The Cambridge And St. Ives Railway Organisation
What is this about?
An existing railway line, from the north of Cambridge to Huntingdon, is being ripped up
by Cambridgeshire County Council and replaced with 70 acres of concrete (over 100,000 tonnes) through the open countryside on which to run buses. Formed in 2003, CAST.IRON planned to re-open the railway and produced a fully-costed business case for this scheme. The council chose not only to ignore CAST.IRON, but also to ignore the 2741 people who wrote letters of objection to the Department for Transport. They then spent £2.25 million arguing their case at a public inquiry. CAST.IRON presented a lengthy and detailed case revealing significant flaws in the council's own analysis and assumptions. Despite this and hundreds of other well-presented objections, the inspector found in favour of the guided bus scheme, casting all opposition aside.
Work started on the scheme in February 2007 and many promised opening dates have come and gone.
The initial opening date after construction had begun was early in the second quarter of 2009.
Next, the Council said it would definitely be open by "late-summer 2009".
Many more "definite" dates passed until eventually the council would not be drawn on committing to further dates.
Much of the delay was down to a stand-off between the council and contractor.
The council refused to accept the busway from the contractor until a list of perceived faults was rectified; the contractor did not accept they were faults.
The cost has risen hugely and the council hope to claim back the overspend from the contractor.
As early as March 2010, council reports stated that legal action will be inevitable and that the issue of costs will might not be resolved until 2014/2015.
The busway has now (July 2011) been handed over to the council who have appointed a new contractor to rectify the faults.
The council have set a new opening date of August 7th 2011 and published initial timetables. The timetables make interesting reading compared with historical
records and current alternative methods.
|Huntingdon to Cambridge|
|1800||150 mins by horse||Rough calculation|
|1849||55 mins by rail||Facsimile timetable in Branch Lines Around Huntingdon, Mitchell/Smith/Awdry/Mott, Middleton Press 1991|
Railway Station was then located across the river in Godmanchester
|1869||38 mins by rail||As above|
|1944||39 mins by rail||As above (emergency wartime timetable)|
|1959||36 mins by rail||As above|
|2002||55 mins by bus||Hunts & District (later Stagecoach)|
|2011||67 mins by Guided Bus||Traveline website|
|2011||66 mins by regular Bus||Traveline website|
Click here for more detailed journey comparisions before and after the Busway opening
What is a guided bus?
Buses are fitted with small guidewheels on the front which enable them to run in a concrete
trough. This allows vehicles to pass closely and so, if running in a town centre, means that the
busways take up significantly less room compared with conventional bus lanes. The buses are standard vehicles
that still require a driver; the only difference is that the guideway does the steering (the driver controls everything else as usual). When not on the guideway,
the buses are no different from a normal bus.
In the Cambridgeshire scheme, the buses will ONLY be guided in the uncongested open country section between
Milton Road, Cambridge and the outskirts of St. Ives (plus south of Cambridge Station to Trumpington and
Addenbrookes). They will be unguided in (and between) Huntingdon and St. Ives and, crucially, they will be
unguided within Cambridge itself, where there is no room for guideways on the narrow streets. This completely
defeats the object of guiding the buses in the first place, compared with conventional buses on ordinary roads
with bus priority measures.
How do the bus and rail compare?
|Re-open railway||Guided busway|
avoiding city centre
|Unguided on busy roads,|
through city centre
from Science Park to Station
|Max. 4 min|
|Min. 30 minutes|
Dependent on congestion
- CAST.IRON has fully-costed, independently scrutinised plans supporting its figures
- The guideway cost was initially £54m, £65m, then £78m, then £86m, finally smashing the £100m mark to
rest at £116m (March 2007). It is reported (Oct 09) that the final cost will be near £150m.
The council's own recent figures show a cost of £181m (Dec 2010).
The headline figure of £86.4m was stated widely (Listen to a radio interview)
by the promoters at the time and it was this figure that was submitted to public enquiry.
The councillor currently in charge of the project has
attempted to re-write
history by claiming the original estimate was £116.27m.
- There were 2700 objections to the busway sent to the Secretary of State for Transport, plus
nearly 4000 signatures on our petition
- Four people wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport in favour
- Many of the 'selling points' of the Guided Bus have been quietly dropped as the building costs increased and the project overran.
e.g. 'kiss-and-ride' facility at Swavesey, through running to Hinchingbrooke Hospital, cross-operator ticketing
So why are we getting the guided bus and not a railway?
The key is in this statement from the Transport Select Committee report of June 2000.
"While stated preference surveys tend to indicate a strong preference for light rail above other modes,
the PTE Group felt that it would be difficult to obtain meaningful market research data until there are
more extensive bus-based systems. The establishment of a number of demonstration projects would enable
the actual performance of alternative forms of transport in service to be measured, and would enable
the costs and abilities to alter travel habits to be compared with existing light rail schemes."
This was closely followed by CHUMMS (Cambridge-HUntingdon MultiModal Study), which presented 4 transport "packages" between Cambridge and Huntingdon. Three of them replaced the railway with a guided bus; only the fourth featured rail, but this package combined rail with a politically unacceptable road option. Ironically, given the current cost of the guided bus, this package was also rejected because the CHUMMS estimate of the rail element
was considered to be excessive at £109m!
It became clear soon after CAST.IRON was formed that a great deal of work and political capital had already been invested in the guided bus project. The council was divided on clear party lines with the majority Conservative group behind the scheme from the beginning whilst the Liberal Democrats (the next biggest group) were consistently against. The small Labour group eventually fell in with the Conservatives despite their City Council colleagues formally objecting to the scheme.
At the deciding meeting of the full County Council in July 2006, a number of members who had taken part in the debate left before the final vote. As a result, only a minority of the members put their names to the scheme, even though it is the biggest single project ever undertaken by the council and therefore the most important decision likely to be taken during their terms of office.
So why is CAST.IRON still here?
We remain utterly unconvinced that this scheme will make any noticeable difference to traffic levels on the A14 and there is no doubt it will increase congestion in the City's streets. Heavily financed lobbying has bulldozered this scheme through the planning system; however time will tell whether the Guided Bus will really do what the public have been promised. As a result of our detailed analysis, we are sure it will not. Our members have overwhelmingly agreed that we should remain in existence to monitor progress of the scheme and ensure that any flaws, errors and budget problems - which have consistently been coming to light - are made public and not swept under the carpet.
Once buses start running (
scheduled for Spring 2009 towards the end of 2009), we will monitor the actual success of the scheme and compare it to the glowing reports of patronage and journey times which will, no doubt, be produced by the Council's PR machine.
|CAST.IRON Contact Details|
Please note our revised contact details. There is no longer an office at Newmarket Road, Cambridge, which is occupied by a private family unconnected to CAST.IRON. Please do NOT call or hand deliver post to that address.
Site last modified April 2014