The A14 project is nearing its Public Examination stage, which under the new planning system replaces the Public Inquiry that would have been held in 2010. So it is appropriate to discuss how the project stands in this newsletter.
On Fri 3 Oct the Coordinator, together with representatives of other local organisations for non-motorised travellers (including 2 Cambs CBT members), took part in a workshop to discuss changes to the scheme as a result of consultation. These changes will be summarised later in this newsletter.
The Highways Agency told us several times, though, in response to questions as to why options weren't chosen that would be preferred by pedestrians, cyclists and bus users, that they didn't have powers to make compulsory purchase orders to create good footpaths and cycle routes. They also told us that it was up to the local authorities to decide what to do with the detrunked sections of route -- which of course is dependent on the availability of funding.
Several years ago we had an extensive discussion of the scheme at our AGM. The consensus we reached was that there were real problems on the A14 corridor which the scheme had a chance of solving; though we had some misgivings about the cost of the scheme, even though then the need for extra spending on local buses was much less than it is now after Cambs CC's relentless cuts.
However, having studied the scheme in detail, the Coordinator's conclusion is that few of the problems will actually be solved. In our response to the consultation referred to in our last newsletter, we identified 28 problems of various sorts. Our proposed package would have solved them all. But the Highways Agency scheme is focused almost exclusively on the problems faced by motorists and hauliers and does very little for those experienced by others.
We suggest that this is because -- as the Coordinator said at the workshop -- road schemes are drawn up by roads people. Instead, how about a system whereby the Highways Agency sets up a partnership with all relevant local authorities, down to the parish level, and with new statutory organisations set up to promote the interests of walkers, cyclists and bus users, to design a scheme. Also included in such a partnership could be equestrians, rail users and members of local amenity groups. Then pressure from walkers and cyclists could require local authorities to create the optimum routes for them, using part of the funding allocated for the scheme (and thus not impinging on local authorities' own resources). Such funding could also be used to open new rail stations or support better buses, both important parts of the policy mix we need.
Similarly, pressure from parish councils and local amenity groups would force the scheme's designers to ensure that traffic capacity on the existing route was reduced. Far too many road schemes have increased rather than reducing traffic impact because cars making local journeys have quickly filled the roadspace vacated by the long distance traffic. If the existing A14 is retained as a dual carriageway between Fen Drayton and Huntingdon, and as a through route to Alconbury and beyond, we believe that this will happen again here.
With this newsletter is enclosed a leaflet with the agenda for our AGM, which will be on Sat 29 Nov. As usual it will begin at 11.00 and members are invited to arrive any time after 10.30. But due to the unavailability of the Secretary's former flat we have a new venue -- The Hut off Argyle St. To get there from Cambridge City Centre, either walk along Mill Rd across the railway bridge turning right into Argyle St, or get a Citi 2 to Mill Rd Broadway (the first stop after the bridge) and walk back towards Argyle St. In either case the venue for the meeting can be reached by turning right where you see a fence with the railway on the other side.
If you're coming via Addenbrookes, you can catch a Citi 2 into town and alight at the last stop before Mill Rd railway bridge, then continue towards the bridge and turn left into Argyle St. If you come by train, cut through the station car park to Devonshire Road then either continue to Mill Rd then over the bridge and as above, or go over the cycle bridge, turn left into Rustat Rd, which becomes Charles St after a barrier to through traffic, then left again into Argyle St through another barrier, then left where you see the fence.
As usual, following the formal business of the meeting there will be a wide ranging discussion on transport issues.
Janet Sparrow has previously been shown in our contacts list on page 1 as being our publicity officer, but she is standing down this year. Our commitee will then be reduced to 4 people -- unless anyone wants to volunteer to join? We do not need or intend to make any changes to our constitution.
If you receive a renewal slip with this newsletter, you have not yet paid up for 2014-5 and are invited to send a subscription, either for 1 or 2 years, or alternatively to pay at the meeting. Subscription rates, which we are not intending to change, are shown on page 1 of this newsletter and on our website by clicking on "Join the group!". This newsletter may be the last reminder for people who do not renew.
As promised we describe the A14 scheme as it now stands.
What we are now after is as follows:
Other elements of our package are to continue making progress on improving railfreight facilities on the Felixstowe-Midlands corridor and restoring the east-west rail link, with an interchange at St Neots served by inter-city as well as suburban trains; to develop a new route to take freight from eastern England to the Channel Tunnel; to provide long distance express coaches on the A14 corridor which would also serve local villages; to provide access for buses, and possibly other vehicles, between the Hinchingbrooke complex and the Spittals interchange; and to provide a bridge over the A1 at Southoe and a ferry at Holywell.
