Guided buses ‘delaying Olympic deliveries’

THE recently opened guided bus link between St Ives and Cambridge has proved unexpectedly popular with passengers – but it is delaying deliveries of construction materials to the 2012 Olympic Games site in east London.

Marshalls, in Meadow Lane, St Ives, has orders worth �3million this year to supply stone paving for the coach park, as construction work draws to an end.

But the 30 HGV loads that travel from St Ives to Stratford each day are being held up by busway traffic, according to unit manager Chris Annis.

The problem is caused by the new traffic lights on Harrison Way that allow the buses to move between St Ives bus station and the park-and-ride site off Meadow Lane.

Each time the lights turn red, traffic starts to back up, causing virtual gridlock – something that happens more frequently now that the popularity of the bus service has led to increased services.

Mr Annis said Cambridgeshire County Council, the highway authority, had refused his request to prioritise traffic on Harrison Way, the town’s bypass, to discourage the rat-running that was adding to the problem.

“We have to queue for ages because of the buses crossing, and it’s adding 15 minutes to each of the journeys my drivers are making,” he told The Hunts Post.

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“And traffic going out of St Ives is held up by people using the town centre as a rat-run. From 7.30am until 9.15am every morning it’s just gridlocked.

“And if you throw in the odd accident or anything happens to the A14 – which it often does – it just escalates.”

The problem started on the Monday morning after the busway opened on August 7, Mr Annis said, when his usual 20-minute journey to work from his home in Chatteris became a 35-40-minute crawl.

“Now it’s taking 15-20 minutes from the Manchester Arms to get through the bypass to Vindis.

“I’ve started pushing out drivers earlier to miss it, but they are getting caught on their return journeys.”

Mr Annis is also concerned about parking in Meadow Lane effectively reducing the road to single file.

The company employs 170 people in St Ives, including the drivers of his fleet of 23 articulated lorries delivering paving materials across eastern England and as far west as Oxford.

“We have to live with the guided bus, but my issue is with the traffic management. If you prioritised traffic on Harrison Way, it would be quicker. That might mean lights on the roundabout at Meadow Lane, but the council has said no.

“The park-and-ride is being well used, so there’s more of a question of trying to get out of Meadow Lane at night: they have to force themselves out.

“There’s going to be a major accident,” he predicted.

Bob Menzies, the county council’s head of delivery for the guided bus project, said the traffic signals at Harrison Way were operating as expected, and he did not believe they were causing unnecessary delays.

A council spokesman added that the authority had no record of Marshalls’ having raised the issue of traffic management, though parking in Meadow Lane had been mentioned. If the company or anyone else made representations on traffic management, they would be considered.