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.