One final question: we have been told that the guided busway will have to be closed for repairs in the near future. Can we be assured that this will not happen while capacity on the A14 is restricted by upgrade works? Motorists need to be offered the choice of a fast run on the busway when there are lane closures on the A14, and bus users need a fast run on the A14 when the busway is closed.
Network Rail recently conducted a consultation on plans to remove all level crossings on the East Coast Main Line between London and Doncaster. We submitted a response covering the area south of Greatford (that is, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and Lincolnshire south of where the railway enters Rutland).
We expressed dissent from the widely held view that all level crossings are dangerous, but agreed that the East Coast Main Line carried sufficiently many fast trains to make it desirable to get rid of all crossings.
Our concern was to ensure that reasonably direct routes remain available for buses, and that pedestrians and cyclists, when making journeys that look as if people are likely to want to make them, can get across the line without excessive detours. We also want to ensure that when walkers have to take the trouble to climb numerous steps (or use a long ramp) they get the reward of a view from the top.
We called for better integration with other projects, including new stations, extra trackage (such as 4 tracks all the way between Huntingdon and Peterborough), the east-west rail link, and the A14 (see above). The proposal to use the A14 as the diversion route for Offord was probably the most radical of our suggestions.
The service pattern on the Peterborough/Cambridge-Kings Cross route after work on the Thameslink project is complete has been announced. There will be no extra off peak trains on the Peterborough to Hitchin section (though all these trains will run nonstop between Stevenage and Finsbury Park), but between Cambridge and Hitchin the frequency of both the semi-fasts (which stop Royston, Baldock, Letchworth, Hitchin, Stevenage and Finsbury Park) and slows (all stations to Hatfield then Potters Bar and Finsbury Park) will be doubled to half hourly. This means that the line between Hitchin and Cambridge will carry 12 passenger trains per hour (6 in each direction), which will put pressure on road traffic.
The greatest pressure will be felt at Foxton, as the A10 is a primary route with lots of traffic. At the time the Melbourn bypass was planned we objected to this project on the grounds that it would increase pressure at Foxton, calling instead for use of the A505 and M11 for through traffic. The most likely outcome is a bridge at Foxton, but how can the local access road for the village, an important bus route, be included in this? Would it be a good idea to propose, instead, a new road linking the A10 at Shepreth with a new junction on the M11? Buses could then exit Foxton on the road towards Fowlmere, join the new road and leave it to pass through Newton en route to Cambridge. This would require a separate service for Harston, which might reinstate the old route to Royston via Haslingfield, Barrington, Shepreth and Meldreth -- or perhaps use a new road which would run west of the railway thus bypassing both existing crossings there, while still serving Shepreth station (and Meldreth station as well).
The County Council has confirmed its plan to divert A142 traffic round the south side of Ely to avoid the level crossing there, ignoring the pleas of local amenity groups concerned about its landscape impact as well as our concerns about passengers using A142 buses to get to Ely station -- we would have preferred an upgraded tunnel near the existing alignment capable of carrying all normal sized vehicles including double deck buses.
Another problem level crossing is at Great Chesterford. As at Ely cars can get under a parallel underpass but buses can't and are often held up for long periods here, jeopardising timekeeping on the Citi 7 route to Saffron Walden. Any ideas for a solution?
We would like to draw attention to recent reports by this organisation which attempt to give an economic value to bus improvements and concessionary bus passes. See the website and the links therefrom.
There hasn't been much in the way of significant service changes since the last newsletter but we do have some other news to report.
First of all, the Coordinator finally managed to get through the bureaucratic hurdles of complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman about the failure of both Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge City Council to consult local residents about traffic changes which put in jeopardy bus routes Citi 1 and 2 through the west end of Chesterton Rd and Bridge St. Unfortunately the LGO told us that public transport operations were beyond their remit, thus apparently giving local authorities the green light to continue sidelining bus users. (This is a bit of an oversimplification of what they actually said but we think it's true in essentials.) We did manage to get them not to post this decision on their website, which would have advertised this opportunity to local authorities across the country who would be looking at the LGO website to see what they could get away with.
Secondly, we are concerned about the repeated disruption to Cambridge buses caused by special events. The worst example happened for the Tour de France where the disruption was so severe that the University declared it a non-working day. While this might be welcomed by people who want to watch cyclists passing at high speed it was less welcome to those of us who actually want to get around.
