Author Topic: Happy 5th Birthday!  (Read 2164 times)

Offline barryb

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Happy 5th Birthday!
« on: August 07, 2016, 03:36:04 PM »
To the guided busway!

Thoughts?

Despite not yet growing up at the expected rate it seems to have been very popular in one of the ways that counts, passengers like it.   Even though not particularly advanced for its age (other Busways might have been expected to have developed new towns and new railway stations before starting school), it seems that everyone likes this popular child's company!

However it still seems like a missed opportunity.  The southern stretch is still barely used and does not serve the main p&r journeys, or any out of town links to the south.  The Sunday and evening services mean it doesn't offer a credible alternative to car ownership.

But the future brings thousand of jobs  and residents to the south of Cambridge, and to the north a new railway station and business area, then a new town too.  The closer future brings more city services that start to realise just a touch of the potential of the southern stretch.

The future is bright?  As long as it doesn't crumble to dust?

Offline Julia_Hayward

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Re: Happy 5th Birthday!
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2016, 05:34:54 PM »
Nothing's happened to make me change my mind - it should have been a rail link. The guideways funnel vehicles *into* three of the most heavily congested roads (Histon Road, Milton Road, Hills Road) rather than taking them away, such that the New Square - Science Park journey, 1 stop, often takes 30 minutes in the morning peak, and when I want a 5pm train from my office on the Business Park I dare not leave my desk later than 3.55. It also doesn't have priority over crossing traffic which adds more delay into the system when the road into CRC is busy.

And yet whoever thought it up also thought it special enough that it shouldn't share bus stops with ordinary routes or the X5 in the centre, making connections lousy. :(

Offline Elsworth Fox

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Re: Happy 5th Birthday!
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2016, 12:31:48 PM »
i find it sad that there are some who still persist with the idea that somehow a rail link between St. Ives and Cambridge would have provided a better service than that by the Busway.  The problem with a rail service was always that it basically ran from somewhere near St. Ives to nowhere where most want to travel in Cambridge. Yes, it would serve the Science Park/Regional College complex and the rail station but not many other of the employment centres nor the main shopping area. 

What level of service would the train have offered?  That would have depended on the cost of leasing the vehicles.  I was astonished at the costs of leasing even the cheapest most downmarket rail vehicles, namely the Pacers.  I seem to remember that Cast-Iron was proposing to use heritage DMUs and/or type 31s.  How reliable would they have been?  Surely the best that could have been hoped for would have been an hourly service, possibly with an extra at peak times.

I think many have forgotten the level of bus service between St. Ives and Cambridge 25 years ago.  When I started commuting between the two, only a devoted public transport person or non-car user would have considered travelling on what was an irregular service.  Even the coming of the United Counties service did not provide a significant improvement.  It was when Huntingdon  & District started providing its regular service that bus commuting became a real alternative to the car.  The evening and Sunday service was not even at 'clock face' intervals and supported by the County Council.  Would that have survived in the current era of local authority cuts?

Of course the entry roads into Cambridge are less than perfect but it those roads that rail passengers would have to use to link in with a rail service.  The development of the Busway was predicated on the development of the new town at Northstowe which has been significantly delayed by the private developers.  The rail service would not provide a convenient for much of that development.

There continues to be significant pressure on housing in and around St. Ives.  There is a proposal to build 4,500 houses on the RAF Wyton site.  A link into the Busway with regular through services would be provided, offering a direct service.  It seems unlikely that a link into a less regular rail service would prove attractive.  If that development does not go ahead then the pressure could result in small scale developments on the outskirts of the town and surrounding villages.  These cannot be well served by public transport, consequently bring more cars onto crowded roads.

Offline Palatine One

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Re: Happy 5th Birthday!
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2016, 06:24:20 PM »
To be fair, a good chunk of the issues surrounding timekeeping seem to be Stagecoach's unrealistic timetables especially as far as the morning and even peaks are concerned.

Quite why the council couldn't do some joined up thinking and build bus lanes that feed into the busway along places like Milton Road is beyond me!

Offline TCD813

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Re: Happy 5th Birthday!
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2016, 06:57:20 PM »
To be fair, a good chunk of the issues surrounding timekeeping seem to be Stagecoach's unrealistic timetables especially as far as the morning and even peaks are concerned.

Quite why the council couldn't do some joined up thinking and build bus lanes that feed into the busway along places like Milton Road is beyond me!

Huge improvements to bus priority along Milton Road and Histon Road are planned as part of the Cambridge City Deal, Adam.

There are two main problems: inadequate local authority budgets for transport infrastructure (hence the wait for the first tranche of City Deal money) and local opposition to loss of front gardens and/or grass verges and/or trees.
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Offline Elsworth Fox

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Re: Happy 5th Birthday!
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2016, 09:20:06 PM »

There are two main problems: inadequate local authority budgets for transport infrastructure (hence the wait for the first tranche of City Deal money) and local opposition to loss of front gardens and/or grass verges and/or trees.

Trees along Milton Road have always been a problem.  I recall more than 15 years ago when the County Council proposed to replace trees to allow a bus lane, locals threatened to chain themselves to the trees to stop it.  This despite a tree specialist taking one look at them and saying they were diseased and needed to replaced anyway.

Offline Steves

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Re: Happy 5th Birthday!
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2016, 10:59:53 PM »
Huge improvements to bus priority along Milton Road and Histon Road are planned as part of the Cambridge City Deal, Adam.

There are two main problems: inadequate local authority budgets for transport infrastructure (hence the wait for the first tranche of City Deal money) and local opposition to loss of front gardens and/or grass verges and/or trees.

