, with further updates where necessary.
Access to Bedford-Sandy walk: It was recommended that people coming on route 72 should get off at Priory Business Park, but the service doesn't go that way. As far as we know the Coordinator was the only person who went that way -- and got off at the roundabout at the end of Harrowden Road and walked through Jubilee Park. (A report on the walk is given below.)
Blunham buses: Blunham does in fact have a regular service on route 188 but we missed it because it's only shown in one direction, being by a one way loop. We have revised our SW Cambs manifesto proposals (see Newsletters 114 and 115) to include this section of the route, giving Blunham a direct service to St Neots -- see below.
MA14: As expected the Government gave the go ahead for this route -- see below.
New Forest: If you want to use the Brockenhurst College buses as recommended in Newsletter 114, it is advisable to contact the local operations manager Gary Rose (gary.rose @ wdbus.co.uk) so that he can tell the relevant driver that a passenger will want to travel and should be accommodated. Also, 2 new services started running from late July: Wilts & Dorset 112 was enhanced to provide 7-8 daily journeys between Hythe and Lymington with diversions via Lepe Beach/Exbury Gardens and Bucklers Hard for the summer school holidays, and a new (all year) Velvet 300 started, linking Southampton with Ringwood 6 days a week.
Isle of Portland: The open top bus from Weymouth to Portland Bill did run, though only for the summer school holidays.
Exe Valley Market Bus: If your newsletter said that this runs 6 days a week, it should have read 3 days a week.
Bedford boats: The boat trips continued beyond the originally announced summer season, and in fact are still running.
We now report on the rally on Sat 29 June to raise the profile for the missing rail link between Bedford and Cambridge. There were 50 people at the rally -- from as far afield as Ipswich, London and Attleborough. 20 opted to walk the route. This included MPs, councillors, local authority officers and rail and bus users. Here (with minor edits) is the press release that was issued afterwards:
MPs support campaign for East West Rail -- Next stop Cambridge
30 June 2013: Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge could be linked by a new 100mph railway. Oxford to Bedford is due to open in 2017, and campaigners are pressing for the line to be extended to Cambridge.
On Sat 29 June, Railfuture and the Campaign for Better Transport held a rally in Priory Park, Bedford to make the case for a new rail link from Bedford and Cambridge. Bedford MP Richard Fuller and MK South MP Iain Stewart talked to campaigners and promised their support. Both are members of the East-West Rail All Party Group in parliament.
After the rally, campaigners walked and cycled the 7.5 miles along the old railway -- now cycle path -- to the centre of Sandy, though not because they want the cycle path replaced by a railway. Susan Dye of the Campaign for Better Transport said: "We're walking the old route not because we want to see the tracks put back on the cycle path -- we need an optimum cross country route balancing cost, environment, journey time, and social benefit. The new line is vital for people who work or live in the Oxford to Cambridge region. We need a 21st Century solution to sort our transport chaos."
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Beeching report which paved the way for thousands of station closures and thousands of miles of track scrapped. Interestingly however, Dr Beeching recommended maintaining the Bedford to Cambridge line, but 5 years later this was overturned by the Government and the line was closed. Since then, much of the line has been built over, but most of the Bedford to Sandy section has been converted to a walking and cycling route.
The press release showed photos of Iain Stewart, MP for Milton Keynes South, and Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of the Campaign for Better Transport. There was also a picture of Campaign for Better Transport and Railfuture supporters at the rally calling for a new railway from Bedford to Cambridge, and an "end of the line" picture of campaigners reaching Sandy.
I was asked to attend the Bus Users UK AGM, held on Sat 27 Apr at a hotel just outside Oxford city centre, on behalf of the Coordinator, as he was unavailable that day.
It was an early start to catch a train from Ely to Cambridge, thence a short walk to Parkers Piece to catch the second X5 of the day to Oxford (I bought an East Dayrider Gold ticket so I could use Stagecoach buses in Oxford, which wasn't needed in the end as it turned out).
This was the first time I had gone beyond Milton Keynes on this service. At Buckingham the coach driver had to do a U turn to get to the coach stop and at Bicester the coach stop was also in an awkward location in the town centre (there was a local bus stop around the corner from the coach stop on a narrow section of road occupied by a local bus operator, and the coach had to mount the pavement to get past).
