Thursday 22 December 2011

Not impressed?

In the Hunts Post this week (21 December, page 6) is a letter from a Huntingdon resident whose journey to Addenbrooke's is slower that it used to be before the busway started running. He also notes that the Whippet 1A often reaches Cambridge before the Busway service, and that the so-called 'fast' buses from Huntingdon, introduced in October do not live up to expectations.

Today I travelled from St Ives to Cambridge on the 0735 Service B. The 1A left simultaneously with the B, and arrived in Cambridge ahead of the B. OK, the traffic is unusually light in the run-up to Christmas.  In fact, the 1A often beats the Busway service, even on journeys at peak hours such as the 17.10 Whippet departure from Drummer Street.

The Huntingdon to Cambridge bus service is good on frequency, but poor on speed.

A problem the bus companies need to address is how to provide a fast service between Huntingdon and Cambridge that doesn't go all round St Ives. Would an Oxmoor-Huntingdon-Godmanchester-Cambridge route via the A428 be quicker thatn the busway?

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Christmas Timetables

Christmas and New Year Bus Times on the busway are as follows:

Christmas Eve - normal Saturday service - last buses around 8pm
Christmas Day and Boxing day - no service
27 December - Routes A & B will operate a Saturday service
28-30 December - Saturday service
New Year's Eve - Normal Saturday service - last buses around 8pm
New Year's Day - no service
2 January Sunday service
3 January - normal service resumes

Thursday 15 December 2011


In an earlier post I mentioned that the railings where the cycleway crosses a floodwater culvert were still not in place. I am happy to report that the railings have now been erected.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Car traps

On Saturday a motorist drove onto the busway near Cambridge rail station and got stuck  in the car trap. The driver was apparently blinded by low angle sunlight and failed to spot the road signs. Some passers-by helped the driver to manoeuvre the car out of the trap. The busway was blocked for about 15 minutes. This is the fourth such incident on the busway and is a prosecutable offence. (Cambridge News, 6 December 2011, pages 1 and 5)

Sunday 4 December 2011

More about delays to motorists

Two letters this week in the Hunts Post ( 30 November, page 6) about delays to motorists caused by the Harrison Way traffic lights.

Suggestions by these correspondents for solving the problem:

  1. have the guided buses terminate at the park & ride and not come right into town
  2. build a pedestrian bridge over harrison way
  3. the Highways department should do a proper survey
  4. shorten the pedestrian phase on the lights to 5 or 6 seconds
  5. have a flashing amber phase
It seems that some motorists see it as their right to have priority use of the roads, and any road use that is more environmentally friendly ( e.g. buses, walking and cycling) must give way to their needs. Point 1 above illustrates a thorough lack of understanding of who uses the guided buses and where they start their journeys from. Point 4 is probably constrained by legal/ health & safety rules. The other suggestions  have some merit.

From my perspective, the busway has actually cut my average travel time to/from work.

The traffic delays do, however, indicate that St Ives has a very poor road infrastructure which can barely cope with the level of commuter traffic in and out of our town. I am well aware that for many people, there is no viable public transport alternative - St Ives has good bus services only in the Huntingdon and Cambridge directions, and minimal bus services to other places. Cycling is an option for commuting locally e.g. between St Ives and Hemingford - but that would require a shift in mindset. 

There are also a couple of positive letters about the busway, both from the local rep of the Cyclists Touring Club (Hunts Post, 30 November, page 6 and News & Crier, 1 december, page 7) commending the council 

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Harrison Way traffic lights

Last week there were complaints about the pedestrian phase of the lights being too slow to respond. It was reported that the the response time was 90 seconds.

Since then, the lights have been responding instantly to the press of the button by pedestrians - which is good news for pedestrians, perhaps not so good for motorists.

Last night around 9.30pm, the lights were  off completely and a group of workmen were digging up the road between the lights and the control box at the roadside.

This is a daytime photo of the lights looking out from Station Road  towards St Ives Park & Ride.

Completion of the cycleway

Despite reports in the newspapers that work on the cycleway has been completed, this is not the case. There is still one outstanding job to be done - fitting a railing to the floodwater culvert just east of the Ouse Viaduct. Meanwhile walkers and cyclists are protected by temporary barriers and warning cones.

Fixings are already in place to support the railing.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Delays to motorists and completion of the cycle track

Four letters in this week's Hunts Post ( 23 November, page 6) about delays to motorists using Harrison Way, St Ives -  caused by the busway traffic lights.

On page 5 of the same issue is a report saying that the County Council has promised to keep the performance of the Harrison Road lights under review. They were set so that pedestrians had to wait 90 seconds when traffic was heavy compared with 30-50 seconds at 'normal' pedestrian crossings.

Next time I am walking across there I shall check the waiting time.

The same article refers to the final completion of  the busway with the raising of the cycle track to reduce flooding to an average of one month per year.

Peter Quest of the Cyclists' Touring Club says it's the best cycleway he has seen in this country.

Multihog machine

Cambridgeshire County Council has purchased a Multihog machine, a combined snow plough and brine sprayer. This will be used on the busway bridleway in the winter to deal with ice on the track. The Multihog can have a planer  or sweeper attachment added, so it can be used for other tasks throughout the year. Cost £75,000.
(Huntingdon & St Ives News & Crier, 17 November, page 8)

Monday 21 November 2011

A14 improvements

There is a two page spread in the Hunts Post (16 November, pages 20-21) about thecampaign to have the A14 upgraded between Ellington and Fen Ditton.

Jonathan Djanogly says that although the busway is proving popular, even if every car user on the A14 switched to the busway, traffic would only be reduced by 5% 'hardly a pinprick'.

However, he is suppportive of  the need for the A14 upgrade.

Busway traffic lights

Last week's Hunts Post (16 November, page 7) has printed five letters from St Ives and Fenstanton residents about delays to road traffic at the point where the busway crosses Harrison Way. Drivers say they are experiencing longer delays due to the traffic lights, and  extra traffic heading along Meadow Lane towards St Ives Park & Ride. There is criticism of pedestrians crossing Harrison way to join buses starting from the Park & Ride.

One correspondent, who travels from  St Ives to work in Papworth finds her journeys extended by 10-15 minutes. But what alternative does she have? The bus service between St Ives and Papworth is infrequent, and it too is presumably affected by the delays.

The busway has undoubtedly improved public transport along one single travel corridor - but in other directions bus services are poor or non existent so people are still faced with having to commute by car.

Then there is the St Ives road network - only 4 routes in/out town. With so many St Ives residents working outside of St Ives, is it any wonder there are traffic queues at rush hour?

There is a suggestion in response to last week's comment about delays to Olympic lorries - why not reschedule the lorry trips to avoid the rush hour?

Thursday 10 November 2011

Busway delays Olympic runs

This week's Hunts Post reveals that the busway is delaying transport of construction materials from Marshalls in St Ives to the Olympic Games site in London - 30 HGVs of materials per day, and, of course, 30 return trips empty.

Chris Annis of Marshalls claims this is due to the traffic lights where the busway crosses Harrison Way, plus cars parking in Meadow Lane. The lights are also causing delays back  to the Manchester Arms. Bob Menzies of Cambridgeshire County Council does not believe the lights are causing these delays, and says that the Council has no record of Marshalls having complained about this matter.
(Hunts Post, 9 November, page 8)

Of course, if the railway had been retained, then this material could potentially have been transported by rail.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Peterborough to Cambridge via the guided busway?