Or any alternative routes such a route across Stourbridge Common or Ditton Meadows parallel to the railway to join Newmarket Road and bus only lanes as far as Four Lamps roundabout. 

Steve

Offline barryb

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Re: Happy 5th Birthday!
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2016, 01:02:47 AM »
I originally supported a railway line too, and I still support what I believe a railway line can and should be. 

My dream for the line would have been a Karlsruhe style light rail link with connections to both Huntingdon and Cambridge City centre (maybe something like a loop around Parker's Piece) and a high frequency service.  I don't see why either isn't possible; in particular the argument about narrow streets doesn't wash with me because as long as you don't want to put trams along Bridge Street or Trinity Sreet then on the continent trams pass through many streets that are just as narrow as ours.

However our inability to make the most of something as flexible and easy to make the most of as a guided busway makes me worry that the comparatively difficult long lead time and expensive capital requirements for making the most of a railway would be too much.  In particular, we can't even build bus lanes, and look how long just one Cambridge North station is taking to arrive (yesterday Facebook reminded me that a year ago I posted a photo of the completed fenced off access road with the comment that it was a shame it was 16 months until the station would open.  12 months later we are 6 months closer to opening.)  We're also making a horrific dogs dinner of the Sheffield Tram-Train trial.

The list of failings we've managed to make of a busway is long:

Routes
- We don't make effective use of the southern stretch (partly because it can't take double deckers and is therefore fatally flawed)
- Using different stops means passengers are more likely to wait at stops with services with greater frequencies
- No thought to on-road priority
- No thought to service provision for residents of new areas of Cambridge or Long Rd area
- Stops sited in wrong place (Orchard Park East cut off from 50% of services plus links to Science Park and new Railway Station), Foster Road situated to favour unlikely journeys to P&R site (not a realistic destination) or hospital (within realistic walking distance with a likely journey time less than the average waiting time between buses) but not most likely destinations of station or centre)
- Half the St Ives services don't use a stop particularly close to the city centre.

Timetables
- Stagecoach has persisted with unachievable timetables for over 5 years.  The only concession to a service that always arrives at my stop 15 mins late and then loses more time on the way into Cambridge was to add 2 mins into the supposed journey time.
- Failure to provide sensible evening and Sunday services means the guideway doesn't offer a realistic alternative to car ownership
- The timetables don't reflect likely potential uses of the services such as commuting by rail or commuting to work at the hospital (and originally didn't even allow for potential use by hospital visitors)

Ticketing
- The ticket machines are not user friendly, and simple wins like not defaulting to stops not served from a location have never been fixed
- We almost gave up on on-street ticketing on the guideway, and we've never tried to introduce it off the guideway, not even at major bus stations
- Both attempts at implementing smartcard ticketing (the council version and then Stagecoach's own) are poor
- Charging for parking was just mental

But what would that list look like if we'd built a railway (assuming it was a government / NR version of the scheme and not the slightly bemusing Cast Iron version)?   I'm imagining something like:

- We'd have built a line from St Ives P&R to Cambridge.  It wouldn't serve Huntingdon and we'd bodge the buslinks at either end of the line and ensure there was no practical through ticketing.  Congestion on the road to Huntingdon would ensure that connections weren't viable
- Fares to St Ives would be about 33% higher
- We'd have put intermediate stations at Longstanton, Oakington, Histon, and somewhere in the north of Cambridge (maybe around Milton Road).  It wouldn't serve other areas and we'd miss the potential to serve wider catchments along the route.
- We'd have made it single track with a passing place somewhere, restricting viable service patterns and putting reliability at risk.
- We'd have made it diesel, restricting practical options for through services to further afield.
- Congestion at Cambridge station would mean it would have operated no more than half hourly (but hourly is entirely possible; look at Newmarket!).
- We'd have vastly underestimated interest in the line, and would probably open it with something like two carriage 170s that would have been horrifically overcrowded.  There would be a scandal, and they'd try and produce one extra carriage (maybe), while make vague promises of future improvements at unspecified times.  In reality they'd jack up the price of parking until the problem (ie passengers) went away.

I think my ultimate measure of the merits of the two would be this:

If a guided busway (with similar flaws) were to be built to Ely or Newmarket, would a lot of people use it?  I think a lot of people would.  Some would still go by train for the faster journey time (particularly people going to the schools near the station!), and also those for whom the faster journey time wouldn't be set against other benefits like no need to change mode of transport.  But the trains are surely so awful that a lot of people could be tempted away from them?
« Last Edit: August 15, 2016, 10:26:54 PM by barryb »

Offline Steves

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Re: Happy 5th Birthday!
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2016, 10:15:18 PM »
Really interesting and balanced post from barryb.


The train service from Ely is pretty good (although not if it keeps falling over as on Friday).  There are a minimum of three trains an hour over the whole day and a reasonable Sunday service but:

It is crowded in the peaks - maybe it doesn't matter for a 15 minute journey - but more of a problem is that Ely station is so far from the new developments which will bring in about 10,000 people (3500 houses).  Taken with the distance of the Cambridge stations from a lot of Cambridge employment - city centre and developing west Cambridge in particular, a significant number of people are going to have horrible journeys to work by public transport or by car.  There ought to be a market there for a bus way which could be partial with bus priority at pinch points and then using a route through "Waterbeach New Town" which will have about 25,000 residents - bigger than Ely is now.

I don't know Newmarket as well.  The train service is worse but the station is more central.  Cambridge station is still a problem. 

Steve
« Last Edit: August 14, 2016, 10:25:50 PM by Steves »