Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Guided bus comes off track

A guided bus was 'derailed' today on the busway just west of Longstanton. See Cambridge News for a very brief report. Buses were hugely delayed. There were no injuries.

A fuller version of this report is in the print edition of the Cambridge News ( 21 November, page 3). This refers to the possibility that the driver may have been taken ill.

A BBC report adds some information. The driver apparently misjudged the entrance to the busway and had to be taken to hospital. The bus was left at a 45 degree angle.

The incident is reported also on the Hunts Post website and in this week's Hunts Post ( 21 November, page 11).

I caught the 1644 A from New Square - it was already about 15 minutes late leaving Cambridge. Buses were diverted off the busway at Longstanton, via Ramper Road and through Swavesey village to rejoin the route just west of Swavesey Busway Stop. This added a further 10 minutes delay to the journey.

Another passenger waiting at New Square told me he had been waiting  over an hour for a bus to RAF Wyton.


  1. I saw what looked like a single-decker "guided bus" heading east down East Road towards the Grafton at about 16.40. However, I wasn't that close to it and couldn't really see the route number at the back.

    There was another bus/coach (poss an X5) about to be towed away from the Parker's Piece stops near the Police station. Considerable delays and congestion here; Police were directing traffic in the area.

    So the delays could have been as a result of the other incident, with some buses by-passing New Square?

    1. Thanks, Stephen. There were certainly other causes of delay happening today, as pretty much every afternoon/evening e.g. congestion between the railway station and the Catholic Church. Could you see if the 'stray' bus had passengers in it?

  2. When I saw this I thought you may appreciate an update. As I cycle up and down everyday I was hoping I would see something.

    The bus in question was on the east bound side of the GBW, north of the road that dissects the bus way between Longstanton and Willingham. It was about 20-30 yards up there, opposite that derelict building on the left as you travel westward.

    The strange thing is that the bus was facing towards St Ives but on the east bound section! The nearside front and rear wheels were mounted on the concrete GBW track, on the left hand side of that track as you looked west in the middle of the track if you see what I mean. When I saw it and it was on the wrong side pointing the wrong way and on the kerb of the concrete I thought the only way was if the driver had forgotten which side to drive on and had picked the wrong side !

    In front of it were 2 more buses that had come down that track correctly and obviously could not get past or turn around or even reverse back to Swavesey.

    On the maintenance track were around 5 people, chatting having a fag and the tow truck was ready there, obviously going to pull it out at some point. The rear engine cover was up on the bus suggesting someone had turned the engine of from the back.

    When I go to work tomorrow I should be able to see if there has been any damage to the concrete guides themselves.

    1. Thanks, Kevin. Whenever I get the chance, I like to sit in the very front seat of the single deckers. From there you can see the speedometer. the more cautious drivers enter the guideway at about 15mph, but some of them enter the tracks at 30mph. The angle of approach is obviously quite important too, and sometimes the buses make quite a lurch as they enter the tracks. If a fast driver misjudged the alignment, even by half a meter, you could perhaps see how a bus might end up on the wrong track.

      Hopefully there will be an official investigation of this accident.

      Another point you make is about the buses that were stuck on the eastbound track. It's one of the design flaws of the busway that buses can only go forwards on it. I guess they'd need rear guide wheels before reversing was possible.

      I wonder what happened to the passengers. Maybe some more stories will emerge via the local newspapers.

    2. "the more cautious drivers enter the guideway at about 15mph, but some of them enter the tracks at 30mph."

      This approach seems a little hit and miss. There ought to be a standard speed limit - and marked, since there are other lead-ins which can be taken much faster (eg where there's a footpath).

    3. There must be a recommended maximum. I'll ask one of the drivers.

    4. There is a 10mph speed limit through the accident site, but no obvious signs of nay damage to the concrete track. Traffic cones still in place ( Wednesday evening).

  3. Update - 21 November morning - the busway has reopened between Swavesey and Longstanton and eastbound buses are running as normal. I did not see a westbound bus in that section. The place where the accident happened has traffic cones along it, and there was a maintenance vehicle and member of busway staff at the site when my bus went past. I thought the driver of the bus I was on was taking extra care when entering the guideway at junctions.

  4. There is a lot of damage to the concrete kerbs of the track, where by they have had the edges shaved off so to speak, at least 10 are damaged, with some about 2 inches of concrete chipped away on the inside near where the guide wheel would come into contact. I think that at speed these fissures would grow in size with the stress of the bus at speed.

    I would be surprised if they are not removed and replaced or the 10 mph limit will be in force for a very long time.

    1. Thanks for that info. The damage isn't obvious from the bus.

    2. I got off at Longstanton to have a look. In addition to the damage to the main beams described above, 3 transomes are also damaged: 1 received superficial damage, exposing steel reinforcing bars (rebar). 1 was almost completely smashed up, and the 3rd was twisted so that one of the tie rods (which fix the track together) was broken.

      Actually the damage to the main beams is fairly superficial.

      What appears to have happened is this: a St Ives-bound service approached the guide-in point too far to the left. Either the driver then took action, steering hard to the right - or the guidewheel did the same thing (the steel guideway is marked at this point). The bus would have then leaned over to the left whilst swerving to the right, presumably lifting the right front wheel off the road, whereby it shot over the guideway and started crossing over into the cambridge-bound track (the left wheels soon followed). Here it hit some of the tramsomes, damaging them, and various parts of the underside scraped against the kerbway.

      From the report of "looking like it might fall over" it was presumably a double decker, does anyone know for sure?

      I notice that when buses enter the guided section, drivers first touch against the right-hand guide-bar (which is aligned directly with the main guideway) and hardly touch the left hand angled guide-in until they get to the narrow bit proper. Ie you get a slight jolt to the left but NOT to the right.

      When I got to the front seat, I could tell that my bus driver (of a single-decker) was taking the lead-ins at about 25mph. However, he liked stepping on the gas and was doing 57mph wherever possible. He also didn't take any notice of the 30mph restriction coming into Histon (Cam-bound) which he took at 50mph.

      Presumably repairs will take place at night to avoid service disruption?

  5. Thanks, Stephen.

    I am planning to cycle along tomorrow (Saturday) and take some photos of the damage. It will also give me a chance to see how deep the flood is.

    The only photo of the accident so far is the one that appeared on the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-20415811. It doesn't look like a double decker to me, but see what you think. The photo isn't very clear.

  6. It was definitely a single decker bus, cause I thought that if it had been a double it would have toppled over.


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