CAMBS: Cycle ‘superhighway’ finally opens alongside guided busway

THE St Ives-Cambridgeshire guided busway is now complete – nearly three years late and six months after the main contractors left the site.

This week a second firm of contractors, brought in by Cambridgeshire County Council to correct what it says are defects in the work by BAM Nuttall, finished re-grading and asphalting the maintenance track between St Ives and Swavesey.

The work included lifting part of the track by as much as four feet to reduce the expectation of flooding from an average of six months of the year to the one month of seasonal flooding routinely experienced in the Fen Drayton Lakes area.

The track’s completion is welcome news for the district’s cyclists, who have been barred from that stretch of the maintenance track since September for safety reasons during the work.

It now means walkers, cyclists and horse-riders can travel the full 16 mile length of the longest guideway in the world – a combination of the northern section between St Ives and Cambridge Science Park and the southern part between Cambridge railway station and Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the Trumpington park-and-ride site.

But the opening of the guideway itself in early August has brought its own problems, with traffic jams along Harrison Way, the St Ives town bypass, caused by a combination of buses, pedestrians and cyclists crossing the road.

Road users complain that the time allowed for pedestrians to cross is far longer than they need and that they are allowed to trigger the lights at the Station Road junction so often that long tailbacks build up at peak times.

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Cambridgeshire County Council has promised to keep the performance of the lights under review, but a spokesman pointed out that they were set in such a way that pedestrians had to wait for up to 90 seconds when traffic was heavy, compared with the 30-50seconds that is normal for light-controlled pedestrian crossings in towns and cities.

“What people might be seeing is that, when the guided bus goes through, it will automatically bring on a pedestrian phase if it detects pedestrians. That actually reduces delay overall,” he added. “There are given plenty of time to cross,” he conceded.

Otherwise, the final stage of the �180million busway work – it was originally supposed to have cost �116m, to have been handed over in February 2009 and opened in April that year – has been given the thumbs-up.

County Council cabinet member Ian Bates said: “This is a superhighway for cyclists, horse-riders and walkers that stretches from St Ives to Cambridge. We have been very pleased with the number of people using it for work and leisure and hope more people will be encouraged to try it out now the new smoother surface has been laid along its whole length.”

Nigel Brigham, regional director of Sustrans, the cycle charity that funded the blacktop, added that he was “delighted to see the completion of the final section of path, which enables National Cycle Network Route 51 to be diverted onto the route from Milton Road, Cambridge to St Ives, providing a really excellent choice for local and long distance journeys on foot, bike or horse-back”.

And Peter Quest, the Cyclists’ Touring Club representative for Huntingdonshire, went further: “It is the best cycleway I have personally seen in this country, and is a tremendous asset to the area for cycling to work, recreation and in encouraging tourism. With more facilities like this many more people would cycle in Cambridgeshire.”