Stagecoach has announced plans to run buses from Peterborough on the busway.  ( See link to Cambridge First below). They hope  this will provide a less expensive alternative to the train for commuters. The buses would join the busway at St Ives, presumably using the A14/A1M for the northern section of their route. Extra vehicles will have to be purchased.

But will it be viable timewise? Andy Campbell, of Stagecoach describes the train as 'going round the houses'.  This is the pot calling the kettle black. The train takes about 45-50 minutes between Peterborough and Cambridge, usually with two stops - March and Ely. The guided buses, on the other hand, go all round the Oxmoor, the Hill Rise loop, call at all the villages between St Ives  and Cambridge, then if it's a service B, trundles through Orchard Park and squeezes through the narrow and congested Magdalene Street.  

We know the  guideway buses are taking longer than they used to by the old route - so how does Stagecoach imagine it can offer a fast service from Peterborough, when they can't offer a fast service from Huntingdon?

It's 29 miles from Peterborough to St Ives. That's going to take 45-60 minutes, then add on another 36 minutes from St Ives into Cambridge, and you're talking about well over an hour. Plus there is the added complication of traffic delays on the A14 near Huntingdon.

I watch this proposal with interest.

I think they'd be better concentaring on how to provide an all day, frequent service to Cambridge from places such as Godmanchester, Houghton & Wyton, Ramsey,  Warboys, Somersham, Earith, Fenstanton and, of course, Huntingdon.

In the same article, there is a comment about the four fast journesy from Huntingdon to Cambridge that were introduced a few weeks ago. Unfortunately they haven't been well used, and Stagecoach might have to review them. There are probably two factors to this. First, most people joining the service B in Huntingdon and travelling to Cambridge, do so in the Oxmoor, rather than the town centre. Second, the fast buses are still pretty slow when you consider that Huntingdon is only about 17 miles from Cambridge. So perhaps not a very attractive proposition for commuters

This this story also appears in the Hunts Post (9 November, page 27) and the Huntingdon & St Ives News & Crier (10 November, page 31).

Friday 4 November 2011

Conflict between joggers and cyclists

The Cambridge News highights a problem which I have experienced when cycling between St Ives and Cambridge - joggers and walkers who occupy too much of the track, or weave from side to side and so make it difficult for cyclists to pass. Some pedestrians may find it difficult to understand why cyclists have to go so fast - but, speaking as a cyclist who uses the route sometimes for commuting to work, speed is important, and it is annoying when those on foot behave in a way that slows me down.

The track beside the busway is a public bridleway, which means that it's open to walkers, joggers, cyclist and people on horseback. All users have to respect each other's presence, and take care when passing other users of the track.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Guy Fawkes diversions

On 5 November Midsummer Common (Cambridge) is the scene of a huge Guy Fawkes Bonfire. Some of the nearby roads will be closed from 6.30 to 8.30 pm and this will mean that buses have to be diverted.

The A will go round by East Road and Elizabeth way, and won't be able to call at New Square. However, the notice says it won't call at Victoria Avenue - which it doesn't anyway.
I was curious to note that the diversion route doesn't simply cut straight from Elizabeth Way to Milton Road, but heads along Chesterton Lane to Staples Corner.

The B  towards St Ives will go via Hobson Street and King Street, skipping New Square. The notice  (pictured above) says it won't call at Jesus Lane either, although the map shows it passing the Jesus Lane bus stop.

The B from St Ives will reach the bus station via the Backs, Silver Street and Downing Street, and won't call at Round Church Street or New Square.

Local newspaper reports

The busway continues to  feature in the local newspapers.

Yesterday's Hunts Post ( 2 November) has a letter ( page 7) from a St Ives resident about the County Council's apparent U-turn on the busway - he reckons the Council is getting 'jittery' about its chances of winning the court case against the contractors BAM Nuttall.

On page 8 of the same issue is a piece about the new express buses between Huntingdon and Cambridge - which started running on 24 October. Hunts Post has been a bit slow in acknowledging this timetable improvement! This refers to two services in each direction (07.10 and 07.40 from Huntingdon) that skip both the Oxmoor and the Hill Rise/Ramsay Road loop. Judging by the published timetable these 'express' buses save 13 minutes eastbound but only 6 minutes westbound compared with the regular buses. Hunts Post doesn't mention the departure times in the other direction. In fact, they leave Drummer Street at 17.25 and 17.45.

While on the subject of 'express' buses, it is worth noting that the average speed, including stops and slowings for road crossings, between St Ives Bus Station and the Science Park is  only 32mph. The quickest journey time from Cambridge to St Ives via the busway (28 minutes is the fastest I've noted) can never match the quickest times via the A14 (22 minutes was common off peak in the old days).

Stagecoach have indicated  they will consider offering more express journeys if passenger demand builds.

But, let's face it, Huntingdon needs a better, faster bus link to Cambridge than even the busway can offer - 16 miles in over an hour is ridiculously slow.  Godmanchester  (population around 8000) simply needs a direct bus to Cambridge. That can only be achieved by missing out St Ives completely. An Oxmoor- Huntingdon - Godmanchester - Cambridge route via the A428 might just work.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Art installations

You may have noted a series of small sections of brick wall appearing at the side of the busway, near St Ives Park & Ride,  in the cutting at Windmill Hill, and  near Oakington.
The bricks carry words related to the busway.

Here is the St Ives one:

Does anyone know who designed them, and who paid for them?

Monday 31 October 2011

Progress on the cycleway

Over the past  three weeks or so the main focus has been to construct a series of culverts to allow floodwater to pass under the cycle track and then under the busway a short distance east of the Ouse Viaduct.

9 October

16 October

22 October

30 October

Pushing on with the busway

The News & Crier ( 27 October, page 42) records that the busway was achieved 430,000 passenger journeys in its first two months - 224,000 in month 1 and 209,000 in month 2. The County Council's business case for the busway expected 150,000 a month during the first year building to 300,000 a month after 3 years. These statistics have given rise to calls for  segregated bus lanes in Cambridge, express bus services and links to other communities. Councillor Harrison notes that Phase 2 included getting the busway into Huntingdon. Councillor Lucas, representing Warboys, a large village to the north of St Ives, asked for relief buses to deal with rush hour overcrowding. An express service between St Ives and Huntingdon was called for by Councillor Kadic.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Local papers again

The busway continues to generate stories in the local papers.

The Hunts Post ( 26 October, page 4) describes another incident with a cyclist pedalling on the trackway. He was warned by by a passing bus driver but claimed he would rather go to prison than not cycle down the busway. Bob Menzies of the County Council says there is a £1000 fine for trespassing on the busway.

On page 6, a letter from a St Ives businessman complaining about the loss of revenue to many businesses during the three days of the Michaelmas Fair, and the confusion caused to visitors to the town by changes to the guided buses as a result of the fair.

