A few updates

Thursday 3rd March 2022

Cambridgeshire Guided Busway

Looking south

I was in Cambridge briefly over the weekend so took the opportunity to take a look at the interim safety measures now installed between the public footpath/bridleway and the northbound guided busway on the one-and-a-quarter mile stretch between Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Cambridge railway station.

It had been reported the independent report into the safety issues arising from two fatal accidents was due at the end of February so presumably is now imminent. Meantime, you have to wonder why on earth all the expense of installing plastic red and white bollards holding six foot high metal barriers needed to be installed when buses could have simply been banned from using the northbound guided busway for an interim period pending the report’s recommendations.

Looking north

As it is, buses can’t run in the northbound direction because, as you can see, the barriers impinge on the busway itself.

Ironically there must be increased dangers from re-routing the buses along the busy A1307 Hills Road as well as huge inconvenience to passengers with a less reliable service as I reported last month.

I can’t see these measures being removed any time soon. What a great shame.

Woodside Crossing, Hassocks

After the blockade, on Monday I’d hope to take a celebratory walk through the new tunnel constructed under the Brighton Main Line at Woodside Crossing north of Hassocks. As I reported in Sunday’s blog this will provide a much safer way to use the public footpath which previously crossed the busy railway line at surface level. Sadly I can’t report back yet, nor provide you with a photograph as the footpath is till blocked off denying public access, but hopefully it will be open again very soon.

Network Rail Kent and Sussex posted some more impressive “during” and “after” construction photos on social media, so they’ll have to do for now.

Instead I diverted my walk further north, just beyond Wivelsfield station where there’s another surface footpath crossing called Bedelands…..

…. and acquainted myself once again with just how dangerous these foot crossings are especially when a non-stop train speeds through. I wouldn’t be surprised to see plans for a footbridge at this location at some point in the future.

Last minute funding deal 1

Just in the nick of time as bus companies needed to submit notifications to the Traffic Commissioners for cuts to bus routes from early next month came news from the DfT of an extension of England’s Bus Recovery Grant for a further six months until October. “Over £150 million to support vital bus and light rail services across the country” was announced on Tuesday morning. The DfT added “this funding is dependent on local areas and operators co-designing a financially sustainable and passenger focussed public transport network, that works for changing travel patterns post-pandemic”. It’s not said, but I reckon the £150 million will almost certainly be taken from the £3 billion the Government is investing into bus services in England by 2025. Or is it £1.2 billion with £525 million on zero emission buses?

Last minute funding deal 2

That TfL funding deadline of Friday 18th February I wrote about a couple of weeks ago was indeed extended for a further week to 25th February when it was announced an “Extraordinary Funding and Financing Agreement for TfL from 26 February 2022 until 24 June 2022 (the “Fourth Funding Period”)_ had been agreed between the DfT and TfL. TfL are charged with delivering a work programme “to support our shared objective of TfL reaching financial stability as soon as possible and with a target date of April 2023”. This includes generating between £0.5-£1 billion additional revenue per annum from 2023; a review of demand on London Underground, bus and rail in April 2022 to inform future service level requirements and potential changes; the establishment of a commercial property company to deliver housing in a high demand area and to provide an increased revenue stream; a review of its pension scheme with the aim of moving the Fund into a financially sustainable position.

In simple terms this seems to mean more above inflation fare increases, more cuts to bus frequencies (my Bus Cuts Tracker currently tallies 284 peak vehicles cut from 52 bus routes in the last six months), and more strikes on the Underground as RMT members protest over pension proposals.

Let’s hope there’s more certainty about the future by the time the 24th June deadline arrives in London and by August for bus routes in England outside of London when bus companies will be faced with making decisions for networks post October 2022. By then the winners and losers in the great Bus Service Improvement Plan Lottery funding settlement will be known. As will those recommendations for the Cambridgeshire guided busway. I hope.

Halifax bus station progress

Three months ago I mentioned in a blog about Team Pennine how West Yorkshire Metro are rebuilding Halifax bus station.

Now comes news of more changes to bus departure arrangements as the work, set to last until next year, continues.


Apparently there’s been a delay in supplying the printed signs to advise passengers of the updated arrangements, but you’d think they’d be able to cobble together something that looks slightly more professional even for a temporary period rather than this slapdash approach.