On arrival at Oxford's bus station, as it was many years since I was last at Cambridge University's rival, I found the information for local services somewhat lacking (there appeared to be no office and few bus timetables for those wanting onward travel information, also there was a distinct lack of facilities as the toilets were closed for refurbishment and had been replaced by temporary facilities a short walk away. Places for somewhere to eat and drink were also in short supply). Unlike in Cambridge where all local buses depart from outside the Grand Arcade, Emmanuel Street or Drummer Street, and there are only a handful of bus operators, in Oxford there are many different arrival/departure points and several different operators. I eventually found out that bus services to the AGM venue departed from St Aldates, just a short distance from the bus station, so I walked round there and caught the first Stagecoach bus going past the AGM venue (from the map on my smartphone it was difficult to ascertain the distance from the city centre to the venue -- in the event I could have walked there rather than catch a bus!).
Due to the delay in finding the right bus to the AGM venue I arrived a little late and missed most of the address by Norman Baker MP (on a pre-recorded DVD as he had a prior engagement that day). I was somewhat surprised to run into our Secretary, who had travelled on a later X5 and arrived ahead of me!
The first half of the AGM was given over to the annual report by Bus Users UK Chairman -- or should that be Chairwoman -- Gillian Merron, and other official business. Bus Users UK has a particularly strong presence in Scotland, where it is now the official body for handling complaints by bus passengers, and in Wales where they are now responsible for ensuring bus services operate as per the published timetable. In England Bus Users UK handles complaints by bus passengers which were not able to be resolved by the operator.
After lunch we had the "Just a Minute" session, where anybody can talk about a bus related subject for 1 minute. Anybody exceeding this is met with a shrill whistle from Bus Users UK magazine (appropriately called "Bus User"!) Editor Gavin Booth's "Acme Thunderer". I spoke about appropriately sized vehicles for the level of service on offer, as I see far too many single and double deck buses in the Ely and March areas carrying more fresh air than passengers, which does little to promote bus travel in my own personal opinion.
After the conclusion of the AGM, Susan Jourdain elected to return to the city centre to wait for the X5 back to Cambridge whilst Stagecoach and the Oxford Bus Company (OBC) offered tours of various parts of Oxford for AGM attendees on their newest double deck buses. I joined the OBC tour which visited most of the city's P&R sites plus the Blackbird Leys Estate south of the city (with the bus almost full, the only seat I could find was at the back on the upper deck). On enquiring why the engine kept cutting out when the bus came to a stop at traffic lights I was informed that I was travelling on a hybrid bus. This was the first time I had travelled on such a vehicle and was initially a little disconcerting. However, pulling away from traffic lights with just the electric motor running until the engine cut in around 20mph made it sound like I was on a trolleybus. Since we are unlikely to get any of the latter anytime soon (more's the pity but never mind) how about Stagecoach in Cambridge investing in some hybrid buses for its Citi routes? It would make an enormous contribution to improving air quality in Cambridge city centre (the exhaust emissions from Stagecoach's existing bus fleet leave a lot to be desired in my opinion).
At the end of the tour, those that were catching coaches home from the bus station were dropped off outside whilst those who had arrived at the Rail Station continued there where the tour ended. After managing to find a newsagents that sold sandwiches and drinks close to the bus station I met up again with Susan for the trip back to Cambridge on the X5 (the power sockets for charging mobile devices came in handy as my smartphone's battery was exhausted by then!) thence by train back to Ely.
There are two items here.
The first is the A14 where a new consultation on upgrade proposals recently concluded. The principal differences from the scheme withdrawn in 2010 (going from east to west) are as follows:
Also, the consultation document is less explicit about what will happen to local rights of way and the local road network within Huntingdon -- probably we'll have to wait till the next stage of the process for this information.
The response of the Coordinator to the consultation was as follows.
The other roads issue is the Ely Southern Bypass, where the County Council has recently applied for planning permission. Here there is no doubt that something needs to be done, as the level crossing by the station causes delays to vehicles too high to use the tunnel, including buses, and this can only get worse with the (welcome) development of railfreight from the Haven Ports (mainly Felixstowe) and increases to some passenger train frequencies, facilitated by forthcoming improvements to the rail layout at Ely.
However, the scheme proposed by the Council is the most expensive of the options it put forward for consultation. Is this appropriate at a time when, following an out of court settlement, it is facing a 33m pounds overspend on the guided busway, and (independently) it claims to be unable to support decent bus services on non-commercial routes? In addition, under the scheme as proposed bus route 12, which links Newmarket and Soham with Ely, will no longer pass the railway station thus hindering interchange.
Instead, our suggestion is to build a new tunnel coming out near the existing Tesco roundabout, high enough to cater for buses and lorries.
Local amenity groups have also complained about the visual impact the new road will have on Ely. We regard this as a significant factor though not our main reason for objection.
