Cambridgeshire Guided Busway in trouble again

Tuesday 25th January 2022

A one and a third mile section of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway will close next Monday due to safety concerns. It follows two fatal accidents, one in September 2018 and another in October last year.

Following October’s incident an independent safety review was established and after consultations with the Health & Safety Executive the County Council has decided to close the relevant section of busway pending the report’s outcome which is expected by the end of next month. This does beg the question why close the busway now rather than wait for the report to be published in a few weeks, or if risks and dangers are perceived to be so great, why wasn’t it closed immediately after that second accident. Even more concerning is if the report recommends extensive remedial actions which take time to implement, the busway could potentially be closed for some considerable time causing inconvenience to thousands of passengers.

The closure was due to start yesterday but Stagecoach’s service update page on its website advises “due to delays in changes to infrastructure, the busway track closure will be postponed to Monday 31st January”. It makes you wonder why the risks are acceptable this week, whereas next week they’re not and bus passengers are set for an uncertain few weeks, if not months.

I’m not sure what the “changes to infrastructure” are (presumably temporary closure signs and barriers) but the busway section concerned is the northbound ‘track’ between Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Cambridge railway station. Southbound buses will continue as normal but northbound buses will divert on to the busy Hills Road to the east of the busway adding to journey times for passengers from Trumpington Park & Ride and Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Stagecoach’s map with my annotation

Stagecoach had planned to introduce a raft of reductions to service frequencies in both Cambridge and Bedford from Sunday just gone “in response to the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on staffing and passenger levels and to ensure we can continue to give customers a reliable service while the pandemic continues to affect employees and businesses across the region”. This included a reduction in frequency on the busway with revised schedules to allow for increased journey times on route A as a consequence of the busway closure. Although the closure has been postponed Stagecoach explain the “frequency changes on the A and B services will continue to be introduced from Sunday 23rd January”.

The reduced timetable provides for a 15 minute frequency on the busway (rather than every 10 minutes) with extra peak hour journeys on the northern main section between St Ives and Cambridge. On Saturdays the section between Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s and Trumpington is reduced to just half hourly, which isn’t particularly attractive for Park & Ride users. Whippet also operate on the about-to-close section of busway with a fifteen minute frequency on route U (for Universal) between the Biomedical Campus at Addenbrooke’s to the railway station before continuing to the Madingley Road Park & Ride site and Eddington. Whippet haven’t announced whether their frequency will reduce when the busway closes.

Whippet’s map with my annotation

The two fatal accidents which have led to this closure were tragic. The circumstances surrounding the death of pedestrian Kathleen Pitts in October are not clear but in September 2018 cyclist Steve Moir steered to avoid pedestrians and as he did so clipped the kerb between the cycleway-come-footpath and the adjacent busway and sadly fell off his cycle into the path of a passing bus.

As reported at the inquest in May 2019, police attach no blame to the bus driver who did all he could to immediately stop the bus when he saw what was happening.

The speed limit on this section of busway was cut from 50mph down to 30mph in 2019 as a result of that fatality and was again reduced to 15mph in November last year as an immediate reaction to the latest fatality.

I took a ride out to see the situation for myself on Saturday with northbound buses still operating on the busway and had planned to take another look yesterday at the newly introduced temporary arrangements to see the impact of the closure, but this will have to now wait until next week, but I thought I’d provide you with ‘the story so far’ with part 2 following next week.

Heading south with the northbound busway track immediately adjacent to the footpath

As I walked south from the station alongside the northbound ‘track’ of the busway on Saturday’s bright sunny morning it was immediately clear how well used the footpath/cycleway is. I was constantly being passed by joggers and cyclists and passing others heading towards me all enjoying the January sunshine.

There are no markings on the footpath as it’s not really wide enough to designate separate sections and allow room for both northbound and southbound cyclists and pedestrians walking in groups so at times when multiple groups – either or both walkers and cyclists in both directions – cross each other it can be a bit of a melee.

It doesn’t take much imagination to play out those awful moments in your mind when poor Steve clipped the kerb as buses pass the scene.