The Huntingdon & St Ives News & Crier (27 October, page 6) carries a letter from a Somersham resident who tried to catch a guided bus from Jesus Lane, Cambridge. Not only did the bus drivers fail to stop for him (3 buses went past), but  the third driver raised his middle finger to the waiting passenger. Eventually, the passenger walked to Drummer Street to board the bus, but even that bus didn't stop at Jesus Lane. After this treatment, the Somersham resident will not be using the busway again.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Busway in this week's local papers

Both the Hunts Post (19 October, page 27) and the Huntingdon & St Ives News & Crier ( 20 October, page 35) pick up the theme of the high cost of the guided busway. The Liberal Democrat group in Cambridgeshire County Council claim the the Council could end up with extra interest payments of £21m if the court case against BAM Nuttall is lost.  The final bill for the busway could go over £200m. £126m has been provided by the government and developers, leaving  £90m that might have to be paid for by taxpayers' money,

The News & Crier (also page 35) notes that the bus driver who ran over a bicycle in an incident on 1 October has been disciplined.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Timetable revisions from 23 October

Stagecoach has announced it will be running some 'quicker buses from Huntingdon' as from 23 October.

There will be two new 'fast' buses from Huntingdon at 07.10 and 07.40  'direct to St Ives then along the busway' to Cambridge, returning from Drummer Street at 17.25 and 17.45, Mondays to Fridays.

The evening service  (Mon-Sat) will be be re-timed to leave from Drummer Street at 5 past the hour from 20.05 until 00.05.

According to The Busway Service Updates, there are also changes to the return school day journeys with buses leaving the rail station at 1547 and 1607. These extra journeys do not appear on the  new timetable. Presumably they are running as relief journeys for service A.
The new timetable can be viewed at

Monday 17 October 2011

Ticket machines

New busway passengers are still struggling with the ticket machines. There is something counter-intuitive about them. While travelling  from St Ives to Cambridge earlier today, the bus paused for 2-3 minutes at Longstanton. Two groups of passengers were trying to obtain tickest from the machine.

The first group wanted Day Riders, but the mnachine gave them singles - and ther driver unhelpfully advised them they'd need to buy another ticket from the journey back.

The second pair of potential travellers appeared to give up the attempt and headed back to the car park, perhaps deciding it would be easier to drive into Cambridge. before they did so, these two had a discussion with the driver, which I overheard. They were not sure whether to get a Whippet ticket or a Stagecoach ticket, or indeed which bus company would be running the next bus to town.

This type of confusion could be avoided if the London system of 'competition at tendering for routes' stage were extended to the rest of the country. Passsengers would not then have to make decisions about which bus company to travel with.

More on the cycle track

There is now a length of tar  fro a few hundred metres just west of Swavesey, and pipes are being installed about half a mile east of the Ouse Viaduct to allow floodwater to pass under the cyce track.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Cycle track

Yesterday the first stretch of new tarmac was laid on the cycle track between St Ives and Swavesey. It's the section between St Ives Park & Ride and the Ouse Viaduct.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Overcrowded buses

A Swavesey resident wrote to the Hunts Post a couple of weeks ago about overcrowding on commuter buses preventing Swavesey passengrs from boarding. He writes again (Hunts Post, 12 October, page 7) to commend Stagecoach for introducing a double decker service to Cambridge Railway Station at that key time.

This is the 07.30 from St Ives Hill Rise (Service A) and it is the service I often catch to work in the morning.

It tends to run more or less in convoy with the preceding 07.00 from Huntingdon (B) , and the following 07.43(A) from St Ives Park & Ride. All three services are heavily used, often with standing passengers for the last stretch of the journey.

With large numbers of passengers joining at intermediate stops, and because buses only have one entrance door, extended loading times are contributing to delays. Last Friday, for example, the 07.30 from Hill Rise left St Ives Bus Station left a minute late, but was 9 late by the time it reached New Square.

Unfortunately the low bridge under Hills Road means that any Service A bus going beyond Cambridge Railway Station has to be a single decker - with smaller passenger capacity.

We read some weeks ago that Stagecoach were hoping to purchase some new buses. that too should help them to provide extra capacity a peak times.

More on the bicycle accident

Today's Hunts Post (12 October, page 7) has three letters about the accident the Saturday before last -  a bike was crunched up by a guided bus, which then had to be take out of service due to undercarriage damage.

One thing that puzzled me about the accident was why the driver had not slowed down and stopped. It seemed that the sightlines were good, and certainly the passenger writing to the paper last week  seemed to be aware of the cyclist 'a good mile' in advance.

The first letter, from a Hartford resident, answers that question. The driver was indeed aware of the cyclist - because a bus coming the other way had warned her. So Stagecoach needs to answer the qeustion as to why she didn't stop. There are other negative comments about the driver's customer care - she didn't inform the passengers about what was going on, but stepped outside to smoke a cigarette.

The second letter (from a St Ives resident)  suggests that this was an example of dangerous driving on the basis that it is our responsibility to avoid an accident even if the other person is in the wrong. He would expect a driver behaving like this on an normal road to be prosecuted. Is that happening with this bus driver?

The third letter (by a passenger from Hemingford Grey) remarks on the irony of a busway bus having to be diverted via the A14, the very road the busway was created to bypass.

On page 13 is a short article about the incident, including comments from passenger who lives in Needingworth, reiterating that the driver could have slowed down and stopped. Andy Campbell of Stagecoach says that 'action has been taken with regards to this driver'.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Michaelmas Fair

Every year at the beginning of October is the Michaelmas Fair, when the centre of St Ives is taken over by a giant funfair. It lasts three days - Monday Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday poses a bit of a logistical problem - the space used by the regular Monday market isn't available.

So what happens? The market moves into the bus station.

And what happens to the buses? They run to and from the bus stop in The Quadrant. This is the notice that appeared in the Bus Station - but no dates or times are given.

It does appear to implicate the District Council as the cause of the chaos

This bus stop is on a one way giratory road system, so buses bound for Huntingdon have to go right round the loop, which only adds to the traffic problems.

This year nobody had though to cancel the usual car parking on The Quadrant - so every time a bus called at the stop, all other traffic ground to a halt. The Quadrant bus stop really isn't designed for buses terminating or waiting for extended periods. Here is The Quadrant on Michaelmas Fair Monday.

So why is this crazy situation allowed to happen? Not easy to answer. But maybe its because markets, buses and roads are controlled by different bits of local government and nobody has thought to look at the problem as a whole.

The delays caused by The Quadrant situation must have contributed to delays on the busway.

As I had to travel in to Cambridge about 12.45 I decided not to risk catching a bus from The Quadrant, but instead walked to the Park & Ride for the 12.48 Service A - which left on time and got me to my destination on time.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Accident on busway - diversion via A14

A friend told me he'd been on a busway bus on Saturday that had been diverted onto the A14 because of an incident.

All is revealed in today's Hunts Post ( 5 October, page1). There was a cyclist on the bus tracks and he didn't respond to the bus sounding its horn repeatedly. The cyclist had headphones on and therefore couldn't hear the bus. Fortunately he managed to dive off his bike just in time, but the bus ran over the bike crushing it to bits. The bus was damaged too and had to be taken out of service.

A passenger on the bus said 'For a good mile the driver was beeping her horn'. That implies the driver saw the cyclist from some distance away. If that was the case, why did she not slow her bus right down, so as to be able to stop before hitting the bike?

Park and ride

In the The Hunts Post of 21 September was a letter complaining about people using St Ives Park and Ride to park and then taking the bus into St Ives town centre in order to avoid paying town parking charges.

