Category Archives: Transport

Number 46, Revisited

Number 46, Revisited

Good news!

I have just received confirmation that the County Council has agreed to fund a replacement service for the 46 bus route from 30th April, which is exactly what County Councillors have been calling for.

I will post the revised timetable shortly.

The service will continue to be operated by Stagecoach and the new contracts have been let until the 25 August 2018.


Number 46

Number 46

In regards to the possible loss of important bus services in Wisbech:

Although this is a private company, its important that the County Council challenge and try and work through damaging proposals to get the best for local people.

County Council officers have been working hard since the worrying announcement to find a suitable resolution to the issue.

Although its not 100% decided, the news so far seems to be positive.

A tender to ascertain the cost of replacing the 46 service, that will be withdrawn by Stagecoach from 28 April, has been issued this week. County Council are tendering for three potential options.

The first is based on the existing timetable, which operates on an hourly basis. The second is on a revised 90 minute timetable which has the benefit of protecting the service and being more affordable as it reduces the vehicle requirement from two buses to one and should therefore be more economical to provide.

The final option is for an operator devised timetable, where they can make their own proposal built around their availability of vehicles and drivers.

The company are engaging with the County Council to try and find a way forwards that doesn’t let local people down and leave them without an important service.

So there’s no need to panic at this stage and County Council are doing their best to negotiate something which will prevent the problems of losing the service.

Your County Councillors have pushed hard and will continue to press as best we can for a deal which gets a good resolution for our Town. I hope this update is useful to you.

All aboard – for tea and cakes!

All aboard – for tea and cakes!
A bus trip for residents of a Wisbech retirement home was such a success it could become a monthly event.
Residents from Edina Court in Harecroft Road enjoyed a trip on the Service 68 bus to Tesco Extra on Cromwell Road, where they enjoyed a coffee morning laid on in the supermarket’s Community Rooms and a spot of shopping.
The morning was organised by Fenland District Council’s Wisbech Bus Service Project, Tesco and Edina Court to encourage residents to try the Wisbech Tesco Bus Service.
And the trip was so popular, options are now being considered to make it a monthly event – much to the delight of those that took part.
The Wisbech Tesco Bus Service was launched in July as a 12 month pilot, and needs involvement from the community to ensure its long-term future.
Councillor Simon King, Portfolio Holder for Transport at Fenland District Council, said: “Section 106 developer funding from the new Tesco retail park development is being used to get the new bus service up and running. Once the funding ends the service needs to be able to support itself in order to continue long term. The previous bus service introduced to provide access to Tesco was withdrawn due to lack of use. We don’t want to have the same thing happen with Service 68.
“We are looking at ways to encourage more people to try the service so we can attract enough regular users to make it permanent. So many people have told me how much they need this bus on this route and we really want to do all we can keep it running for them.
“Throughout the trial we are asking for people’s comments and feedback as we want to get the service right and give it its best chance.”
The service is led by Project Co-ordinator, Belinda Pedler, who is delivering the marketing and promotion of the new service, operated by FACT, and can be identified by the Wisbech Tesco Bus Service logo and signage displayed in the bus windows. FACT membership is not required to use the service and travel is free for Concessionary Bus Pass Holders.
The service runs between Horsefair Bus Station and Tesco Extra and covers South Brink (Malt Drive), Mount Drive, Ramnoth Road, Weasenham Lane and Queens Road as well as Harecroft Road and North End (Leverington Road).
Timetables and route information are available from numerous venues across Wisbech including the Horsefair Information Point, Wisbech Fenland @ Your Service Shop and Tesco (Customer Services Desk).

Wisbech Tesco Bus Service

Wisbech Tesco Bus Service

Lunchtime today saw the opening of the new Wisbech Tesco Bus Service.  I was there as Mayor and local Member along with a great many other folk who were supporters or part of the team that have worked on delivering the service.

I was asked to give a speech to open the bus and this was it:

Good afternoon everyone, thank you for inviting me to this event today and I want to start by saying how very pleased I am with the work that has been done to put this new service for Wisbech together.

The Wisbech Bus Service Project is a unique approach putting local customers’ needs at the heart of bus service design.  At a time when many public transport services are being withdrawn the decision to maximise the potential of the Tesco S106 funding this way is welcome.

Local residents played an active part in the service design.  Helping to form the routes and timetable, making their needs clear.  The huge efforts to engage the community have been excellent and I hope this means the service will be well-used and therefore commercially-viable.

No one knows better what local people needs are than the local people themselves and its great to see that understood and reflected.. To focus on a community led design for a new local bus service will surely make all the difference in ensuring it is built to last.

I know that my colleague and Leader of Wisbech Town Council, Cllr Samantha Hoy, agrees.  She told me today that she is really pleased with this service, which is vital to the residents of her wards, many of whom are elderly.

