MAY I reply, yet again, to Tim Phillips of CAST.IRON (The Hunts Post, January 18). Perhaps I, too, may take his points in turn.
1. The county council’s readiness to release figures [about the guided bus] is neither a denial nor an endorsement of commercial success. Certainly, a longer term assessment is needed for a substantive view but, contrary to the prognostications of its detractors, the level of busway passengers has proved exceptionally encouraging to almost all except CAST.IRON.
If Mr Phillips wishes to expand upon the subject of public transport costs to the taxpayer, then he might mention the current financial burden borne by the nation to finance the privatised railway system. According to a report commissioned by the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail Regulation, the current annual level of government rail subsidy is £4.6billion, 37 per cent of the total running cost.
2. Mr Phillips is falling back on his convictions rather than economic fact when he states that his railway scheme would have resulted in improved cost/benefits. A narrow financial evaluation of the commercial practicality of a scheme like the busway is properly called an investment appraisal, and it forms only a part of the very much wider full cost/benefit analysis.
3. Before the busway was constructed, the railway remained in a derelict state between Cambridge and Fen Drayton, beyond which the track had been lifted to St Ives. The St Ives to Huntingdon section was closed to passengers in 1959, and the entire track was removed. Whereas the reopening of the Cambridge-St Ives section was a feasible proposition, the complete re-engineering of the section on to Huntingdon, involving no fewer than six new crossings over the River Great Ouse, was another exceedingly expensive and highly improbable proposition entirely.
4. The busway meets the need for a link from Cambridge to Addenbrooke’s every bit as adequately as a train might have done.
5. My own measurement of the distance between the rail crossing on Milton Road and central Cambridge via the Emmanuel Road rising bollards is 2.2 miles.
6. I may live in Sawtry, but I am not fearful of falling off the edge of the world at Fenstanton. My knowledge of the peak period traffic conditions along Milton Road and other streets in Cambridge comes from driving frequently along these roads.
7. Mr Phillips should read my point again. I did not state that the 1970s rolling stock would be used – it no longer exists. However, if he cares to study the published timetables or, better still, travel on some of the comparable secondary lines in East Anglia, he will discover that the rolling stock on these lines consists of 25-year-old Class 153 or 156 diesel units.