The County Council have done the right thing to contract an independent review by a professional safety expert and I wouldn’t want to second guess the findings not least because I’m not qualified to do so, but I hope it will take practicalities into account as it seems to me the circumstances could play out in other locations too, albeit this particular stretch is probably the most popular for walkers and cyclists and the footpath at its narrowest.

Someone retweeted my tweet from Saturday making the observation there are other places – they quoted the A10 – where the potential dangers are even greater.

Someone else tweeted the point that other sections of the main busway north of Cambridge has even narrower footpaths.

The same infrastructure on the section of closed busway also applies south of where the accidents happened and where the speed limit has been retained at 40mph.

I wonder if the independent review recommends significant infrastructure changes whether they will be affordable.

If, for example, it was suggested a higher ‘crash style’ barrier is called for, it could prove challenging both financially and practically to install it over such a long distance and might also prove a hindrance in the event of a bus breakdown or incident where passengers needed evacuating on to the footpath.

The family of Steve Noir have suggested installing white lines to make the danger clear and delineate space for cyclists separately from pedestrians. This would be the ideal but as already said I’m doubtful there’s room. The only markings I saw on Saturday were “BEWARE OF BUSES” every few hundred yards which are not really serving any purpose as I’m sure everyone knows buses use the busway.

One radical suggestion would be to ban either pedestrians or cyclists from using this stretch to avoid the conflict that certainly led to Steve’s death if not Kathleen’s. I should add I’ve got my tin hat on as I write this as I know how emotive such a proposal will be either with pedestrians or cyclists. But there are precedents with motorways for example where both are banned. I’m just keen the outcome isn’t a prolonged closure for buses with the consequential impact on passengers who are never as articulate as pedestrians and cyclists at making their voices heard among decision makers, while bus operators who speak up are accused of having ‘vested interests’.

I’ll report back next week on how the temporary (I hope it’s ‘temporary’) closure is impacting bus routes and passengers but I’ll end these thoughts by affirming it really is a lovely walk along the footpath, and I can see how attractive it would be to cycle along there too. Perhaps the answer then is to accept the level of risk and two fatal accidents, albeit very tragic, in over ten years of operation is on a par with the safety record of many other roads in the UK.

Southern’s missing trains mystery update

As promised in Saturday’s blog here’s an update from Tina at Southern’s Customer Relations (aka Capita based in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, North West Leicestershire) answering my query of how running trains from Sussex to London Bridge rather than Victoria at huge inconvenience to thousands of commuters and leisure travellers is saving staff resources. Readers will recall Tina’s previous reply was worthy of a Cabinet Minister’s reference to the “fastest vaccine rollout” when challenged by journalists about evidence of Government corruption and the Prime Minister lying to Parliament and taking the country for fools. Well, Tina’s surpassed herself with this latest response received yesterday. On the positive side there’s an admission she’s “unable to provide information” but the ensuing 245 words are a classic of the customer service genre of saying nothing in reply to a question/complaint. But, just like the PM, Southern is “truly sorry”.

We’re making sure journey planners including nationalrail.co.uk are updated so the timetable we plan to operate on a week-by-week basis is reflected. These will only be updated until a certain date so as mentioned previously, you will find all the latest information on our webpage. All customer comments are passed to the relevant planning team and if there’s any way we can improve the service on your route without compromising the timetable already in place, we’ll be sure to do so.    

We know the current situation is very difficult for all our passengers and I can assure you our top priority remains providing a safe and reliable service through this challenging time.

Thank you again for taking the time to get in touch. 
 Kind regards Tina Customer Relations Advisor 

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

Next blog, Thursday 27th January 2022: B is for Bracknell.

40 thoughts on “Cambridgeshire Guided Busway in trouble again

Add yours

  1. (Re the Bus-way) would a railway (in the UK) with trains passing at 50mph, be built with a pathway so close, but without a barrier? Certainly cyclists and pedestrians don’t mix well; many cities in mainland Europe know this and lay out their streets accordingly. Where there just isn’t space for both, it must be up to the local people/council to decide, I suppose; maybe cyclists just have to accept walking their bikes for a short distance – it’s no slower than being a pedestrian.

