THE guided busway almost hit its third year passenger number target – in its second year.
The busway quietly marked its second anniversary on August 7, though possibly it should have been open for four years as it was delivered more than two years late. It has achieved more than three million passenger journeys in 12 months, narrowly missing out on its third year operating target of 3.15m passengers.
During its first 12 months the busway carried 2,509,534 passengers, beating its target by more than half a million.
County Councillor Ian Bates, cabinet member for growth and planning, said the success of the second year had silenced the busway's critics.
He told The Hunts Post on Monday: "I will be using the guided busway later to get to a meeting in Shire Hall, so obviously it's working. The first two years have been a fantastic success. Lots of people from far and wide have visited it to see how it works and at the same time relieve traffic on the A14.
"We don't always appreciate the tangible and visible benefits of the busway. I think that the economic benefits are also underplayed as many people use the bus to get into Cambridge for shopping, but it also brings people from Cambridge to St Ives at the other end to visit on market days. The busway is adding to the prosperity of shops in the market town."
Cllr Bates added: "We need to recognise that we have got the first planning application for Northstowe, the first new town to be built which will have a public transport system built before the town."
Andy Campbell, managing director for Stagecoach East, said: "Obviously we are delighted with the number of people who are using the busway and we hope it will continue to grow, particularly when they start building houses at Northstowe and the new railway station in Chesterton.
"The key things are reliable journey times compared to people trying to predict what the traffic is like on the A14 as well as the quality of the vehicles. It's also down to the staff who have bought into the project and the customers are responding to the high level of service they deliver."
Peter Lee, Whippet director, added: "It's going as well as we expected, if anything a bit better. The only bad news is that Northstowe was not started when it was supposed to. It continues to be the major thorn in the side. The busway is going reasonably well but we are about two to three years behind where we should be due to Northstowe."
Cambridgeshire County Council is still seeking £61m it believes it is owed by BAM Nuttall, which delivered the 25km-long busway late and over budget. A three-month trial at the High Court is expected to take place early next year.
BAM Nuttall and its Dutch parent company and insurers Zurich have launched a counter claim.