Sunday, 5 February 2012

Busway in the snow

Yesterday evening on my way home from work, I noticed that the busway maintenance vehicle was running, presumably spraying salt water on the tracks to prevent  ice build up.

About 4 inches of snow fell in St Ives late evening and during the night.

I caught the 09.40 Service B from St Ives Bus Station to Cambridge. Here is a picture showing a Whippet bus arriving at the bus station presumably to start the journey to Cambridge.


The service B left on time, and here is a view approaching St Ives Park & Ride showing the Whippet bus turning back.


Later, I received an 'adverse weather update' email from Stagecoach which said that:


Stagecoach route B is operating but may be subject to delay due to the adverse weather conditions. 
Whippets route C is not operating today (Sunday 5th February 2012). 

Whippet's service 1A via Bar Hill was running. It left St Ives ahead of the B and coincided with the B at the Shire Hall.


How did the busway perform with snow on the tracks? 

The tracks were still covered with snow, and there was no evidence that the salting vehicle had been out this morning. There had been no snow plough either. My bus ran quite slowly on the busway, possibly no more than 20mph. Arrival in Cambridge was 10.32 - about 16 minutes late.

This view is between Swavesey and Longstanton, with a bus approaching in the opposite direction.



Track conditions on the section through Orchard Park, where the buses run on narrow concrete tracks with no guides were appalling. At one point the bus skidded violently, and it appeared that it was not actually keeping to the concrete. How could they, when the concrete was covered with now? 

These images illustrate the treacherous conditions at Orchard Park on the return journey (13.20 from Drummer Street).




Conditions on the track on the return were much better. Passage of several buses had helped the snow to melt and the bus was able to run at normal speed. We alighted at Fen Drayton on time, and walked back to St Ives from there.

The salting vehicle was running. Here it is travelling eastbound near Longstanton.


Does the busway have a snow plough?  In November it was announced that a Multihog had been purchase to deal with snow on the busway. See http://www.huntspost.co.uk/news/latest-news/guided_busway_snowplough_unveiled_1_1128427

And what  arrangements are in place to get the track cleared early in the morning before the buses start to run?

This is the busway's first experience of snow. It coped, but the absence of effective de-snowing equipment was a problem. 

If Stagecoach could run the Service B, why did Whippet not run its Service C?

Update - The Hunts Post (8 February, page 3)  carried a brief article about the effect of snow on the busway. Whippet abandoned their service after the first bus along the track experienced problems with compacted snow,  and slipping. Stagecoach decide to keep going for the sake of their customers.

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