Postbag: Common sense is the real test

IT IS now over two months since the Government announced its decision to approve the Cambridgeshire Guided Bus (CGB) scheme. I congratulate Cambridgeshire County Council on their victory in the face of overwhelming - and continuing - public opposition. P

IT IS now over two months since the Government announced its decision to approve the Cambridgeshire Guided Bus (CGB) scheme. I congratulate Cambridgeshire County Council on their victory in the face of overwhelming - and continuing - public opposition.

Perhaps if there had been an obligation upon the council to share its £3.2million public inquiry budget equally with the 2,500-plus objectors, the playing field might have been a bit more even.

Unfortunately, even the lowliest individual objector, appearing during the working day at his or her own expense, was treated like a criminal defendant by London barrister Mr Robin Purchas QC and his highly-paid team. All in all, a fine example of local democracy at work.

Inspector Dr Gossop's recommendation was unequivocal, dismissing the numerous individual criticisms in favour of the scheme as a whole. The council's claim of his "overwhelming" support is wholly justified but, as one prominent local objector told me: "I have read the report and I agree with the conclusions based on the evidence as presented by the Inspector. It's just that he appears to have been at a different inquiry from the one I attended."

The scheme's promoters should tread carefully, for it remains deeply unpopular and desperately short of finance - not a favourable combination for elected local politicians. The similar 'Fastway' scheme under construction in Crawley is already £6 million over budget and attracts letters of derision in the local press on a weekly basis. It is commonly referred to as "Farceway" and at least four leading council members are coming under pressure to resign.

Apparently the popular acronym for the Cambridge scheme is "MGB", for Mis-Guided Bus. Councillors would do well to remember that many of the people who elect them have been around a long time and have watched all sorts of bright ideas fail the test of common sense. It would be a hollow victory indeed if the MGB turned out to be over-expensive and under-used.

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TIM PHILLIPS, Chairman, CAST.IRON

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