Further delay for St Ives-Cambridge busway as company insists on festive break

REMEDIAL work on the heavily-delayed guided busway between St Ives and Cambridge will fall a further two weeks behind when workers take a fortnight break over Christmas and New Year. With no work taking place over the holiday that means it will not open u

REMEDIAL work on the heavily-delayed guided busway between St Ives and Cambridge will fall a further two weeks behind when workers take a fortnight break over Christmas and New Year.

With no work taking place over the holiday that means it will not open until 2010.

The whole guideway, including the even further-delayed southern section between Cambridge railway station and Addenbrooke's, should have been handed over to Cambridgeshire County Council in February this year with a view to services starting in April.

Although the guideway looks virtually complete, it is not yet of a standard that is acceptable to the county council.


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Nor will it be this side of Christmas, a spokesman said yesterday (Tuesday).

Having now missed three projected opening dates for the northern section along the route of the disused St Ives-Cambridge railway line - April, September and November - the council will not offer a fourth date as a further hostage to fortune.

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"We are still very much in the hands of the contractors, BAM Nuttall, who are planning to take a Christmas break, as is industry practice," a CCC spokesman said.

"We can't make them work without cost implications for us, although the financial damages still apply through the Christmas period as well.

"We will not commit to an opening date until we can sign off the route."

One of the first victims of the most recent delay was a bid to attract new employers, particularly retailers, to set up in Huntingdonshire.

A trip on the busway shortly before it opened for public service was to have been a key feature of a visit by scores of property agents, organised jointly by the county, Huntingdonshire District Council and business park developer Endurance Estates.

Neither HDC nor Endurance's managing director Tim Holmes has lost confidence that the busway, when it eventually opens, will be a big draw for Huntingdonshire.

They had hoped to rearrange the event for January, but plans are on hold until the county council gets a firm date for the handover.

The district council's economic development manager Helen Donnellan said yesterday: "I strongly believe the guided busway is going to be a fantastic opportunity for this district, and it could mean fewer people commuting out to work if we can get some start-up businesses into St Ives."

She said HDC's strategy to attract new employers was a longer-term one, particularly for retailers in Huntingdon West and an expanding St Neots, so the delay to the guided bus was not crucial.

"So long as we can get early discussions with the key retailers to tie in with the development plans, it will be fine," she said. "The guided busway is a carrot, and we think it's a key opportunity."

Mr Holmes added: "We think it will be a great boost to the property market in St Ives, with rents around half of those in Cambridge.

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