Calling all young bus managers

Bookings for the next conference being held in Cardiff on 7th and 8th April are now open on the Young Bus Managers Network website. It’s set to be another great programme kicking off with a site visit to Cardiff Bus, an after dinner talk from Transport for Wales chief executive James Price with the second day kicking off with Carla Stockton-Jones, managing director UK Bus at Stagecoach as well as Ray Stenning from design agency Best Impressions in the afternoon. The programme also includes a speaker about fflecsi, the Young Bus Managers Dragons Den will be back as well as two presentations from young bus managers themselves. Book now and save with an early booking discount.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu.

Next blog, Saturday 5th March 2022: Long bus rides: 35.

24 thoughts on “A few updates

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  1. Did anyone else see above that the DfT mentioned ‘viral bus and light rail services’.Dear me. They really must break their attitude that all public transport is a dirty, rolling, germ factory!

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  2. “…viral bus and light rail services…”?? Maybe “vital”??

    The full DfT announcement about the extension of BRG mentions “financially sustainable” twice . . . that’s a pretty clear steer as to what they are expecting. In the absence of LTA funding being increased, then I suspect that we’ll see some substantial cuts this autumn.

    Unless, of course, the decision is made to permit BSIP funding to be used to shore up existing operations . . . £1.05billion might go some way to support networks in the short term . . .

    However, Jonathan Bray has commented in Passenger Transport that perhaps the industry should just get on with making the cuts now . . . if it’s going to happen soon enough, then why prolong the agony now?

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  3. There’s one of those guided busways in Adelaide, Australia and it has a fence built in between the walkway and the busway.

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    1. I am amazed as to how that guided busway got approved in the first place without proper fencing

      The footpath as well seems quite busy and looks to be to narrow to be safe for both pedestrians and cyclists

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      1. That’s because it’s not really a footpath or a cycleway, Bob.
        It was designed to be the maintenance access track for the busway, which someone at the council then decided to open up as a footpath and cycleway in order to tick another box.

        It was never designed or intended to be a cycleway, so yet again we’re seeing the effects of poorly-considered decisions.

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      2. The section from Cambridge to St Ives is shown as having the status of a bridleway but the Trumpington bit doesn’t seem to have the status of a right of way so is a permissive path.It might be the case that the bridleway ran alongside the Cambridge St Ives railway but not having an OS map from the 1980’s it’s not possible to check that but more likely it was created when the busway was opened?It is rare for a right of way to follow a railway such a long distance but many have been created recently on disused railways for example the Hull to Hornsea one which I walked this year is a bridleway.

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  4. With fuel prices soaring, surely this is just the moment to be promoting buses as a cost effective and greener alternative way to travel? Not everyone can afford a car, or indeed wants one. Perhaps it is all about the word ‘bus’ itself. If we called them ‘eco-friendly people movers’ or something, it may change the public’s mindset?

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    1. At the moment the only strategy with buses is to keep cutting back the already totally adequate services and ask the passengers to pay more for an inferior service. The result of that is even more passengers stop using them. In many areas pretty much the only passengers buses have are school children and concessionary pass holders. Fare paying passengers have given up on them and are not prepared to pay very high fares for a very poor service. In most cases if two people are travelling a taxi is a lot cheaper and far more convenient

      Will things change ? It is not looking very likely

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  5. Once again billions are pumped in to support the railway, while buses are expected to be financially sustainable. Why the disparity?
    Within today’s posting we have extensive investment in providing a safe way to cross a railway line, while a busway has to close to stop people straying onto it.

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    1. Diamond Bus runs many Mellors on both TfWM contracts and commercial Evening & Sunday Services. They are very popular with passengers, very reliable and a very cost of effective way of maintaining its high quality services. I use one most weeks on Diamond Bus 231 & they are cracking little buses and very nippy.

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  6. It intrigues me that railway foot crossings are deemed to be such a massive risk when there are plenty of footpath crossings across high-speed A roads which have nothing more than a “pedestrians” warning sign to try to get vehicle drivers to pay attention.