A follow-up letter (28 September, page 7) points out, correctly, I think, that this is a legitimate use of the park & ride, and it's not so much to avoid parking charges, as to actually find a parking space on market day. There is a supplementary point - about whether 'old age pensioner' should get free parking.

Friday 30 September 2011

Changes to bus times on 3 October

An email today from Ed Cameron of Stagecoach in Huntingdonshire to say that, as of Monday 3 October 2011, the 08:45 (Whippet Route C) departure from Drummer Street will start from the Rail Station. This journey will now operate via Milton Road instead of Histon Road and run along the Busway 10 minutes earlier.

In my printed timetable the 08.45 from Drummer Street is a service D. But I guess, if it is switching to the Milton Road route, it will be running as a C.

It's not clear to me why someone from Stagecoach is announcing a change to a Whippet service. 

And Whippet's website says nothing about the change as yet.

Another accident on the A14

Yesterday it was demonstrated that even the guided bus is not immune to traffic holdups on the A14.

I travelled home on the Service A that was timetabled to leave Trumpington at 16.39. I picked it up at Parkside, where it was running 13 minutes late.  This service normally takes about 8-10 minutes between New Square and the Science Park but traffic was backed up on Milton Road, due to an accident on the A14. Arrival into St Ives was 44 minutes late, a degree of lateness rarely achieved in the 'old days'.

How can time delays for guided buses on Milton road be avoided?

Creating a bus only lane in the out of town direction would help. Unfortunately there isn't much space due to a green verge with trees and a cycle lane. Are there alternative routes guided buses could use to avoid delays on Milton road? For example: Gilbert Road>Carlton Way>Mere Way>Arbury Road>Campkin Road>Kings Hedges Road; or, via Chesterton.

If the Chesterton Railway Station is built, or even if it isn't, what scope might there for providing a bus only road into central Cambridge, through Stourbridge Common, Riverside and Midsummer Common?

Thursday 29 September 2011

Accident on A14

Yesterday, the guided busway's value for providing reliable access to Cambridge was demonstrated when a two lorry accident at Bar Hill casue long delays for motorists, and a knock-on effect on other roads nearby, including the A1 and A428.

My partner took 1 hour 50 minutes to get from St Ives to work at Bar Hill. Two people I kknow who drive to work did not reach work in Cambridge until well after 9am. I heard of a student at a Cambridge sixth form college  who did not get in until after 10am because of the delays.

The busway is of great benefit for certain journeys by bypassing the A14. But it does not address the real problem - that the A14 between Girton and Brampton simply does not have enough capacity.

The traffic from two dual carriageway roads funnes into it at both end, so that east-west and north-south traffic are crammed into its four lanes.

In addition the road has frequent junctions leading to farms and roadside properties. These do not have adequate slip lanes. Even the main junctions have very short acceleration/deceleration lanes.

The village of Lolworth has only one road access - via a one-way junction on the A14.

Bar Hill, a village of about 5000 people, has only one access road and all traffic must funnel in and out via a single roundabout, with two exits - one to the A14 westbound  and the other to a bridge over the A14  from where drivers can go east on the A14 or north to Longstanton and Earith.

As well as being widened to cope with long distance traffic flows, the A14 desperately needs a separate local road paralleling it. And Bar Hill  needs an alternative access road, southwards towards the A428, bypassing Dry Drayton.

But the Government cancelled the improvement scheme on the grounds that it was unaffordable in the current economic climate.

Friday 23 September 2011

More timetable changes

This morning I travelled on the 0740 Service A from St Ives Bus Station to Cambridge. This journey has been extended to Cambridge Rail Station. It's a double decker and so unable to go under the low Hills Road Bridge.

Standing room only

This week's Hunts Post (21 September, page 6) has a letter from a Swavesey resident about the difficulties his daughter has had using the guided bus for travel to Hills Road due to overcrowding, and buses not stopping at Swavesey because they have been full. She has returned to using the slow bus (Citi 5) which goes round the villages. He appeals for extra buses to Cambridge starting from Swavesey.

On page 7 is another letter about crowded buses from a St Ives residents who uses a stick, and find that people won't give up their seats to elderly or disabled people. She also mentions signage at bus stops, and senior citizens parking at St Ives Park & Ride, then using their free passes to travel into St Ives - in other words they are dodging car parking charges.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

My letter in this week's Hunts Post

The Hunts Post (21 September, page 6) has published a letter from me about the guided busway. They've entitled it Time for a rethink. Unfortunately there is a paragraph in the letter which doesn't make sense.

In fact, it is Service A which has been achieving a punctuality level of 32%, and Service B only 17% - so I have been avoiding the service B where possible.

The average punctuality level  for my first 40 or so journeys was 27%, well below the 94% that Andy Campbell of Stagecoach claims his buses are achieving.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Route diversion - Service C

Due to traffic congestion problems, Whippet have decided to reroute Service C  west-bound via Regent Street instead of Parkside. This starts from 19th September according to this poster on the Parkside Bus Stop. However, the online  timetable display at the stop hasn't been updated, and still shows the C as calling there. Sounds like Whippet haven't told the Busway about this change.

Monday 19 September 2011

Cycle path Swavesey to St Ives

Work is progressing rapidly on improving the cycle path between Swavesey and St Ives.

There a still a few patches of water, especially after rain.

At one place, a huge ditch is being created, presumably to allow water to drain off the cycle track.

Although this section of the track is closed while the work is being carried out, walkers and cyclists seem to be using it during evenings and at weekends, when the workmen are not  on site

Friday 16 September 2011

Busway in this week's local papers

The Hunts Post (14 September, page 7) has a letter about refunds of money lost in ticket machines, and how difficult it is to understand the complicated range of fares if you are new to the busway. Bob Menzies of Cambridgeshire County Council says he is reviewing the way information is presented on the machines to ease these problems. This information notices, which is posted at busway stops, explains about how the fares system works.

On page 14 of the same issue is an article Busway journey times are extended. It is claimed by the bus operators that although the timetable is now slower than it was before the busway, the actual times for journeys are quicker. Stagecoach says that its punctuality has increased from 78% to 94% as a result of the timetable changes on 2 September. This does not tally with my experience. I have used the busway almost 40 times since it started running, yet  only 27% of my journeys got me to my destination on time.  Most of my trips are in the morning and evening travel-to-work peak times. But I've also travelled midday, evenings and Sundays. And the evening journeys I've used so far have reached the remarkably bad punctuality rate of 0%.

Good news. The Norris Museum in St Ives has doubled its number of visitors as a result of the busway.

The Huntingdon & St Ives News & Crier (15 september, page 6) carries a letter about traffic jams on Harrison Way, the A1096 road between the A14 and St Ives. The writer says the busway is adding 20 minutes to her car commute time. She also notes that the Saturday service now takes longer than the 20 minutes it used to take. Well, yes. The busway is definitely slower at off peak times than the old 55 route.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Evening service

Yesterday was my first evening shift of the academic year, so my homeward journey was on the 21.35 Service B from Drummer Street.

Before the busway opened, this journey nearly always left on time and the got me back to St Ives between 22.00 and 22.05. Journey times that I have noted for this departure undvia the old route of Huntongdon road and the A14 ( 2, 16 & 23 November  and 9 December 2010) took 26, 24, 26 and 26 minutes respectively.