Wisbech Town Council want to see more transport for local people. For this reason the Town Council have offered their full support for the Wisbech Bus Service Project and the new Wisbech Tesco Bus and will continue to do so.

It is encouraging that the early feedback so far, is that customers like the new service and I very much hope it will prove successful and popular.

As well as providing local residents with the means to access the Tesco site, key objectives have also  been realised by incorporating access to healthcare and education.

Another great achievement during the project is the installation of the much needed bus shelter on Cromwell Road. The shelter itself was provided by Cambs County Council and has been adopted by Wisbech Town Council. A perfect example of partnership working.  I am also pleased that similar teamwork has resulted in other County Council funding being used to establish a number of bus stops along the route of the service.

I am sure this positivity and community spirit will continue though out the pilot phase for the new Wisbech Tesco Bus and the new service will be a true asset to local residents for a long time to come.

I applaud the appointment of FACT to deliver this new trial service as a local organisation that is well-supported by its members and enables people to remain independent.  I wish them every success with the delivery of this new venture supported by Fenland District Council and all the local residents and businesses that are currently involved.

It is tremendous that we have had a lot of support and feedback from the local community and local businesses for which I am massively thankful.  The new service and its hope of long term survival is inevitably always going to be in the hands of those who now turn up to use the service.

Thank you for your support and thank you for attending today.

I think the speech says everything I’d like to say.  Good luck to the new bus service!

On Uber

On Uber

Like many of you I have seen the outcry, mostly from taxi drivers, about the travel innovator Uber.  But I’d never used it so I really didn’t know what all the fuss was about.  While in Manchester I gave it a try – and I can now see what they are so upset about.

This is how Uber works.

You download an Application for your smartphone.   You give it your payment details.

Then, when you need a ride somewhere, you press it’s little icon.  You tell it where you are (which it can usually detect anyway, from your phone’s locator capabilities) and where you want to go.  It then tells you which Uber driver is closest to you, how long it will take them to get to you, and can give you a rough estimate of the fare.  You can also see how the driver has been rated by other people that have travelled with them.

If you are happy with the offer of a driver, you click a button to complete the transaction.  Or you can choose a different driver, as it offers the next nearest to you.

Once you have agreed on your driver, which took a total of about four key presses, a little map appears showing the car driving towards you.  In my experience (three journeys) it is pretty much 100% accurate.  You see the car approaching – the slowest of the three journeys I booked was four minutes, the fastest arrived almost immediately – and as the little car icon arrives at your destination the Uber driver pulls up outside.

The car has the Uber logo on the side so you know it’s an authorised Uber driver and when you get in the driver confirms your name, to make sure you are not a cab-snatching opportunist.  All three cars I travelled in were comfortable, clean and pleasant.  The drivers were polite and professional.  They had their phone on their dash in a little holder, presumably with the “driver version” of the Uber app which allows them to receive bookings.  They can choose whether or not to take a booking in the same way you can.

No money changes hands and no cash is stored in the car.  The money is paid directly to Uber through the app using the details you provided.  Uber take a 20% cut and forward the balance each week as a lump sum to the driver.  After the journey you get a chance to rate your driver so that a history of their service style grows over time.

So that’s it.  It may not sound like much, but it felt like a game changer to me.  For those who are comfortable with apps and phones this was incredibly easy to use.  It was simple, user-friendly and hassle-free.  The prices seemed significant cheaper than cabs normally are, but the drivers I travelled with were every bit as professional.  In short, it feels exactly the same as a decent taxi company, except that the software replaces the central office as co-ordinator.

What you do away with are the: “Cab will be with you in five minutes” then it turns up forty minutes later, or never.  You can see where the cab is at all times and if you want to you can call the driver by clicking the “contact” button on the phone.  No cash changes hands, which makes for a quick, clean and comfortable transaction.

I can see why so many cab drivers are terrified.  I think they are right to be concerned.  The modern world is changing fast, as is communication, and the tide has reached them.  Some are urging the Government to take action to protect them.  It won’t work.  The Government has never been powerful enough to stop innovation, no matter how urgent the cry.  If I were a cab driver I would be looking into Uber, and its competitors (even innovators have competitors) to see how I could use them and work with them.  It’s big cities now, but it will spread and it will evolve its way around legislation and obstacles as all such ideas do.

I found Uber to be a positive experience.  I would certainly use it again if I were back in a strange city.  I’ll continue to use the local drivers I know and trust at home, but would urge all drivers to think about the change that is coming. I don’t believe you can stop it, but its not too late to grow with it and make it work for you.

A Third Runway

A Third Runway

I don’t have a lot of time for Zac Goldsmith MP.  I always thought he sounded more like a Green than a Conservative.  Nor do I have anything against air travel or business expansion generally.  But on this one issue of a third runway for Heathrow I happen to agree with him.