    I’d far rather take my chances on a railway foot crossing with a decent surface than trying to cross the A46 in Nottinghamshire between two muddy verges while car drivers routinely ignore the 70mph speed limits and come blatting along towards you at 90+mph. I bet the A273 around Hassocks is equally fun to cross as a pedestrian.

    Of course there’s this thing where the railway is supposed to be perfectly safe 300% of the time where on the roads even adequate safety is accepted as a pipe-dream.

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  7. A completely unrelated but quite funny remark: I took a stagecoach bus the other day which had the typical windows with the “these can’t be shut because we need the airflow” notice but the windows were shut. What makes it ridiculous is that these were on the upper deck of an open-top bus!

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  8. Bedelands footpath level crossing – my money is on a replacement footbridge being installed as part of a nine-day blockade between Three Bridges and Brighton/Lewes in February 2025.

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  9. I wonder if bus services are being cut back to reflect reduced levels of travel post Covid? I suspect not and that it is yet another weird British “thing”, like expecting bus service to be fully commercial.

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  10. Frankly many services here in Brum & Black Country are running more or less empty while some services are back to about 70% pre Covid-19 capacity. National Express West Midlands has already cut frequencys across its operations & frankly the latest batch of funding is a complete waste of taxpayers money. From April services should operate to match actual demand now the market is clearly cyclic and not be artificially supported till October, all the government is doing is simply delaying the enevitable cuts to be frank.

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  11. Mat be possible in Brum & the Black Country but in much of England there is little more then a skeleton bus services left so further cuts would pretty much mean massive cut backs leaving many areas with no bus services or just one of to buses a day

    It also means fixed costs such as garages and indirect staff have to be picked up by fewer buses, Probably would mean garage closures as well leaving buses being operated by garages miles away from the routes

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    1. I cannot see the point of running bus services which no one is actually using. Here I would axe the PN13 PN 14 PN 14A PN 24 PN 28 KEVS 147 DIAMOND 192 DIAMOND 202 as I am ususally the only person on the routes and if that leads to garages closing then so be it. Its frankly unsustainable to continue supporting bus services in the long term why not axe them now instead of October?

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  12. Bus services that no one are using. Questions need to be asked as to why this is the case. It suggests that the buses don’t go to where people want/need to go at convenient times. Do people actually know about these services? Evidence in this blog shows places with run down bus stations with no or out of date information, no staffed enquiry offices. I also think relying on services between residential to town centre during shopping hours only is a declining market due to the move to online shopping. Town centres are changing to being social spaces, cafes, restaurants, bars etc. Many towns have thriving nightlife but few evening buses. Hospitals, colleges, railway stations, industrial estates should all be key bus service traffic generators. In my town the shops close at say 5pm, but trains bring returning commuters and leisure travellers until 10pm, who all need onward travel, and who pay high car parking fees at the station.

    Also large edge of town supermarkets are open until 10pm. These are in effect mini town centres in terms of what they sell. Yet my local town bus service ignores them (there are two large supermarkets), and instead connect older residential areas with the town centre. I would extend the outer end of these routes to the supermarkets to have a traffic generator at both ends of the route, and a longer operational day. It’s not just shoppers, but also the staff that are potential passengers.

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    1. The total opposite applies in Birmingham & The Black Country all the TfWM Bus Stations are modern, clean together with a bus station management crew onsite. Timetables are freely available and information kiosks are staffed during specific opening hours. Every bus stop has has up to date flags with timetable information at every stop together with the smart swift ticketing however despite the massive funding by TfWM aside from the core services many routes are just carrying fresh air with bus patronage still well below pre pandemic levels. People have simply got used to not using buses and frankly will never return in the West Midlands.

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    2. Yes. Our local bus service terminates at a large supermarket which is convenient for turning buses as it’s by a large roundabout. It’s noticeable how many shoppers and staff use it, even (or especially) in the evenings. Buses have been restored to pre-Covid levels (except on Saturdays) and run every 7-8 minutes until early evening, then every 15 minutes until close of service (about 11.30pm). But for how long?

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    1. Diamond Bus runs many Mellors on both TfWM contracts and commercial Evening & Sunday Services. They are very popular with passengers, very reliable and a very cost of effective way of maintaining its high quality services. I use one most weeks on Diamond Bus 231 & they are cracking little buses and very nippy.

      Like

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