The disruption was far more severe than necessary, with Stagecoach maintaining the curtailments and diversions for the whole day, and not providing alternative routes between the north and south of Cambridge to bypass the action. It could also have been considerably reduced had the organisers used Trumpington Rd instead of Hills Rd as the route for bikes to go south from Cambridge: in that case buses from all directions would have had unimpeded access to the city's ring road between Madingley Road and Hills Road where they could have met up with one another; buses from the south could have terminated at Trumpington P&R with passengers changing to guided buses (much as actually happened, except that the guided buses couldn't run north of the station); and buses from Barton and beyond could have diverted via the M11 to enter the city via Madingley Road.
The arrangements were just as unsatisfactory elsewhere. At Starbeck, between Harrogate and York, the race was routed via the station level crossing, thus entailing the closure of the railway for the duration; and at Felsted in Essex hoardings advertised a festival for people who wished to view the event there, but both bus routes serving the village were diverted or suspended for the day.
In our last newsletter we referred to the Bike Bus Explorer which provides (inter alia) a Sunday service to Wimpole Hall, and to changes to weekday buses in the area. However we didn't mention that it is now possible to return later from Wimpole Hall on a weekday without having to persuade the coordinators that one is allowed to travel on the demand responsive service. To go out use the 75 leaving Cambridge at 12.00 and arriving at 13.08 at Arrington, from which a public footpath leads to the Hall; to get back use the 17.47 from Arrington to Caxton from which it's a short walk to Lower Cambourne for a Citi 4 back to Cambridge. It is also possible to stay on the 28 to Gamlingay (18.15) for a bus to Sandy at 18.54, but this is a longer route if one has to get back to Cambridge.
Finally, changes of various degrees of significance happened in Cambridge in September. The only route change was that buses between Cambridge/Huntingdon and Peterborough now use the new road link between Brampton Road and Ermine St, thus enabling them to serve Huntingdon station. Further changes will be happening in Peterborough on 2 Nov, affecting routes 1, 5, 20, 21, 22, 36 and 37. The only route change is that the tiny village of Ashton loses its service on route 22. It is, however, not far to walk from Bainton on Delaine 201. We suspect that the extension to Ashton causes timekeeping problems as buses have to use 2 level crossings, one across the East Coast Main Line.
The sorry saga of cuts continues. Hertfordshire has recently finished consulting on proposals to cease support for evening and Sunday services -- a disgrace anywhere but particularly in a largely urban county with a traditionally supportive attitude to public transport. However the petition linked from CBT's website is still open -- please sign it before the local authority meets on 4 Nov.
Heavy cuts were inflicted in Worcestershire in September; in Cumbria evening and Sunday services were also hit then, with daytime services to follow in November. East Sussex is also threatening to cut services next spring -- visit the county this autumn to enjoy the services while they're still around! However in both East Sussex and Cumbria there are services supported by the National Park Authority which might not be affected. (In Cumbria that's the Lake District -- the Yorkshire Dales, which covers some parts of the county, offers little in the way of support.)
More minor cuts happened in Essex this autumn: close to our area the 443 between Chrishall and Saffron Walden was cut from 3 journeys 3 days a week to 1 journey 2 days a week and the 17, which used to link Saffron Walden with Great Bardfield which has services to Braintree and Chelmsford, no longer runs through at all. However both corridors are served by schoolday buses -- the 444/5 and 417-9 respectively.
The Transport Direct website is being discontinued. Traveline, which the Coordinator has always used, provides an alternative. In our region, and the south and east of England generally, it has facilities enabling one to search for a route by route number, operator or place served, thus providing a way of browsing through the system.
We conclude with a very selective listing of boat trips in our part of England and leisure oriented buses throughout Great Britain. Most of them will have ceased by the time you receive this newsletter, though some run till autumn half term week (ending 2 Nov) and others all the year round. For the others, you can use this list to browse Traveline, or the website of the relevant county or unitary council, to find out whether the buses will be running again next year.
Cambs: We have our own "Bike Bus Explorer" running on Sundays between Cambridge and Gamlingay.
London and Herts: This year a bus was provided which ran round Richmond Park, aimed at showing off the improvements at the Park's Isabella Plantation. It ran on Wednesdays from April to August. It was a free service not shown on Traveline, but as we write a timetable can be found by googling "isabella plantation" and visiting the URL shown on the park's website.
The Thames boat trips are well known, but this year there was a service in the Olympic Park operated by Lee & Stort Boats (google this for details). There is also a solar powered boat operating on the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Lee & Stort Boats also run regular trips between Hertford and Ware, and trips out of Bishops Stortford.