But yesterday the 21.35 was late arriving in from Huntingdon. It left Drummer Street at 21.42 (7 minutes late). We reached the guideway at Orchard Park East at 21.55 (11 minutes late) but gained a few minutes to arrive in St Ives Bus station at 22.14 (7 minutes late).

A journey which generally took 24-26 minutes via the A14, takes 32 minutes via the busway. So much for a fast, and efficient transport system.

The eastbound service was also running late, and I noticed passing Swavesey that the eastbound buses were showing as due in 7 and 75 minutes.

Is the evening the timetable is unrealistically tight ? I shall be monitoring the timings for evening journeys that I make.

Before the busway, the evening service could be run by two vehicles (just) and in my experience they could keep to time. They now have to do a loop round by Huntingdon Rail Station, as well as contend with the longer route and more stops via the busway and Histon Road. Hence the delay, which migh prove to be cumulative as the evening progresses.

This was my first trip on the busway in the dark. I was amazed at the number of rabbits on the track. 

Sunday 11 September 2011

Traffic problems

Friday's journey from Cambridge to St Ives illustrated the problems that the bus companies face in trying to run their bus services.

I travelled on the 16.30 Service B from Drummer Street. We were 2 minutes late starting from Drummer Street, and 4 minutes late leaving New Square. Both these delays were the result of slow loading: there are no ticket machines at Drummer Street and New Square, so drivers have to issue tickets and give change.

New Square to the Shire Hall took 14 minutes - due to congestion in Magdalene Street, where there is a short single track section in a road used by dozens of buses every hour. The traffic lights changed from red to green about 6 times before we got through to Castle Hill.

Traffic was extremely slow in Histon Road -  6 minutes from Huntingdon Road to the end of Gilbert Road.

So 30 minutes from Drummer Street to the busway at Orchard Park. Not good. But how can this problems be avoided without  measures to reduce traffic in the Magdalene Street/Histon Road area?

Thursday 8 September 2011

Visitors boost trade

Already the guided bus is bringing extra visitors to St Ives. Tookey's Coffee Shop has had to take on extra staff to cope as a result.
Huntingdon & St Ives News & Crier ( 8 September, 2011, page 22)

Footpath from Longstanton to the busway

When you live in the centre of St Ives, it's easy getting to the guided bus. But not so for residents of Longstanton. The busway stop is a good half mile from the edge of the village, and for people who want to walk or cycle to the bus, there is a roadside footpath.  This week's Huntingdon & St Ives News & Crier (8 September, 2011, page 19) draws attention to the poor state of this path which is 'bumpy, and covered with shale, road planings and large stones'. It is unsuitable for pushchairs, mobility scooters or cycles.  A spokesman for the County Council is reported as saying that a path from Longstanton to the busway was never part of the Northstowe (new town) plan, but, as Northstowe has been delayed, the path was laid in the meantime - at a cost of £100,000.

St Ives Markets

Last week's Hunts Post highlighted the conflict between bus services and the markets in St Ives, specifically the fact that the Bank Holiday Monday market takes over the bus station, and buses have to load and unload in  a narrow street nearby. A letter in this week's Hunts Post ( (7 September 2011, page 7) takes up the theme.  The Michaelmas Fair happens in a few weeks' time, when again the bus station is usually closed to buses.The writer notes that over 80 buses  are timetabled for a Bank Holiday Monday, and more than 100 on the Michaelmas Fair Monday. He challenges Huntingdonshire District Council, which runs both the markets and the bus station, to clarify their intentions about use of the bus station.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Punctuality and unpunctuality

Today was the first day of the new school term, so the buses were a bit busier than last week. We also have a new timetable.

I decide to catch the 07.40 service A from St Ives Bus Station, the new service starting from Hill Rise presumably to relieve the overcroweded service B.

The 07.35 B left on time - I saw it leave as I walked to the Bus Station.

Last week the B was always late and the A on time, but today, the A was late. It didn't leave until 07.50, dropping me at New Square at 08.25, or 9 minutes late.

Sunday evening buses

I discovered at the weekend that there are now no evening buses between Cambridge, St Ives and Huntingdon. Whippet's service 1A used to run  in the evening, with final departures from Huntingdon at 21.00 and Cambridge 22.05. But this was axed a few months ago when Cambridgeshire County Council withdrew bus service subsidies in the recent financial cuts.

But, the timetable display boards at St Ives Bus Station are still displaying Sunday evening departure times for Whippet buses.

How is it that we have spent millions on providing a busway, with  an intensive service during Sunday morning and afternoon - but nothing at all in the evening?

Saturday 3 September 2011

Train times to St Ives 1969-70

For anyone who likes a bit of history, here is the timetable for the Cambridge to St Ives trains. The source is the British Rail's Eastern Region Passenger Timetable 5 May 1969 to 3 May 1970.
From St Ives to Histon, the buses are quicker than the trains, though not by much. But Histon to Cambridge Railway Station is 26 minutes by bus, compared with 8 or 9 by train.

Letters about the busway in the Hunts Post

Three letters about the busway in this week's Hunts Post ( 31 August 2011, page 7). First, malfunctioning ticket machines, and a driver unable to give refunds for money lost in a machine that did not issue a ticket. And in the same letter, a comment about drivers sounding the horn as a warning to people using footpath crossings along the route - apparently it is optional, rather than mandatory, and the letter writer is rightly concerned about this hazard as the evenings get darker. My point, in an earlier posting, about bus diversions to make way for the Bank Holiday Market is raised by the owners of a business in Station Road, St Ives. Their concern is to impress on Hunts District Council, that, if the town is to attract visitors using the busway, they need to be dropped off and picked up in the town centre at the bus station. Failure to ensure this may result in 'destruction of retail trade in St Ives'. Finally, a comment about the County Council's claims that the busway would be 'reliable, fast and frequent', and especially that the timings are now slower that the old service 55 via the A14. The writer has noticed, as I have, that the Whippet 1A is often quicker on its old route than the guided buses. And what has happened to the promised extension of the service to Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which helped to justify building the Huntingdon contraflow bus lane?

Boost to St Ives shops

This week's Huntingdon & St Ives News & Crier ( 1 September, 2011, page 13) reports that the busway has brought increased numbers of customers to the St Ives markets and to the town centre generally. Jane Bowd, St Ives town centre manager, hopes that this increase can be maintained. Responding to complaints that the traffic lights where the buses cross the bypass have been causing delays to motorists, Jane Bowd thinks the delays have not added greatly to the problem. Cllr Jonathan Salt thinks the problem may get worse when the school term starts. As a pedestrian user of those lights, walking from my house to catch the bus at the Park & Ride, I find the lights unbearably slow to change. They appear to give priority to road traffic rather than pedestrians. However, when a guided bus comes along, the lights change almost instantly.

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Busway in last week's local papers

The Hunts Post of 24 August carried an article entitled Busway success : firms to consider increasing fleets ( page 14). This highlighted the possibility of Stagecoach introducing new routes, such as buses starting from Longstanton, and promoting the Fenstanton feeder service (route 20). Whippet are considering adding to their fleet of three buses, and Whippet manager, Peter Lee, calls for multi-operator tickets so that passengers can catch the first bus that comes along. These kind of tickets are normal in London, but legislation forbids them in the rest of the country. There is a call for 'red routes' in Cambridge city centre to minimise bus delays. And a suggestion that traffic lights need to respond better to the buses. The article mentions that work was due to begin on Tuesday 30 August on the Swavesey-St Ives cycleway - and today (31 August) there are signs of work having begun - piles of gravel, surveyors wooden markers, 'closed' signs. There are still puddles lying in several of the hollows, emphasising the importance of this remedial work.