Quite a few items this time. First Capital Connect has introduced new Super Off Peak fares at weekends. Sample return fares to/from London (in either direction, and with a railcard) are 9-50 for Cambridge and St Neots, 10-10 for Huntingdon, 10-70 for Peterborough (though Network Railcard holders have to pay the full rate of 16-20 or split their tickets at St Neots paying 13-50), and 11-30 for Ely.
At St Neots the new eastern access is now taking shape and should soon be open. It will give residents of Loves Farm much better access to the station -- though perhaps too late for those who might have chosen to live there if such access had been provided earlier. It remains to be seen whether the new access will become the best way to change between trains and the X5 bus.
At Peterborough, as part of the station upgrade, no trains will operate on Fri 27 Dec, with replacement buses to/from Huntingdon, Ely, Sleaford (via Spalding), Grantham and Stamford. When completed the scheme will give the station 2 extra platforms, though unfortunately it will end the current convenient cross platform interchange for people travelling from East Anglia to destinations on the East Coast Main Line.
A new service is running on winter Sundays on the line between Clitheroe and Hellifield. For the first time for a long time, it is possible to get through to East Anglia by this route -- for example leaving Carlisle at 12.59 and changing at Hellifield, Blackburn, Bolton, Manchester Piccadilly, Doncaster and Peterborough -- engineering work permitting of course.
Finally, the Thomas Cook European Timetable ceased publication in August, but agreement was recently reached to restart it under another name next year. To see the latest visit the website (which doesn't say much at the moment).
This issue has been touched on in several of our recent newsletters -- it headlined 114 and the issue also featured in 111, 115 and 116. The latest news is that the Citi 1 and 2 were diverted away from Bridge St and the west end of Chesterton Rd on 1 Sept.
The Coordinator, who is personally affected by the issue, had secured a statement from local city councillor Tim Ward (Lib Dem) that the City Council (which his party controls) had, as its price for supporting the Better Buses scheme which included the relevant diversion for the Citi 1 and 2, got the County Council to commit to consultation before the scheme was introduced.
However, the only consultation in which the diversion of the buses was mentioned was one, carried out in July, on changes to parking arrangements in the Jesus Lane area, where facilitation of the bus diversion was mentioned as an advantage of the proposals; and the diversions were announced while the consultation was under way (i.e. independently of the parking changes).
The County Council didn't think to consult people who would be adversely affected by the bus changes, saying that as bus routes are a matter for the commercial operator this is outside their scope. We are now trying to find out the exact terms of the agreement with the City Council so that we can see whether it is the City Council that has been negligent or the County Council that has broken its agreement. We have sent a complaint to Passenger Focus, the statutory watchdog for bus (and rail) services, and depending on outcome may send a further complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman asserting maladministration.
There is surely something wrong when a local authority applies for public money under a scheme intended to support improvements to bus services without establishing whether the scheme would in fact bring overall benefits -- which it can't say until it establishes how much inconvenience will be suffered by the "losers". And how come the scheme won funding? When there are so many genuine improvements that need to be made -- from better use of the station interchange to restoration of Sunday evening buses -- it is scandalous that a local authority is able to enter into a "conspiracy" to use public money to cut bus services in two densely populated city neighbourhoods (Bridge St and the west end of Chesterton Road).
At one stage we were told by the County Council that the scheme had been under discussion with Stagecoach for several years -- so why didn't they involve local residents at the earliest opportunity? And we were also told that when commercial services are removed from an area they do try to seek mitigations -- but evidently not in this case, because none have happened.
The importance of the issue extends beyond the two neighbourhoods mentioned above, because it can be seen from a map that the whole of north-west Cambridge now lacks both Sunday evening buses (except for the X5 which doesn't cater for local travel within Cambridge, or at least isn't advertised as doing so) and direct services to the station, and people may well have walked to/from Bridge St or Chesterton Road for these purposes and now have to walk significantly further.
It is convenient this time to put news about some surrounding counties in our regular section that deals with Cambs buses.
As stated earlier, following the Bedford-Sandy walk on 29 June we changed some of our proposals in our "bus manifesto" for the area west of Cambridge. The 188 and 190 would now do an extended loop from Hitchin and Biggleswade, running via Wrestlingworth, Potton, Everton, Sandy, Blunham, St Neots, Gamlingay and Potton, or the same in reverse; the service between Cambourne and Sandy would no longer be provided, but Cambourne-Biggleswade would still run every 2 hours via Caxton or Eltisley, the Gransdens, Gamlingay and Potton (replacing proposal 4 of Newsletter 114); and Cambridge-Haslingfield-St Neots buses would divert at Gamlingay to run to Everton and Sandy (replacing proposal 7). Furthermore, as a fallback to our suggestion that the X5 should stop in the Cambourne area (not specifically mentioned, but implicit unless the X4 is revived), a stop could be provided at Caxton Gibbet, provided adequate connections to/from Cambourne were available, either by Stagecoach or Whippet buses.