Essex: There is a seasonal ferry between Brighlingsea, Point Clear and East Mersea. The last is served by a weekly shopping bus from Colchester (route 176) which arrives there in time to get an onward ferry connection. The service is still running as we write, but journeys have to be booked in advance. This year there was also an occasional boat trip (availability and times depended on the tide) between Brightlingsea and Hythe, near Colchester, while the local historical society ran trips on the local stretch of water (for which advance booking is essential as the service fills up very quickly). Google Brightlingsea Ferry for the first two services; the Brightlingsea Museum site will be the place to look for info on the heritage boat trips when next year's offerings are advertised.
There are some heritage bus routes running in connection with the Epping-Ongar heritage railway -- google "epping ongar railway" for details. However the most interesting rural route -- the 381 -- is seasonal.
Beds: There are 2 boat trip operators in Bedford; there's the community boat, which supports the Trust that promotes the building of a new canal between Bedford and Milton Keynes, and there's the Artful Dodger that does trips from and between Danish Camp, near Willington (buses 73 Bedford-Sandy-Biggleswade and 27 Bedford-Willington-Great Barford) and Bedford town centre, for which google "danish camp".
Norfolk: There are varied boat trips on the Broads, most of them accessible to public transport users though some require a bit of a walk. Probably the best are the Norfolk Wildlife Trust trip from Hickling and the Broads Authority trip from How Hill.
As for buses, the Coastliner continues to provide a regular all year service 7 days a week between Kings Lynn and Cromer.
Surrey: Route 765 provided a Sunday service from Dorking to places of interest in the surrounding countryside. The 40 and 50, which have replaced the G4 referred to in the last newsletter, provide an all year 7 day a week service between Gatwick and Charlwood; it no longer runs all night but that won't affect leisure visitors.
Sussex: Lots of services ran this year, though some are vulnerable to the E Sussex County Council cuts referred to above. We mentioned the 10, 13X, 25, 47, 77-79, 121, 123, 130-2, 246, 270 and 769 in our last newsletter; in addition there are the 23 between Horsham and Worthing (7 days a week), 99/A between Petworth and Chichester (demand responsive detours from the main road on weekdays, fixed route on Sundays with some journeys serving Bignor Roman Villa except in winter), 126 (Seaford-Alfriston-Eastbourne, 7 days a week, on the hit list), 318 (weekdays, passes close to Kipling's house Batemans, on the hit list) and 349 (serves Bodiam Castle, Sunday buses on the hit list), 591 (Sunday service between Forest Row and Uckfield serving Ashdown Forest), and many others. The 13X, 23, 25, 77-79, 99/A, 121, 123, 126, 130, 246, 270, 318 and 349 run all year round, though for some of them winter operation is on fewer days of the week.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight: New Sunday services sprung up in the South Downs this year linking Petersfield with Alton, Portsmouth and Winchester, in addition to the all year service to Midhurst (for Haslemere and Chichester), Petworth and Worthing.
The county also has the New Forest National Park's open top tours and the high season "beach bus" between Hythe and Lymington, all running 7 days a week in season. The 300 between Ringwood and Southampton no longer runs but the 139, which uses a more scenic route, looks as if it is to run all year round.
Outside the national parks, the Test Valley Explorer continued to run on summer Sundays between Romsey and Stockbridge, extending to Longstock Water Gardens when open; and there was a bus link between Eastleigh and Marwell Zoo.
The Isle of Wight had 3 open top tours and the bus that runs along the island's south coast. Note however that ferry links have deteriorated, with the Portsmouth-Ryde service running hourly, the bus link to the Southampton-Cowes route no longer free except to holders of through tickets and concessionary passes, and liable to delays affecting connections, and the hovercraft service liable to fill up in high season.
Dorset: Hit by heavy cuts, but the 50 between Bournemouth station and Swanage is a commercial service running 7 days a week on one of the most scenic routes in England, with some journeys run by open toppers in summer. Note however that the route is diverted in November when the chain ferry at Sandbanks is closed for maintenance. To the west, Lulworth only has a decent service in high season when the X43 provided a link to Wareham and Weymouth; though the 275 provides an all year service on Thursdays to Kimmeridge which can be used for walks in either direction or for visiting Tyneham (for which alight a couple of miles north of the village). But check beforehand with the Lulworth Ranges website that Tyneham, or the coast path west of Kimmeridge, is actually open, and that you can get through to somewhere from which you can get a bus back!
West Country: Much of the Dartmoor network formerly supported by Devon CC has disappeared, but on summer Sundays it is still possible to go by train from Exeter to Okehampton, bus to Gunnislake then train to Plymouth, and there is also a sparse service on the B3212 via Princetown.