The same issue of the Hunts Post has two letters about the busway (page 6). Busway blues complains about the withdrawal of the bus from RAF Wyton to Cambridge Regional College, for which the writer blames the busway, probably erroneously. And Where are we suggests that driver should announce each stop in advance.

The Huntingdon & St Ives News & Crier (p18) mentions a complaint from a woman who says not a single guided bus she has travelled on has picked her up or dropped her off on time, and once she waited 50 minutes for a bus, which then sailed right on past without stopping. Another complaint was about the electric sockets in the Stagecoach buses not working. Motorists have been noticed using the St Ives Park & Ride car park and walking into town to avoid car park fees, and other motorists have complained that the traffic lights where the busway crosses Harrison Way are causing traffic jams.

Timetable changes from 4th September

Stagecoach have just announced improvements to the Sunday service starting from 4th September. Buses will run every 20 minutes (instead of hourly) between St Ives Bus Station and Drummer Street from 08.40 until 17.00, returning from Drummer Street 09.20 until 17.40.

However, the overall timings have been slowed down.

On Sundays, Cambridge to St Ives will take 36 minutes instead of 32, St Ives to Huntingdon is increased by 2 minutes, and Huntingdon to St Ives by 11 minutes.

On weekdays, most journeys starting at Huntingdon are allowed an extra 5 minutes - presumably to improve punctuality and even spacing of buses on route B, which hitherto tend to leave St Ives late. Of course, they often arrived late from Huntingdon in the old days, but usually drivers could catch up a bit on the A14.

Details on this web page

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Ancient tradition vs modern transport system

On Bank Holiday Mondays, the centre of St Ives is taken over by an enormous market which draws traders and customers from far and wide. Yesterday (29 August) was no exception.

Even St Ives Bus Station is given over to market stalls. Previously this did not matter as the only bus service running was a shuttle between Huntingdon and St Ives, terminating at The Quadrant. But this time, with both Stagecoach and Whippet advertising an 'Sunday' service on the busway, I wondered whether the market would have vacated the bus station in favour of the buses. But not so. Stalls filled the bus station.

At first glance I could find no information explaining where the buses were running to and from, but there were a couple of small printed notice attached inside the display cases, mentioning in very small print that passengers should go top The Quadrant. One of these notices was so curled up that it was impossible to read most of the times shown.

I suppose it is good sign that the bus companies are having to run extra buses, but the small notice advertising the new Sunday bus times had a glaring mistake on it - showing bus from St Ives to Cambridge taking 70 minutes. I think a typing error. But good to know the buses will be running every half hour on a Sunday.

In The Quadrant were two signs telling motorist not to park there on the Bank Holiday Monday - but nobody had paid any attention to it. There was a slight gap in the parked cars at the bus stop itself, but not enough for a bus to enter. So, the buses were having to stop in the main traffic lane.

I took one picture showing congestion at the back of Budgen's with a coach off-loading market visitors while a service bus was held up behind it.

Buses bound for Huntingdon on service B were arriving in via the Park&Ride car park and Meadow Lane, then looping right round Cromwell Place and The Quadrant.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Guided busway in yesterday's Hunts Post

55,895 passenger used the guided busway in the first week, and extra buses have had to be put on to cope with the demand. (The Hunts Post, 17 August 2011, page 3) But how will they cope when everyone returns from their holidays and the A14 and Cambridge streets get busy again?

The letters from users of the service are more revealing and do not share the optimism of the Directors of Stagecoach and Whippet. ( The Hunts Post, 17 August 2011, page 7)

Here are some of the points raised:

1 - late running, unreliable buses, particularly on Route B
2 - journey times of up to 2 hours between Addenbrooke's and Huntingdon
3 - two service B buses turning up together
4 - huge queues trying to board at Drummer Street
5 - the indirect route between Huntingdon and St Ives - via the Oxmoor and Hill Rise

One worrying statement is this "The conclusion I have come to is that, once it has settled down, the guided bus will be slightly slower than the traditional bus". Well, yes. Just compare the old timetable with the new one. The fast run on the guideway doesn't quite make up for the often slow plod through the Cambridge streets. Perhaps the only time we shall see the benefit is when the A14 is blocked, or is so busy that traffic there is crawling. But if traffic is crawling in Milton road, Histon Road or Bridge Street, the busway isn't going to help.

What about this from a resident of Brampton "Come on, bus companies, try to be more competitive and make the bus more attractive than the car"?

I don't think bus companies can be relied on to provide a good enough network of service to attract people out of their cars. There are huge holes gaps in their network of routes. The town centre of Huntingdon is only about 17 miles from central Cambridge and yet the bus takes (in theory) an hour or more. However, we know that not many people live in the town centre - so how to the buses serve the suburbs adequately? Godmanchester is 15 miles from Cambridge and has no direct service at all. One of my colleagues, who travels in from Godmanchester drives to Madingley Park & Ride, it's her best option. I don't see how Godmanchester can be plugged into the guided busway easily without running along part of the A14, but perhaps a Huntingdon - Godmanchester - Papworth - Cambridge route via the A428 might be viable. It could start from Huntingdon Tesco's or Hinchingbrooke alternately. And perhaps the Brampton service could feed into it at Huntingdon Bus Station.

Gail Anderson (The Hunts Post, 17 August 2011, page 15) has interviewed several busway passengers.

A St Ives resident who works in Cambridge notes that, because the busway has opened up more stops, it take longer for him to get home - but he will continue using the service because 'nothing is worth parking in Cambridge'.

Someone from Warboys expresses 'high hopes' for the service. She seems to have previously used one of the Park & Ride sites, and has switched to St Ives P&R. But her comment raises another issue in my mind that hasn't been properly address - how to provide frequent, all day connections to the busway from outlying communities such as Brampton, Ramsey and Warboys. A few token through buses to Cambridge are provided for Needingworth, Bluntisham, Earith, Colne and Somersham via the busway - but are they enough to build confidence in the service? As I mentioned in an earlier posting Fenstanton now seems to have a half hourly link to St Ives Park and Ride - but will anyone use it when most of the day there is a direct Whippet service to Cambridge via Bar Hill? No attempt has been made to link the existing Citi 5 service through Fenstanton, Fen Drayton, the centre of Swavesey, Over and Willingham into the services on the busway, either at Swavesey 'station' or at Lonstanton Park & Ride.

[This is Longstanton Park & Ride - still under construction]

The road layout at St Ives Park and Ride doesn't make it easy for non-busway buses to connect there. Extending the service A to/from St Ives Bus station would help.

A final comment in Gail Anderson's article, reiterates the problem of delays, most notably an evening bus service departing 30 minutes late from Cambridge.