The other issue is a change that has actually happened, namely the rejigging of the North Bedfordshire network which also serves Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire. Kimbolton's link with Bedford now runs 4 times a day in each direction on a loop route that serves different villages from hitherto. There are various connections with the 150 to/from St Neots, not all of them advertised in relevant publicity. Note that at the time of writing the 28 is not shown on Traveline, and there are some inaccuracies on the Cambs CC site, but it is shown correctly on the Bedford Borough site or that of the operator (Grant Palmer), both of which are linked from the general bus information site www.barrydoe.co.uk.
In Peterborough the local authority has withdrawn support for its "Local Links" network. Some areas are now served by new Stagecoach routes 20-22 and others by "Call Connect" demand responsive buses, but no provision has been made for the Sunday services formerly provided by routes 401 and 404. As a result our member Rohan Wilson has had to change his programme of "bus walks" from Peterborough, for which see the link from Peterborough Bus Times for details.
A loss in Cambridgeshire is that Whippet 15, which links Over, Swavesey and Fen Drayton with St Ives, now only runs on Mondays and Fridays. On other days passengers have to walk to the guided busway.
In Bedfordshire the big news is the opening of the guided busway linking Luton, Dunstable and Houghton Regis. It is served by 4 routes run by 3 operators. Arriva run a service between Luton Airport, Luton, Dunstable town centre and Houghton Regis, every 15 minutes during the day with an all night service to Luton Airport; Centrebus run a half hourly service between Luton, Houghton Regis and Toddington which misses out the centre of Dunstable but serves the busway stop at the White Lion Retail Park, and they and Grant Palmer run half hourly services from Luton via Dunstable town centre to its southern and western suburbs respectively.
The route includes a section of unguided busway running east from Luton to Kimpton Road. From there buses to the airport pass the new back entrance to Luton Airport Parkway station. The "official" bus link between the station and airport still runs from the front entrance.
At the same time a new interchange opened outside the railway station. Note that it is not served by all Luton's buses -- for example, the 100-2 to Hitchin and Stevenage continue to terminate at Church St. The 61, 321 and 757 which used to link Luton Airport with Aylesbury, Watford and London respectively now terminate at the interchange; passengers for the airport are expected to change there to a guided bus. (Note that the 757 continues to provide an all night service.) Apart from the guided buses and the rail link service mentioned above, and National Express coaches including the 787 from Cambridge, Luton Airport's only public bus service is now the 100 which runs from Luton via the airport and the town's eastern suburbs to Hitchin and Stevenage (but unfortunately, like the 101/2, not serving Hitchin station).
As with Cambridgeshire, the high cost of the busway has been offset by significant service cuts elsewhere. However, unlike in Cambridgeshire, the busway has brought significant reductions in journey times as the road between Luton and Dunstable, still used by the main inter-urban routes to Aylesbury (61) and Leighton Buzzard (70), can get very congested -- indeed if travelling into Luton from one of these towns it may be quicker to change at Dunstable to a guided bus. It would be nice if the 61 and 70 were rerouted to the busway too, and if a Sunday service was provided to the Chiltern Visitor Centre and Whipsnade Zoo, enabling the part of the B4541 which runs close to the popular escarpment walk to be closed to through traffic thereby making the walk much more pleasant (and, of course, considerably improving public transport access to Whipsnade Zoo).
One other important change in Bedfordshire is the introduction of a regular service linking Cranfield University and village with Bedford and Milton Keynes -- the C1 operated by Uno (which is owned by the University of Hertfordshire), which runs 7 days a week evenings included (though not late on Sundays). One journey does a peak time route variation via Salford, and there are also peak time routes C2 (to Flitwick) and C10.
Not in either Cambridgeshire or Bedfordshire, but affecting a route that serves both, the former site of Bicester bus station is now a supermarket, with buses (including the X5) stopping on the street at stops the other side of the supermarket from the traditional shopping area. Definitely not an improvement for bus users, especially as buses now have to make detours to run along the street in the correct direction. Note that this replaces the Market Square stop which was introduced as a temporary replacement for the former bus station stop and in use at the time of the Deputy Coordinator's report on the Bus Users UK (see above).