While above we said we would only cover boat trips in our part of the country, we wish to make an exception to point out that there are no less than 5 estuaries offering a wide range of boat trips with, in some cases, unified marketing: the Exe, Dart, Kingsbridge, Tamar and Fal. Other boat trips include a park & ride service between Hayle and St Ives, the boats that provide high tide access to St Michael's Mount, and ships serving the Scillies and Lundy Island.
All sections of the Cornish coast have a bus service except between Gorran Haven and Pendower Beach, and between Coverack and Kuggar. An inland route worthy of note is the 79/A between Tavistock and Calstock, serving the scenic Tamar Valley.
Across the border to Somerset, there are buses between Ilfracombe, Lynton and Minehead all year, but only at weekends in winter. There are very few other buses in Exmoor at any time, though the 398 provides regular weekday buses between Minehead and Tiverton. Change at Wheddon Cross for one of the few leisure oriented buses running in winter, which provides access to "Snowdrop Valley" (on a road closed to cars for the duration) when the flowers are in bloom. Google "snowdrop valley" for details.
At the other end of the region is the free shuttle bus provided by the American Museum near Bath to take visitors to its remote site from the city centre.
Wales: The whole of the Pembrokeshire coast is covered by coastal buses, many of them running all year. One can get through to Pendine in one direction and Cardigan in the other. Beyond Cardigan there is also the "Cardi Bach" summer service to New Quay. We recommend reaching the area by train to Aberystwyth then bus to New Quay or Cardigan.
Further north a demand responsive service started this year on the Lleyn coast between Nefyn and Aberdaron -- though access to this area this year was restricted by the prolonged closure of the railway to Pwllheli. Watch out for developments next year.
The Snowdon Sherpa continues to provide buses in this area, though frequencies are down from what they used to be.
Shropshire: There continues to be a Shropshire Hills Shuttle service on summer weekends; this year buses ran from Church Stretton across the Long Mynd to Pontesbury, and from Ludlow via Knighton to Bishops Castle. Note that there are no connecting buses whatsoever on Sundays.
Rutland: Shorelink service 44 runs all year, though only at weekends in winter. Use Centrebus 9 to connect from Peterborough to Empingham. The 44 is also run by Centrebus so one can use one of their rover tickets.
Yorkshire: This year a full service ran on summer Sundays in the Yorkshire Dales, with some routes running in the winter. A few buses ran in the North York Moors, very much reduced from previous years. What happens next year will depend on the availability of funding.
Cumbria: Our last newsletter was produced before we had information on whether the X32 (South Lakes Freerider), 100 (Crook-Alston) and 888 (Newcastle-Keswick) would run. In the event all three did run, though the X32 used a less interesting route than it has done previously. Also running were the X33 (Ambleside-Ravenglass), 525 (Windermere Ferry-Hawkshead with feeders to Wray Castle and Grizedale), 77 (Buttermere circular), 73 (Caldbeck circular), 516 (to Dungeon Ghyll), and a new route between Windermere and Penrith via Glenridding. Most of these are not subsidised by Cumbria CC so are quite likely to run next year. However at the time of writing Cumbria is intending to withdraw funding from strategic route 564 (which links the Settle & Carlisle railway at Kirkby Stephen with the Lake District via Kendal); they are seeking an alternative daytime service without subsidy but what if they don't get one?
Northumberland: More positive news here -- a new operator, Spirit Buses, has started, providing all year services centred on Rothbury, with Sunday buses to Morpeth (served on weekdays by Arriva), 7 day services to Alnwick and Alnmouth station, and local routes to Wallington Hall (Mon & Fri), Elsdon (Wed) and Alwinton (Tue, Thur and Sat, plus Fri/Sat evenings).
Also in this area, the X18 and 418 provide all year buses along most of the coastline, and the 477 provides a service to Lindisfarne which runs at least once a week throughout the year, with the times depending on tides. Elsewhere in the county is the seasonal Hadrian's Wall bus.
Scotland: The 200 to Glen Muick, referred to in our last newsletter, did run this year, as did the 501 between Ballater/Braemar and Blairgowrie, where connections are available for Perth and Dundee. The latter is the highest bus service in Britain. Also in this area, the Ring of Breadalbane Explorer provides a service linking Aberfeldy, Killin and Crieff. The 203 provides an all year Sunday service round Loch Leven, serving the RSPB reserve at Vane Farm.
There are of course innumerable scenic routes -- by road, rail or water -- in the Highlands and Islands. We mention in particular Argyll & Bute Council's extensive (though not complete) coverage of their rural areas using school buses and associated positioning workings, and Stagecoach's sightseeing tours in the Orkneys.
We summarise the main action points in the rest of the newsletter.