The Hunts Post can be viewed online at . You have to register, but access is free.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Cycling along the busway

Monday morning, as my weekly ticket had run out, I decided to cycle to work. This was my first experience of the newly tarred cycle track from Swavesey to Cambridge. Very smooth and fast - just a pity about the steep gradients in and out of some of the hollows that had been flooded in the winter. In fact, there remains one puddle on the St Ives to Swavesey section, which still has a gravel surface. Does anyone know when it is being tarred?
One thing that surprised me was how quiet the buses seemed as they glided past.
I came off the guideway at Histon, and reaching my work via Arbury Road, part of Milton Road and Elizabeth Way. I made good time - 56 minutes door to door.
I returned on the Service A from Parkside. This was unfortunately delayed as the driver thought he'd knocked a cyclist off her bike as he overtook her in Emmanuel Road. He was mightily relieved that she said he hadn't hit her bike, and she was unharmed. I think she had wobbled as the bus went past. That delay of 5 or 6 minutes meant that my door to door journey ( walk, bus, walk) took 54 minutes.

Weekend fares

Whippet were offering a special fare of £1 single on either their busway services or on the old route via Bar Hill, on both Saturday and Sunday. This was great, as long as you knew not to buy a ticket from the ticket machines, which hadn't been re-programmed to offer the reduced fare. Unfortunately, some people had bought their tickets from the machines, so you can imagine they were not best pleased to discover about the cheap deal!

I had to go in to Cambridge early on Sunday so the 09.00 Stagecoach departure got me in earlier than Whippet's 09.25 via Bar Hill or 09.35 via the Busway. I discovered that the St Ives to Cambridge single has gone up from £3.20 to £3.50 - I don't remember any advertising about that. On the way back I benefitted from the £1 ticket.
Talking to a passenger who had tried to catch the Whippet Service C from Cambridge Railway Station. He hadn't realised that the busway stop is round the corner from the station in what looks like a building site. Maybe there is a sign posting issue here. He'd tried to flag the Whippet down as it emerged into Station Road - but it didn't stop for him. He then caught one of the citi buses into town and sprinted that last bit to the bus station.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Friday 12 August and review of the first week

I travelled on Service B in both directions today.

The morning trip took 37 minutes, and the afternoon trip took 45 minutes.

Verdict at the end of Week 1 - the quality of the journey actually on the guideway is excellent and fast, and the timings achieved between St Ives and Milton Road or Orchard Park are consistently in the 18-23 minute range.

My quickest journey took 28 minutes (Wednesday). The slowest was on Sunday - 46 minutes running time plus 11 minutes for late start. There was a bad trip on Thursday - 15 minutes late leaving Parkside, and 22 minutes late reaching St Ives.

However, the guided buses are being delayed by traffic conditions off the busway. Buses arriving in St Ives from the Huntingdon direction are often late, as they were before 7 August - and this suggests that their schedule is too tight.

Traffic conditions in Bridge Street and Magdalene Street are difficult - mainly as a result of the single track section from Magdalen Bridge towards Huntingdon Road.

Histon Road and Milton Road have several sets of traffic lights which have caused delays, and frankly the 13 minutes allowed in the timetable isn't enough, except when traffic is very light (e.g. early morning).

The Addenbrooke's loop is another source of delay, as it is unbelievably slow, narrow and twisty.

The fact that there are no ticket machines at certain busy bus stops e.g. Drummer Street, New Square, and St Ives Bus Station, is slowing loading times and therefore contributing to delays.

Traffic levels - an exceptionally busy Sunday when many people turned out for their first trip on this new form of transport. I'd say the number of passengers has increased steadily as the week progressed. A fair number of people are commuting to/from the Science Park, from St Ives and the intermediate villages, journeys which could not readily be done by public transport before.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Thursday 11 August

My morning journey was punctual and took 29 minutes.

Problems in the evening, though. I'd checked on the live bus information online, and knew that my bus (Service A due to leave New Square at 17.01) would be a few minutes late arriving at Parkside. We were 15 minutes late leaving New Square. Heavy, slow traffic in Victoria Avenue, and Milton Road meant that we didn't reach the guideway until 1833. St Ives Park & Ride was reached at 18.55 - 22 minutes late.

Bus routes through Addenbrooke's site

On my trip yesterday, I commented on the slow and tortuous journey round the Addenbrooke's site.

Seven years ago, Addenbrooke's stated its commitment to improving sustainability by promoting public transport improvements, bus travel, car sharing, cycling and walking.

Regarding the guided busway, then under consideration for Cambridge, the Trust had 'plans to re-arrange the main entrance area of the hospital to allow the guided buses to drive through the centre of the campus to improve access.'

Is this plan still being considered? Or has it been abandoned completely?

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundatuion Trust. 2020 vision at Addenbrooke's: the future of the hospital campus - update July 2004. Page 9. Available at: [accessed 11 August 2011]

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Wednesday 10th August 2011

This morning I walked to the Park & Ride to catch the route A bus leaving at 07.38. This got me in to New Square at 08.07, which is pretty good.

I was able to take a longer lunch break than usual and decide to go to Trumpington on the guided bus to see what the southern end of the route is like. There was a 13.11 departure from New Square, and it took 10 minutes to reach the Railway Station via the ordinary streets. the A calls at a bus stop about 150 metres from the station entrance. This stop is situated in the middle of a building site and it looks as if they are creating a series of bus stops near that location.  The busway dives under Hills Road Bridge, which has a 12ft 1in height limit, explaining why Route A only has single decker buses. Then followed a fast section more or less parallel to the railway line, built on the track of the former railway from Cambridge to Bedford and Oxford. Addenbrooke's is reached by a branch guideway rising steeply to cross the railway line. At the far side is a T junction, and the far side of the junction is built to allow an extra section of guideway to be built at a later stage, which will hopefully shorten the  Addenbrooke's loop. The bus follows a  slow and tortuous route anti-clockwise around the Addenbrooke's campus with 5 bus stops.  The whole loop took 14 minutes to complete, and returning to the main guideway, we turned right towards  a bus stop called "Trumpington". Immediately afterwards, the guideway becomes single track, with traffic lights controlling entry, and squeezed under Trumpington Road to emerge at the Park & Ride. Running time 31 minutes = 9 minutes longer than scheduled. The return journey retrace the same route taking 26 minutes - 4 over schedule.

It's as if they've tacked a Trumpington-Addenbrooke's shuttle service onto an Addenbrooke's- St Ives service.  The two seem scarcely compatible. And the slow plod round the hospital site might be contributing to late running further north. Maybe they are planning to run a fast direct service between Trumpington P&R  and the City Centre via the Rail Station. But for the meantime, passengers going from the P&R should us the old P&R bus service on the ordinary roads.

My journey home today was on the 17.01 from New Square which I picked up at Parkside. Having checked the live bus times online, I knew it was running a few minutes late, which meant I didn't have to rush. We left at 17.05 ( 6 minutes late) and  getting held up a bit by slow traffic on Victoria Avenue and  near the Arbury Road/Milton Road junction, I got to St Ives P&R at 17.45. 40 minutes running time.

Unfortunately no use for Station - Cowley Road commute

I commute once a week from Cambridge Station to Cowley Road (St Johns Innovation Centre). It was a bright sunny morning, so I thought I'd trial the service and save on the taxi fare.

