Thursday 26 September 2013

Rail link more attractive than Luton to Dunstable guided busway

Norman Baker, the transport minister, is reported as having said that reopening the Luton to Dunstable railway would have been 'more attractive than the busway'. But that wasn't a choice he faced when asked for funding. Nevertheless, he thinks the busway will be good for the economy of Luton.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

More about Cambridgeshire County Council's dispute with BAM Nuttall

A long letter in this week's Hunts Post (25 September, page 7) explores why the County Council's contract with BAM Nuttall may have gone wrong. There letter explores the variety of ways in which such contracts may be organised depending on circumstances. The punch line of the letter is that someone (or persons) in the Council made a mistake that was to the detriment of the Council's finances, and that person should be held to account. Read the letter here.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Luton Dunstable Busway opening

The official opening of the Luton-Dunstable guided busway took place today. The opening was performed by Councillor Nigel Young and Secretary for Transport Norman Baker.

Public bus services start running on the busway tomorrow (25 September).

Read Luton Today article here.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Busway neglect

In this week's Hunts Post  (18 September, page 6) is a letter from a St Ives residence.

He suggest that the County Council is neglecting the busway, that the platforms at bus stops are overgrown with weeds, that several ticket machines are out of order, and that off-peak few people are using the buses.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

How has the guided busway affected traffic on the A14?

It seems that there is no agreement about what the recently published statistics for usage of the A14 mean and why they have declined.

West of Huntingdon, where the A14 doesn't parallel the busway, the decline has been greatest (5%). Maybe that is due to dualling of the A421 between bedford and the M1.

At Fen Drayton, traffic fell by 2.7%, or 2526 vehicles.But Councillor Mike Mason, thinks it's due to the decline in economic activity.

Read about this on the Cambridge News website here.

Friday 13 September 2013

New busway timetable booklet

Today I picked up a copy of the latest Cambridgeshire busway timetable dated to start from 9 September 2013. This is published by Cambridgeshire County Council.

There don't seem to be many alterations as compared with the previous timetable issued in December last year. But I suggest that you check out your regular journeys before travelling.

But beware - there are a few printing errors on pages 20 and 21 - the timetable for Whippet's routes C and D, plus Stagecoach's A journeys that start from Chatteris, Ramsey and Somersham. The 0731 C from Somersham and the 0802 C from Hill Rise are shown as calling at Histon Road/Akeman Street AND Milton Road/Union Lane They are then shown as not calling at Drummer Street and terminating at Regent Street rather than the Railway Station. The following four C journeys are shown as not serving that rail station and terminating at Addenbrooke's Outpatients.

A footnote on this page mentions that the 0720 from Somersham contiues to Long Road College. In fact, there is no bus leaving Somersham at 0720. This note actually refers to the 0725 from Somersham The Trundle and 0731 from Somersham Cross.

The correct times are given on the large sheet timetables at bus stops and  presumably also on the Whippet website here.

In the reverse direction the 1725 Whippet from Drummer Street is shown on page 24 as a C travelling via Histon Road. However, the Whippet website shows this service as a C via Milton Road.

Not sure I can even trust the timetable that appears here on the official busway website. It gets the 1725 C wrong.

There are a couple of other oddities with this timetable leaflet that I'd like to mention.

First, the map on pages 6-7 doesn't show the bus stop at Houghton Road, served by both A and B services, and shown on the maps that appear at bus stops. It's a potentially useful changing point for passengers from Ramsey Road to Huntingdon.

Second, on page 35 is a map showing the bus stops in St Ives.  Why isn't the bus stop at the start of Houghton Road just round the corner from the Seven Wives not shown? Buses on route B certainly stop there.

And lastly, the map on page 35 shows the Whippet C running along Chestnut Road. Several times I've seen the C turning off Ramsey Road along Houghton Road. Is this Whippet drivers doing unofficial variations from the route? Has any reader of this blog used that section of the C route?

On-bus information

I travelled in to Cambridge this morning on a Stagecoach A. This vehicle had a small electronic information screen mounted on the wall behind the driver giving the time, and details of what stop the bus was at or where it would be calling next. Its the first time I'd seen such a feature and I'm guessing that Stagecoach will be rolling this out to all their busway buses in due course. A very useful addition to Stagecoach's already good buses, and particularly helpful to passengers who are not familiar with the bus routes.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Parking charges at Cambridge Park and Ride sites

News that motorists are to be charged £1 to park in addition to their Park & Ride bus fares has been released. How this will affect Busway passengers remains to be seen. Busway route A serves Trumpington Park & Ride, but the slow detour of this bus route around the Addenbrooke's Hospital campus makes it a poor choice for people wanting to travel into Cambridge city centre. It seems that the County Council wishes to reduce the Park & Ride's  £1 million deficit, and they are hoping to raise money from people who park then cycle or walk.