    Re a voice for bus passengers: is this where Transport Focus could and should be getting more actively involved? – or Bus Users UK? Railfuture, and its predecessor the Railway Development Association were very effective at growing a network of Rail User Groups, many of which actively promote bus/rail integration at their local level. I can’t find any mention on the Web of any user group for the Busway – maybe it’s time to start one…

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  2. Asking a cyclist to walk with their bike for a short distance?? Regrettably, that just wouldn’t happen . . . in my experience cyclists are among the most arrogant of road users, and have little regard for their own personal safety, let alone those of others.

    Perhaps single line working for the 1/2 mile affected, coupled with an extra barrier?? With service frequencies reduced at present, that ought not to impact too much, and at least it’ll avoid Hills Road.

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  3. The whole design is in my view inherently unsafe. The same applies to trams. One of the reasons trams went was safety issues. Mixing trams with pedestrians and other vehicles has to be unsafe

    With the guided bus way it needs to be properly fenced off, It does not need to be a safety barrier bus just a low fence. The current barrier is just a safety hazard

    Access to the stops appears to be another safety issue that has not been addressed. In one of the picture you have to cross the guided busway to get to the stop with a sign showing a 40mph limited and no proper facilities for pedestrian to cross

    The busway need a total review of safety

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cambridgeshire County Council has a blind spot when it comes to cyclists and pedestrians due to then only having a couple of officers responsible for Public Transport, while they have a whole army dealing with cyclists.

    Which explains why nothing meaningful has been done to deal with how walkers and bike users interact with each other as its easier to railroad (pun not intended) buses into doing “something”

    Re Hills Road, due to the road being narrowed to install cycle lanes, the Busway will now get held up due to other buses using the floating bus stops, causing jams. On a side note there is no insentive to use Babraham P&R for journeys to city as you end up getting held up in the very traffic you should be avoiding.

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  5. Another issue is bikes and pedestrians do not mix. Well unless cyclists bride sensibly but that’s rarely the case
    It really needs to segregate cyclist and pedestrians but i probably not wide enough to do that

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  6. Perhaps previously, Tina used to work in the Downing St Press office?
    By the way, just to be pedantic, Ashby-de-la-Zouch is in North West Leicestershire.

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  7. London bus crash

    A NUMBER of people have been injured after a bus crashed into a shop in north-east London.

    A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at 8.19am this morning (25 January) to reports of an incident involving a bus on The Broadway, Highams Park.

    We sent a number of resources to the scene including ambulance crews, advanced paramedics, paramedics in fast response cars, incident response officers and members of our Hazardous Area Response Team (HART).

    “We also dispatched a trauma team from London’s Air Ambulance.

    “The incident is ongoing and we are working with our emergency service colleagues.

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  8. If there is a cycle path on the alternative route, surely the answer is to ban cyclists on the busway.

    The response from Tina is a text-book response of saying a lot but telling nothing. Plus bonus points for referring to their Covid policy. Along similar lines, locally the Post Office refused to re-open a pillar box after completion of roadworks by blaming Covid. Eh? Covid seems to be quite a convenient scapegoat for so many things.

    PS Can I also echo a previous commentators about using the reply option on an android phone – the text is white on a pale yellow background which makes it impossible to see and use. Can you change the palate at all?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for reminding me about the pale background problem for replies on a smartphone. I’ve managed to find the ‘customiser’ and changed the colour to a rather nice EMR purple which I believe will work better with the default white colour for type that comes up on smartphones.

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  9. Knowing the mindset in Cambridge, we may find the Busway being converted to a “Cycleway” if some had their way. And whilst there are narrower footpath sections in the Histon and Impington areas, these don’t have 5% of the pedestrian footfall as in the City.

    The danger here is that the normal over-reaction by the Health and Safety brigade, and yes, deaths are tragic in any circumstances, will eventually impact permanently on bus passengers, thus negating the fantastic benefit this Busway has become. It was built for buses and if anything has to close for whatever reason, it should be cyclists and/or pedestrians “re-routed”.