In Essex, Greater Anglia have at last launched the bus link between Audley End station and Saffron Walden promised as part of their franchise agreement. It's a bit of an anti-climax however, as there are only minor improvements to the service level, and in particular no late evening or Sunday service. The main services are TGM 301 (hourly, Mon-Sat, last journeys 18.29 from Audley End, 18.54 from Saffron Walden) and Viceroy 590 (Mon-Fri peaks only, last journey 21.05 from Audley End). However the town is also served by Stagecoach's Citi 7 to/from Cambridge via Great Chesterford (Mon-Sat, last journeys 19.06 from Great Chesterford, 19.50 from Saffron Walden); Stephenson's 6 to/from Stansted Airport (Mon-Sat, last journeys 21.03 from Stansted Airport, 19.31 from Saffron Walden); and, on Sundays, Myalls 132 to/from Cambridge via Great Chesterford, for which the last journeys leave Saffron Walden at 17.05 and arrive 19.07; but as the last journey stops only to set down at Great Chesterford and doesn't make an official stop near the A505 bridge at Whittlesford which it crosses, anyone coming from London has to go all the way to Shelford (18.35) or Cambridge (18.12) to pick the bus up.
Finally, in Rutland, Shorelink (Centrebus 44) is running all the year round. It does 4 trips round Rutland Water in each direction 7 days a week. We suspect that the resources required to sustain the Sunday service would be better used in running buses through to Peterborough in one direction (thus partly replacing the lost Local Link services referred to above) and Melton Mowbray in the other, connecting with Centrebus 19 to/from Nottingham. A single extra vehicle would suffice to provide a 2 hourly end to end service also connecting at East Goscote for Leicester.
We have a couple of further items about seasonal services that ran this year and may or may not run again next year, but first let us give a warning that as we write Dorset CC is shortly to decide on very draconian cuts to bus services in the county -- including the removal of almost all supported services in Saturdays (and in the interior of the county there are few commercial services) -- which will more or less ruin it as a destination for sustainable tourism. Areas like Swanage and Lyme Regis will retain most of their services as these run commercially, but Lulworth is set to lose all its Saturday services, most of its Monday to Friday services, and the daily service that ran during this year's summer holidays (the X43 referred to in Newsletter 116).
The changes are expected to take place on 4 Jan 2014, so why not plan a late autumn visit to the county while the buses still run? Among the rural attractions that are still open are Lulworth Castle (Mon-Fri, bus 103/4 from Wareham, Wool or Dorchester), Athelhampton House (Suns only at this time of year, but it's about a mile from Puddletown on route 183/4 between Salisbury, Dorchester and Weymouth that has a Sunday service) and Pallington Lakes Sculpture Park (daily, online prebooking required, 3 miles by footpath from Affpuddle on route 387). However, assuming the cuts go ahead (even if significantly reduced), please do not plan a holiday anywhere in Dorset in 2014 -- local authorities must be made to see that their tourist economies will suffer if they regard public transport as dispensable.
Significant cuts are also planned in North Yorkshire, where tourism is also important, as is evidenced by the presence of the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks.
Cumbria. In Newsletter 110 we referred to the South Lakes Freerider (X32), a service sponsored by local tourism interests -- who are evidently more on the ball than Dorset or North Yorkshire county councils -- and providing a free to use service to everyone on Mondays to Fridays during summer school holidays. Well this has continued to run, though with a different route each year. The 2012 route provided an interesting "country lanes" section between Cartmel Priory and Yew Tree Barn (High Newton) -- any chance of this being reinstated? -- while the 2013 route served Stott Park Bobbin Mill and Grizedale Forest, linking at the latter with the X30 to Hawkshead and Wray Castle referred to in Newsletter 116. All three timetables can be seen by googling "south lakes freerider" and clicking on the various links this leads to.
Isle of Wight. This is another area where tourists are well looked after. The main operator is Southern Vectis, who are part of the Go Ahead group, the same as the main operator in Dorset, but the services are incomparably better, with widespread evening buses, late night services at weekends, and buses running even on Christmas Day (not even London has that). It also does open top tours for visitors. Both of the tours that ran this year used interesting rural routes not otherwise served, and the Needles Tour (which has run for some time) uses a road not open to general traffic, providing access to a visitor centre at the New Battery and the National Trust's Old Battery. This year there was also an open top positioning working for the Needles Tour on route 21 between Yarmouth and Newport by another interesting route.