Time for guided bus critics to get real

NOTWITHSTANDING its proven and continuing commercial success, Tim Phillips and his entourage, known collectively as CAST.IRON, continue to snipe at the busway, which they still childishly call ‘The Gutterway’ (Letters, January 4).

I wonder if the many busway passengers are happy to be viewed as patrons of ‘The Gutter’.

The CAST.IRON Luddites maintain that a restored railway route would have yielded greater benefits than the busway, but are seemingly incapable of producing any solid evidence to support their argument.

Mr Phillips states that there are no through bus journeys from Huntingdon to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, but carefully omits to mention that two journey breaks, not one, would have been obligatory for this trip had the railway been reinstated between St Ives and Cambridge. This point is simply a red herring.

Historically, trains from St Ives never continued along the old Cambridge-Bedford-Oxford line that closed in 1967, and now forms the southern end of the busway, and there was no railway station in the Trumpington area anyway. The first stop was Lord’s Bridge, about four miles beyond Cambridge. The CAST.IRON criticism of the busway’s links to Addenbrooke’s is an absurd irrelevance.

Mr Phillips gives a further selective presentation of facts in his description of the Milton Road section of the bus route. The distance from the Science Park to central Cambridge via Milton Road, Victoria Avenue and Emmanuel Road is two miles, not three. This is not the first time that Mr Phillips has grossly exaggerated his anti-busway statistics – and the greater part of the inbound section of Milton Road towards the city centre, which does suffer peak hour congestion, is provided with a bus lane. Outbound traffic from Cambridge along Milton Road does not suffer peak congestion to the same degree.

When the St Ives to Cambridge railway was finally closed to passengers in 1970, it had been reduced to single track with a speed limit of some 55mph. The running time from end to end was about 30 minutes. Any restoration of this route would have undoubtedly inherited these basic features and, in common with similar routes elsewhere in East Anglia, the service would have been maintained with one diesel unit, probably a 25-year-old Class 156, on an hourly headway. Thus, anyone wishing to travel from Huntingdon to Cambridge using a restored railway facility would spend 30 minutes on a bus to St Ives, a further 30 minutes on an average wait for the hourly train, and yet 30 more minutes on the train itself, only to arrive at Cambridge station situated one mile to the south of the city.

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To reach the commercial centre or travel on to Addenbrooke’s, one would need 10 minutes for a reliable connection with another bus for the 10-minute journey to one’s destination, giving a total journey time of one hour 50 minutes and involving two changes of transport mode en route.

Careful planning might reduce the connecting time at St Ives to 10 minutes, but other circumstances might expand this wait to a full 60 minutes. Is Mr Phillips seriously suggesting that a journey taking upwards of one hour 30 minutes and requiring two changes of mode is remotely as efficient or appealing as a single trip of one hour five minutes on a modern bus running on a frequency of every 20 minutes (every 10 minutes from St Ives)? We are all entitled to our lost causes, but it is surely time for CAST.IRON to forsake its flat earth and rejoin the world of reality.


Hawthorn Way