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  10. So if the highway code ways there should be 1.5M between cycles and other vehicles surely the busway is i breach of that and surely there should be a minim distance of 1,5M between pedestrians and cyclist and buses on the busway

    The added problem is most cyclists seem to be irresponsible and think they are on the tour de France and under no circumstances should they slow down or stop

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  11. I endorse the comments about the irresponsibility of many cyclists. I regularly use canal tow paths where cyclists go much too fast for the conditions. They do not warn when approaching from behind and on several occasions a collision has only just been avoided. If a cyclist has to swerve and ends up in the canal, no doubt they will blame the pedestrians.

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  12. It looks like it’s a bridleway on the OS map so legally you could ride a horse on it! Illegally probably a lot of motorbike, quad bike,etc use on it since these machines are legally sold despite the government knowing that they will be used to tear up the countryside the very same government that won’t let you own a pit bull terrier or flick knife!But Sir Boris just seems to want to make it even worse by adding escooters to the endless attack on non motorists.

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  13. I don’t think major safety barriers are required in this case. It’s no more dangerous than walking or cycling on a shared pavement next to a busy road. Many tramways in Europe operate in similar environments.

    I hope we don’t have a massive over reaction as in Swansea where the segregated bus lanes for the “ftr metro” BRT were removed after a couple of pedestrians got knocked down. “Ftr metro” is now just a bus.

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  14. The answer here seems quite obvious. In the description of what happened, it clearly was the cyclist’s fault. So temporarily ban cycles. It is stated it was not the bus driver’s fault, so why temporarily ban buses? It makes no sense to me. Until the busway was built, I don’t believe this cycle lane / footpath existed, so you are not taking away any historic right to use it. Someone says trams are unsafe, yet offers no evidence to prove it. I cannot see how a tram can be thought to be more dangerous than heavy lorries, any buses, all other traffic, and dare I say it, cyclists.

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  15. Pedestrians walk more safely in such countries as Germany and Switzerland, probably because they are educated better. As for cyclists they cycle safely in Denmark and Netherlands, but here they seem to think it is right to go fast in towns

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Tin hat on as well..:

    Close the pathway until a safety barrier or a better idea comes in then no disruptions to the services….

    Made a good read Rodger

    Thank you as ever

    Liked by 1 person

  17. It seems that in the transport world many people are divided on how this sector should function. Cyclists say they need a segregated route, pedestrians say that vehicles should bear greater responsibility, public transport users say that cyclists should stay off the pavement, motorists say that everyone hates them.

    Looking at the layout, it’s quite disconcerting that there isn’t a fence to segregate fast- and slow-moving traffic (even if it means buses vs bikes). The footpath is quite narrow, yes, but the effects won’t be as disastrous as adding another lane to a motorway.

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    1. If we continue pointing fingers at this rate, or have no co-operation in how transport users can get the best use out of the infrastructure there is or can be placed, we wouldn’t have a coherent transport policy at all.

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  18. The problem appears to be pedestrians and cyclists using the same space. Over the weekend there was much trumpeting of cycling campaigner Chris Boardman for Active Travel supremo, but the needs of cyclists are normally contrary to pedestrians and thus bus passengers.
    As others have pointed out, cyclists complain about how they are treated by motorists, but many cyclists treat pedestrians exactly the same way.
    When looking at accident stats, people moving from public transport to cars will have a negative impact.

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    1. Indeed they do but being hit by a bike is far less serious than being hit by a car!Of course electric bikes are touted as being environmentally friendly but now people are getting wise to where the Lithium is going to come from for the batteries(or isn’t!).Although Sir Elon Musk seems to have first dibs on the world’s limited supply of Lithium to waste it on his electric cars forget medical scanners and other less important uses!I had a bike years ago and realized that it was just something else to go wrong while with walking, and public transport when needed,you don’t need to worry but everything has to be a gimmick now.As for Lithium Sir Elon has people digging it out of unsafe holes in the Congo at the moment and he tells us not to worry there’s lots of it on the Moon and Mars.There might well be,but more likely a pack of speculation,but we don’t have the ability to mine the Moon and Mars is so far away that the motorist will probably have drained the Earth’s resources by the time we can get there and there’ll be no way to get out of Earth’s gravity well!But don’t worry nuclear fusion is just around the corner ,the same corner it was around 50 years ago one wonders?!

