JOURNEY times on guided bus services have been extended by five minutes – even though punctuality was better than the A14 Huntingdon-Cambridge services they replaced.

Services on the guideway have proved so popular that punctuality has suffered, even though operators Stagecoach and Whippet have put on extra buses where they could.

Even though August is traditionally one of the quietest times for public transport, in the first month of operation, from August 7, passengers made 224,054 trips on world's longest guideway, which links St Ives and Cambridge Science Park in the north and Cambridge railway station with Addenbrooke's Hospital and Trumpington in the south.

The operators added extra buses to cope with the return of school and college pupils last week, and extended scheduled journey times to improve timekeeping.

Stagecoach managing director Andy Campbell admitted that early services were not as punctual as he would have wished, largely as a result of the volume of passengers and their lack of familiarity with the new ticketing arrangements.

“I'm not saying it was bad, but it wasn't as good as we wanted,” he told The Hunts Post. “We amended the timetable to improve the reliability of the service, including an extra five minutes' recovery time at Huntingdon and St Ives bus stations.

“Early indications are that it has worked, even though we are carrying twice as many people as we were [before the guideway opened].”

It means Huntingdon-Cambridge journeys are now scheduled to take five minutes longer than the previous 55 service by way of the A14. “But peak journey times are now shorter than they used to be,” Mr Campbell insisted.

In the morning peak, Huntingdon-Cambridge B services are timetabled at an hour and six minutes. In the reverse direction the journey is 10 minutes shorter.

The change has improved punctuality from 78 per cent before the changes to 94 per cent now, Mr Campbell said yesterday (Tuesday).

The guideway has been good news not just for passengers and the bus operators but also for traders in St Ives, who have seen an influx of visitors from Cambridge.

And at the town's Norris Museum footfall has doubled since the arrival of the guided bus service, said a delighted curator, Hunts Post columnist Bob Burn-Murdoch.