1. When I arrived at Cambridge station, the bus stop is a couple of hundred yards away (much further than the other buses and cabs, and through lots of building work).
2. The buses are timed to leave the rail station 3 minutes before the fast trains from London arrive, and they only run every 20 minutes
3. At the Science Park end, the stop is 15 minutes walk from St Johns Innovation Centre

So all in all, it takes just under an hour to get from the station to my office - compared with 10 minutes by cab, and longer than the 50 mile Kings Cross to Cambridge train journey. I appreciate that the service is bound to be slow running through the city, but there are no bus routes that take one from the Station to the Science Park / Business Park / Innovation Park.

So unfortunately I'll continue to Borisbike from Covent Garden to Kings Cross and take an expensive and environmentally unfriendly taxi from the station to my office.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Tuesday 9 August

Decided to use the 07.25 Service B from St Ives Bus Station. As was common with the old 55 route, buses arriving in from Huntingdon were often a few minutes late. And so it was today. We left at 07.25 reaching Orchard Park East at 07.54 (6 minutes late). Another 3 minutes were dropped in a traffic queue in Histon Road, waiting to get out onto Huntingdon Road.  Arrival time at New Square (08.11) was 9 minutes late. Counting the walk at each end, that's 50 minutes door to door.

Leaving St Ives, I noticed that the Whippet's 07.35 Service 5, was sitting in the bus station. Despite using the old route via Fenstanton, the A14 and Bar Hill, this bus beat us to Cambridge by a few minutes. I saw it whizz across the junction at Histon Road/Huntingdon Road as we waited in the queue.

There was a Whippet Service D ahead of us. Can anyone explain why Service D exists? It offers two early morning trips via Histon Road, but no corresponding evening trips. So they're clearly not looking for any two-way passengers.

Evening. Succeeded in getting the Service A from Parkside, which it left at 1705. Departure from New Square was at 17.07 (6 minutes late) but we didn't manage to make up time.  I alighted at St Ives Park & Ride at 17.40 (due 17.33). Again 50 minutes door to door.

Thats now 6 journeys I've made - and only one was on time.

Monday 8 August 2011

Monday 8th August - travel to work

I decided to walk from the house to the Park & Ride ( about 4 minutes walk) because I wanted to experience the Route A which goes into Cambridge via Milton Road.

Free copies of the Cambridge News  were being given out at the P&R.

But there were only 6 passengers on board  when we left promptly at 07.38. I thought our speed was higher than yesterday, and we reached Milton Road at 08.00 pretty much on time. The bus called at Swavesey, Longstanton, Oakington and Histon only. No passengers for Fen Drayton Reserve or CRC.

The 0728 service, which has come in from Huntingdon, was running almost 10 minutes late, and we followed it in as far as Orchard Park where it diverged onto the Histon Road route.

I alighted at New Square at 08.09, 2 minutes early, and the bus set off immediately for Addenbrooke's not waiting for a passenger who was quite clearly running to catch it.

So, a punctual journey for me - but what if there had been heavy traffic on Milton Road?

Returning home in the late afternoon, I aimed for the 17.01 Service A which stops at  Parkside. This is very close to where I work. I saw the bus turn the corner as I crossed the end of East Road. But I was just too late. I walked briskly down to Emmanuel Road, and seeing the Service A still sitting at New Square sprinted along the road. It pulled out just as I got to the stop.

Next bus due was the 17.11 Service B. This consisted of 2 double deckers, both almost full to capacity. I boarded the second one which left at 17.15.  The Bridge Street bottleneck slowed us down, and Orchard Park wasn't reached until 17.33 by which time we had lost another 5 minutes. At Longstanton we overtook the other bus, then it caught up with us at St Ives Park & Ride - arrival time 17.51. There we sat for 4 minutes while passengers disembarked and bus officials chatted, I hope about official business. Arrival in St Ives Bus Station was at 17.57. Journey time 42 minutes, plus 4 minutes late start. Total 46 minutes. We had been due in at 17.43.

In the bus station I bumped into a friend waiting for the Needingworth bus. I asked him if the Whippet 1A had passed through. He said, yes, about 5 minutes before. It had passed the New Square stop as I waited.

So the Whippet - via Bar Hill, the A14 and Fenstanton  - took the same time as the new guided bus.

Not good.

Sunday 7th August - opening day

It was a fine sunny morning, and we caught the very first public departure from St Ives to Cambridge - the 09.00 service B. The bus left St Ives more or less on time at 09.01. There was a 3 minute stop at St Ives Park & Ride where the bus filled to capacity.  A relief bus followed ours from the Park & Ride.
St Ives P&R   09.06
Fen Drayton   09.10
Swavesey       09.13
Longstanton  09.17-09.18
Oakington      09.22 ( did not stop)
Histon             09.27-09.28
Orchard Pk E  09.30
Orchard Pk W 09.32
Shire Hall       09.37
Round Church 09.40
New Square    09.41-09.42
Drummer Street 09.43

That's 43 minutes. We were due in at 09.32 - so 11 minutes late. Not a good start.

Impressions of the journey sitting upstairs in a double decker. A fairly smoothe ride, but some gentle oscillation when running at speed. A few slight jolts passing over some of the bridle track crossings. The bus had to slow down considerably at road crossing, where, of course the guideway has a break, and presumably there is a speed limit for re-entering the guideway.

I was astonished to realise that the reserve track running through the Orchard Park estate is not a section of busway, but merely a pair of concrete 'farm tracks' with grass up the middle. Speed on the 'farm tracks' seemed to be much less than 30mph.

Even on a quiet Sunday morning, it took us 13 minutes from Orchard Park East to Drummer Street compared withe the advertised time of 9 minutes.

Not a good start!

The return trip on the  12.35 from Drummer Street was eventful. The electronic display at the departure bay showed that the bus was delayed by 25 minutes. There was a Guided Bus sitting at the far side of the bus station but it did not drive over to allow the waiting passengers to climb aboard. I walked over to ask the driver if he was going to pick us up and he said he was 'the relief' bus and had to wait until the regular bus was full. This seemed a crazy bit of logic, but eventually he drove across, we boarded, and then set off at 13.46, 11 minutes late. This time the Bridge Street bottleneck meant that it took 19 minutes reach Orchard Park ( the timetable says 9 minutes). Progress on the busway was steady but sedate. And we alighted at St Ives Bus Station at 13.32, a journey time of 46 minutes ( timetabled 34 minutes). But if you add on the 11 minutes late start, that give 57 minutes for the journey.

This compares very badly with the journey times on Friday and Saturday by the old route.

Question - why are there no ticket machines at Drummer Street and St Ives Bus Station? Surely they'd speed up loading times at these busy places.

Friday 5 and Saturday 6 August

My last three trips on Stagecoach's number 55 service before the Guided Busway opened were on 5th and 6th August.

On Friday 5th, I caught the 17.15 from Drummer Street reaching St Ives Bus Station at 17.49 -- a journey of 34 minutes. This was quite fast for a rush hour journey out of Cambridge, but it's the height of the summer holidays, so the roads were quiet.

The next day, I caught the 11.05 from St Ives Bus Station. This did not leave until 11.14. I reached Drummer Street at 11.47, a running time of 33 minutes, 42 if you add in the fact that we were late leaving.

I returned from Cambridge on the 14.35 from Drummer Street - which sped back to St Ives in a mere 32 minutes.

On these three trips, Shire Hall to St Ives took 23-27 minutes.
Bridge Street and Magdalene Street are a bit of a bottleneck, with Drummer Street to Shire Hall taking 8-11 minutes.