Read Cambridge News article here.

Autumn fruits

The Busway is proving to be a great resource for blackberry pickers. See Cambridge News article which includes a photo of a bus passing a picker here.

There are also a few apples trees along the route (apple cores thrown out of passing trains  more than 40 years ago?) and even the odd plum tree.

Apple tree beside the busway near Oakington

BAM Nuttall dispute in Hunts Post

Two letters in this week's Hunts Post  (11 September, page 6) about the County Council's dispute with BAM Nuttall over the building of the busway.

One suggest that the County Council has misled the public over the matter, and the other talks about the overrun of costs falling as a burden on the taxpayer.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Luton-Dunstable busway opening date

The guided busway between Luton and Dunstable is due to open on 25th September. See article on BBC website here.

Like the Cambridgeshire busway, this has been built by NAM Nuttall and replaces a disused railway track that could have been reopened and connected to the national rail network. The project has run late and is over budget.

For information about the service that will run see this page.

The Luton Busway will be served initially by four bus routes provided by three bus companies. Arriva will run routes A (Houghton Regis to Luton Station Interchange, Luton Airport Parkway Station and London Luton Airport). Centrebus runs routes B (Downside Jardine Way to Luton Station Interchange) and E ( Toddington Green to Luton Galaxy Centre). Grant Palmer runs route C (Hillcroft Dunstable to Luton Station Interchange). Details here.

Each company has its own fare structure but the multi-operator Hip-Hop ticket ( £4.60 per day, £18.50 per week) which can be used on all Arriva and Centrebus services is being extended to cover the Grant Palmer busway service C.

Sunday 8 September 2013

BAM Nuttall's decision to settle out of court

Hugh Taylor has emailed me the following, which is about why BAM Nuttall decided to settle out of court with Cambridgeshire County Council:

Tantalisingly, the New Civil Engineer website posted a news story on 
Wednesday, with this beneath the headline:

"Bam Nuttall has explained its decision to settle in its dispute with 
Cambridgeshire County Council over costs to build its guided busway."

Given that Bam Nuttall has consistently refused to comment on the 
settlement, this was an intriguing prospect. Unfortunately, only NCE 
subscribers are permitted access to the details - and the story doesn't 
even turn up in the daily package fed to content aggregators such as 
Factiva or ABI/INFORM.

What does turn up in the package for 5 September, though, is a story 
about both the Cambridge and Luton busways. Much of the Cambridge 
section of this is a reworking of the County Council's press release, 
but there are a few points which are of interest, given that they come 
from an unbiased source, and one with a considerable reputation in the 
engineering world.

First, there's confirmation of the figures: "... Bam Nuttall last year 
issued a £43M counterclaim - so the settlement represents a £76M 
climbdown from the contractor's original position." This is the sum the 
County Council would have had to pay if it hadn't challenged the 
contractor's bill.

Then there's a clear explanation of just how little the "extra" work 
cost the Council: "It also means construction of the busway, which the 
council says was handed over two years late, cost the local authority 
£84.7M - just £800,000 more than the original price."

And finally this: "Bam Nuttall parent Royal Bam Group said the 
settlement had already been incorporated in its figures for the half 
year to 31 June 2013 and so would have no impact on profit forecast for 
the full year." I take this to mean that Bam Nuttall had anticipated 
this settlement some months ago - in other words, they had effectively 
given up the fight before the summer.

For anyone new to this saga, the NCE story provides a handy summary:

"The busway missed its original opening date in 2009, and the council 
charged Bam Nuttall a daily £14,000 fee for late delivery... After a 
number of attempts, the scheme was finally handed over in May 2011. Bam 
Nuttall then filed its counterclaim, citing mismanagement by the 
council's project manager Atkins as the cause of the delay. The council 
brought in Jackson Civil Engineering to complete additional work on the 
busway before it was finally commissioned in August 2011."

Saturday 7 September 2013

Article about busway in TransportXtra

There is a very informative and readable article about the Cambridgeshire busway in TransportXtra, issue 630, 5 September 2013. It can be viewed online here. The article provides an overview of the development of the busway, how it has performed  and its economic impact for the local area.

TransportXtra describes itself as 'the ultimate transport resource'. It features news, analysis and comment from the leading transport trade press.

(Thanks to Hugh Taylor for alerting me to this article)

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Busway and traffic levels on A14

An article has appeared in the Cambridge News suggesting that despite the heavy levels of passengers using the busway, traffic on the A14 hasn't declined. Read the article here.

Thanks to Hugh,  who is a regular reader of this blog, for identifying the relevant page on Cambridgeshire County Council's website that contains these figures here and  see the full Traffic Monitoring Report (published 14 May 2013) here.