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  19. Ah the favorite cyclist argument. Bikes are less likely to kill a pedestrians. Not a convincing argument and cyclist seem to think they have no responsibility at all

    Liked by 1 person

      1. @Manny Antipov
        I’ve never been hit by a car, but I have been hit by a cyclist who was riding on a footpath (which was clearly signposted as “no cycling”) and who rode off leaving me lying on the ground in agony with a dislocated elbow.

        I don’t care what the theoretical injury caused by a car could be, because theoretical injuries which might possibly happen don’t outweigh the real injury caused to me by a cyclist riding his bike illegally.

        Cycling advocates hide behind “but a bike won’t cause as much damage as a car”. It’s a pathetic argument which demonstrates the sheer arrogance of far too many of the cycling fraternity who believe they can ignore both the rules of the road and common decency.

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      2. You could reverse the answer which will impact the thing hitting the pedestrian more;1/a cyclist will fall off and get hurt themselves,2/a bus driver might get fired,3/a motorist will blame the pedestrian and keep on driving and go on to kill a few more innocent people!

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    1. Bob, unsure what the connection between this and the Cambridgeshire Busway is, but to answer your question; In
      addition to Edmonton, the following London Trolleybus depots had turntables: Hanwell, Carshalton, Isleworth, Wandsworth, Bow, Hammersmith, Walthamstow, Clapton, Stamford Hill, Wood Green, Finchley and Poplar. In addition there was a turntable in the works at Highgate and Fulwell.

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  20. Not local so relied on a quick scan of the route on Googlemaps. Could the best solution to the problem be a fence and then to solve the issue of access to the bus breaking down, run the bus on the right rather than the left. There does not appear to be any bus stops affected and no pedestrian crossings along the route.

    There will be a few moments where drivers will access the wrong lane but there are ways of dealing with this.

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    1. @P Dixon
      You’d need to rebuild the whole thing to create bus stop islands between the two “bus lanes” to facilitate that, and if you’re going to do that you might as well just spend money widening the access road used by pedestrians and cyclists, and creating a clear space (grass verge, perhaps?) between the access road and the busway.

      Given that the tarmac surface was intended to be a maintenance access road, I’d just gate it off with pedestrian wicket gates and stop cyclists from using it. That won’t realistically be possible, though, because apparently it’s designated a bridleway rather than a private road.

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      1. There would seem to be ample justification for a Traffic Regulation Order to do so, if there is an assessed public safety issue. Especially too if there is an acceptable alternative by the improvements to the Hills Road cycle path.

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      2. You have a different memory of the history – many of the discussions and enquires touted the pedestrian and cyclist access as one of the signficant benefits of the project – the access road was going to be gravel and was upgraded to tarmac to improve the pedestrian and cycles facility.

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  21. I don’t think it’s a race to kill or maim, or it shouldn’t be. The buses seem to keep to the tracks, hardly surprising perhaps with professional drivers. It seems to be pedestrians and cyclists that have trouble keeping to the path. There was a golden rule when I was growing up. If in doubt, stop. What’s so hard about it?

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  22. I have not seen such a stupid system in my life, a guided bus lane, why didn`t they put a tram or light railway there instead of this ridiculous bus lane. And haven`t they heard of railings or fences. Beggars belief probably people straight out of university with no common sense or life experience.

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  23. These bus in effect operate like a train. You would not have a rail line that is not properly fenced off. Well not entirely true in the past in a few cases at dock etc a train might run across a short stretch of road but they would have someone escorting the train to ensure it was safe

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  24. There’s no significant difference between the busway and this section of Manchester Metrolink. The busway functions like a tramway (operating on line of sight), rather than a railway.

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