For me it boils down to one simple thing:  We said we wouldn’t do it.

It’s nothing like the other famous pledge which I know every ‘Kipper in spitting distance wants to bring up.  Whatever case you make, however angry you get, the pledge made then was based on a situation that no longer existed by the time we came to power. (It frustrated me at the time, too.)  This pledge is as cut and dry as its possible to be.  We said we would not do it.

If you ask the general public what the biggest problem in the UK is right now they will give you varying answers depending on the political views and party allegiance.  They might say: “The Evil Coalition and its Evil Cuts.”  They might say: “Global Climate Warming Change.”  They might say: “I’m not racist but … Too many bloody foreigners.”  They might say: “Too much debt and too many people subsidised by the State.”  These are all Big Issues to those who hold those views.  But my view is that there are often underlying issues which serve to amplify everything else and you ignore them at your peril.

I do believe that the cynical mistrust of politicians and politics in general is extremely damaging to our nation.  This idea that “they are all the same” or that “nothing ever changes” – even though it is patently not true – is incredibly difficult to shift.  And it’s a wound which is not healing quickly, it at all.

If we no longer have faith in the systems which govern our society then it stands to reason that we have begun to doubt the very nature of the society itself.  This never leads anywhere good.  The people are only governed by their consent.  If the consent turns to anger, or disbelief, or ridicule, then functional government becomes incredibly difficult.

In my view, politicians first priority should be rebuilding the sort of faith and belief that they once inspired.  I don’t pretend that things were ever perfect, but something has most definitely been lost.  I blame the politicians, for their actions and inactions.  I blame the media, for their vulture-like predatory approach.  I blame us all, for the ease with which we fall to prejudice and cynicism and then cement our views in that dark place.  But somebody has to shine a light to help us find the way out.

Do you know where it might start?  It might start with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom saying: “There may be economic merits, but they will be discussed another day.  There may be a strong business case, but now is not the time.  The simple fact is that we promised there would be no 3rd Runway in this parliament and so there will not.  A pledge is a pledge.”  And then the Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition standing quietly and saying: “We may disagree on everything else, but on this, well said.  A pledge is a pledge.”

Just imagine.

Norfolk Green To The Rescue

Norfolk Green To The Rescue

Recently an issue has appeared in my in-box that was causing some concern to the residents of Gorefield and Leverington, two villages in my county division.

This was the discontinuation of the bus service run by Fowler’s which has visited the villages for many years.

While not heavily-used, it is a service which local people value and it has prompted a small but worried flurry of communication.

As you might imagine, some people felt sure this was County Council’s doing.  After all the doom-mongering of opposition parties it is no wonder that not everybody understands the council’s role in bus transport and presumes that the “cut” that has been so loudly proclaimed must be to blame.  It wasn’t though.  The Fowler’s bus is an entirely private service benefiting from no county council subsidy and not affected by the change in our arrangements at all.

The County Council’s team have nonetheless been working with our partners to try and find a solution to the situation.  While this service was not one of ours, nor do we wish to leave the people in the villages isolated.  While it is true that there is the FACT bus and the excellent Community Car Scheme, it certainly could not do any harm to look around and see if somebody else might want to step up to the plate and fill the hole where Fowler’s used to roll.

I’m pleased to say that a replacement has been found.  Norfolk Green are altering their popular 50/51 bus route to service both the villages that will no longer be visited by Fowler’s.  In what I think is an astute and sensible decision, Norfolk Green have taken the baton and are running with it (if you’ll excuse the obligatory Olympics metaphor) and the two aforementioned villages will retain a reliable and comfortable service.

It’s fair to say that the service level will be reduced slightly – but this is probably necessary given that the previous provider clearly struggled to provide the service commercially.  It is, nonetheless, a good solid regular bus to compliment other provisions for these villages.  A good news story?  I think so.

Fowler’s service ends on 1st October, which is the same day Norfolk Green take over.  All that remains is to thank Fowler’s for years of excellent and honest service and to welcome our new local hero bus company, Norfolk Green, to my county division.  With utmost thanks for this positive outcome!

One Million Passengers

One Million Passengers

Straight from Cambridgeshire County Council, the following news release regarding the Guided Bus.

The millionth Busway passenger took a ride today, Thursday, January 12, on the highly successful and record breaking transport facility opened in August last year.

Christine Chandler from Colne was picked as the millionth passenger as she took her father Len Burrow, the millionth and one passenger to Addenbrooke’s from St Ives Park and Ride.

To celebrate this momentous occasion Bus operators Stagecoach and Whippet together with representatives from Cambridgeshire County Council were there to surprise them and hand over mementos of the occasion.

