A DATE for the delayed start of guided bus services between St Ives and Cambridge is expected to be set in the next few weeks. The guideway itself, on the route of the disused St Ives-Chesterton railway line, is virtually complete, with the final beam lai

A DATE for the delayed start of guided bus services between St Ives and Cambridge is expected to be set in the next few weeks.

The guideway itself, on the route of the disused St Ives-Chesterton railway line, is virtually complete, with the final beam laid on Monday (June 15) close to the St Ives park-and-ride site.

Cambridgeshire County Council's contractors on the £116.2million project, BAM Nuttall, must now finish the entry and exit to the 25-km guideway, lay the road to the 500-space car park and install bus stops and ticket machines.

The project had been scheduled for opening in late April, but was delayed until "late summer" after the wet, cold winter delayed the laying of sections of the concrete guideway through the alternately frozen and waterlogged Fen Drayton Lakes area.

Terminal buildings at St Ives and a second park-and-ride site at Longstanton will be built later, following a dispute between council and contractor over which is responsible for funding cost overruns believed by The Hunts Post to total around £30million.

Opening, when it comes, will mean the operators, Stagecoach and Whippet, will actually be able to use their fleets of, respectively, 20 and three guided buses for the purposes for which they were intended.

Stagecoach's fleet is currently providing the 45, 55 and 15 services between Huntingdon, St Ives and Cambridge on the conventional road network. The high-specification air-conditioned, leather-seated single- and double-deckers have been proving popular with users since their introduction last month.

When the project is fully open, including the even-further delayed section between Cambridge railway station and Addenbrooke's, the single-deckers will serve the hospital and the double-deckers will travel only as far as the city.

County council cabinet member Councillor Roy Pegram, left, recently re-elected to represent St Ives, is pictured sharing a celebratory libation with Bob Menzies, the council's project director.

Cllr Pegram said: "The busway is going to offer people one of the best bus services in the country. Residents who have already tested out a section of the track have told us they are amazed by how smooth and speedy the journey is on it. These are the people who are going to be using the service and I am pleased they have given it the thumbs up even before it has opened.