More than 200,000 trips a month are being taken on the worlds longest Busway since its opening in August 2011.

Christine, who is a regular user of the Busway since it opened, said:
“We use the Busway regularly to go shopping or to the hospital. It is really convenient and means you don’t have to go on the A14. It is really regular, reliable and efficient and has got us where we want to go on time. It was a complete surprise to be the millionth passenger and we are really pleased.”

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Steve Criswell, Cabinet Member for Community Infrastructure, said: “This is a massive milestone for the Busway and is ahead of our business forecasts. The Busway is proving very popular as a fast and reliable way to travel and I was pleased to see our millionth customer ride the Busway.”

Andy Campbell, Managing Director for Stagecoach in Cambridge, said: “The Busway has been a much bigger success than we had hoped for and have already had to put more services on. We are now looking at buying more new buses and running further extra services. We look forward to seeing the next million journeys.”

Peter Lee, Director of Whippet Coaches, said: “The Busway is an ideal way of avoiding the A14. We are really pleased with just how successful it has been from day one. This is a great benefit for Cambridgeshire and Whippet is delighted to be part of its success story.”

It used to be quite trendy for the opposition to rail (excuse the pun) about the Guided Bus. It was immensely funny when they called it the misguided bus (Chortle chortle) and other such imaginative wordplay. Since it was completed, and warmly received by the public it has proven popular and useful. You don’t hear quite so much of that clever wordplay now. Odd that.

High Speed Rail

High Speed Rail

Well, HS2, the much-discussed plan by government to introduce a new High Speed Rail link from London to Birmingham (and then onwards in later phases) must join the list of coalition projects I don’t really support.

To be honest, I’d quite like to support it.  I’m not, in principle, opposed to spending a lot of money on infrastructure if a strong case is made as to the value of the work.  But I am struggling to see the value of this, versus the astronomical costs involved.

What this seems to be offering is an enormous price tag (at a time when we have no money at all and should be concentrating on repaying our debts), the destruction of huge swathes of beautiful countryside and the upset of all those people who live on the proposed route.  For what? Half an hour faster journey time between London and Birmingham?

Is there really a market for this?  Given the cost of travelling by rail normally this will surely carry a hefty price tag per ticket?  Who is going to use it?  Who will be able to afford it?  Bankers, Executives, MPs, Union Officials and Civil Servants?  It seems to me that the much-vaunted “boost” this will give to the various economically-challenged areas it will visit is probably over-stated.  Sure, it will mean you can live in one city and work in another.  But you can do that now if you don’t mind travelling an extra 30 minutes.  Are people going to live in London and work in Birmingham?  Or might the reverse be more likely?

I can see the argument for having a modern, high-speed network connecting our cities rather than an older out-dated one.  But already, technology is moving on.  By the time this project is completed, I suspect HS2 wont seem quite as “cutting edge” at all.  Nor do I think it will do much to help prosperity in areas other than London.

Perhaps, in rich and luxurious times this would be a good idea.  Perhaps. But now?  I’d prefer to just use all that money to lower our debt burden.  Or, if we really must keep spending and spending, might it not be better to use such huge sums to deliver improvements in existing systems and look for innovative new designs serving different areas?  We might even have a rethink about improving air links in one way or another – but I suppose that wont happen until the Global Warming debate is settled.

I don’t feel militant about this. If it goes ahead, it goes ahead and I’ll be wishing it well and hoping it delivers.  But it feels, to me, like a massive unpaid invoice the nation doesn’t need and can’t afford.

A14 News Welcomed

A14 News Welcomed

Transport chiefs at Cambridgeshire County Council have welcomed news that improving the A14 could be included in the Chancellor’s Autumn statement tomorrow, Tuesday.

The County Council has been leading, with our partners and local MPs, a campaign to make sure the vital road improvements stay on the Government’s agenda.

The Council has been in talks with Government and ministers arguing the road needs increased capacity and improved performance to help unlock housing and business development at places such as Northstowe and Alconbury.

These improvements are vital to help drive forward the economic prosperity of Cambridgeshire and the UK.

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader Nick Clarke, said: “The fact that Government is taking the A14 issue seriously is down to the long and sustained campaign we have been leading on with our partners. Improving the A14 is vital for improving safety, supporting business and reducing congestion. But it is not just vital locally it is important regionally, nationally and internationally. At the moment it is a barrier to growth at a time when Cambridgeshire could help kick start the economy.

“We have argued that it needs increased capacity and improved performance so that the traffic flows freely and unlocks housing development and business opportunity at places such as Alconbury and Northstowe. We have made these arguments strongly to Government and it looks like they have been listening. The news of Government’s strong commitment to finding a solution is a great step forward but we will continue to push for the process to be carried out speedily and turn from talk to tarmac.”