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You are in: Cambridgeshire > Travel > Features > Guided Busway - your questions answered

Graphic of the Guided Busway for Cambridgeshire

The proposed guided busway

Guided Busway - your questions answered

We invited Bob Menzies, who heads up the county council's Guided Busway team, to come into the studios and answer YOUR questions. Still not got the information you're looking for? You can email your queries to us and we'll put them to Bob...

Cambridgeshire's Guided Busway: questions and answers - November 2008 (more below)

Debbie Davies - I think that what people would really like to know is this: What local services will be axed because of the busway & will stagecoach make a statement about this: Both daytine & evening services: Girton, Oakington,Bar hill & all the villages which are served by the number 15 bus. I hope we get a reply.

The Guided Bus

A: The guided busway will provide a fast, reliable and frequent service when it opens in spring. It is being built to improve public transport for Cambridgeshire residents. Cambridgeshire County Council are currently discussing bus routes with bus operators who will be running services on the guideway and we expect to confirm routes in the New Year.

Anthony - Are there any plans to improve access to the St Ives terminal? Surely having thousands of passengers getting the bus from there will result in a huge increase in traffic through St Ives, particularly Audrey Lane and the bridge over the river from the A14.

A: The Park and Ride site will have space for 500 cars initially, with potential to expand to 1,000. In addition, the services will be running through from Huntingdon and St Ives so people will be able to access the service without needing to drive to the Park and Ride site. Access to the Park and Ride site for walkers and cyclists will be across the new junction on Harrison Way, and access for cars will be via Meadow Lane.

Lawrence Simpson - How is the "on road" part of the scheme going to be funded?

A: The proposed bus priority measures for the Huntingdon to St Ives section and in Cambridge are being funded through contributions from developers in the area and funds that central government gives the County Council for transport improvements. Cambridge city centre already benefits from existing bus priority measures.

Tony - What is there to stop hooligans driving their cars along a guided route?

A: At each busway junction we will have pits that prevent vehicles, other than guided buses, entering the guideway. Clear warning signs and road markings will be in place to advise drivers that they are not allowed to turn onto the guideway.

Mary in Girton - concerned about congestion in Girton and Histon while they're waiting for bus to pass on its tracks.

Work on guided bus under Hills Road bridge

Work on guided bus under Hills Rd bridge

A: The old level crossings will now be controlled by traffic lights. The new lights will detect a bus approaching and change the lights at the right time. When a bus is crossing one of these junctions, such as the one between Girton and Histon, the traffic lights will be on red for about 20 seconds to road users. This is a short period of time and we do not foresee this will cause any congestion. The guided busway has been built to improve the lives of people in Cambridgeshire villages by reducing the number of people using their cars.

Susan from Fenstanton - Will they slow down for horses on bridal ways?

A: Visibility along the guideway is very good so bus drivers and horse riders will see each other well in advance. Buses will not slow down for horses unless the driver has concerns about a horse not being under control.

Peter - when the harsh Fen winters kick in, how will they deal with the snow and freezing conditions; it's not going to be a case of the wrong kind of snow on the tracks stopping the bus?

A: The guideway tracks will have a grippy surface added to them. During harsh weather conditions the guideway will be treated in the same way as all other roads. Existing guideways in Edinburgh and Leeds have not had any problems when freezing conditions hit.

Cambridgeshire's Guided Busway: questions and answers - October 2008

Here is a selection of questions you've put to Bob Menzies:

Q: Why couldn't a simple dedicated road be built for the Guided Bus? Why go to all the expense of these special concrete tracks which must cost a fortune in comparison to a road?

A: It's not vastly more expensive because it's narrower than a road and you'll get a much smoother ride than you would on a road. The section we're building at the moment - out in the Fens - between Swavesey and St Ives - we're on a narrow old railway embankment which we're not allowed to make any wider - you wouldn't be able to fit a road on that.

Q: What's the benefit of it being 'guided'?

A: There are a number of advantages as well as fitting down a narrower corridor. There's another very narrow section through Histon where we're squeezing through the busway as well as a cycle path; there's a big advantage in terms of drainage - the hard surface area is less than half that of a road, so the amount of water we have to drain away is less, and that's a big issue for this part of the world.

It's also a lot greener. At the moment we're putting topsoil back into the centre which will all green up making sure the biodiversity survives there.

Q: The Paris Metro tried and failed with a Guided Busway system - why will it work here but not in Paris?

A: That's not true at all. If you ride on Line One of the Paris Metro and look at how that operates, it's basically a very fancy guided bus with rubber tyres and rubber guide wheels.

Q: If this bus is to be run by private companies, what guarantees do we have against cuts on un-economical routes?

A: The companies have guaranteed a service for the Guided Busway for five years. They signed up to that in 2006. They're not just guaranteeing a service - they're also buying the buses and they're paying an access charge to come on the Guided Busway - so that's a real commitment to the Busway. In fact, we're signing agreements for ten years now - it doesn't guarantee service, but in terms of the access, quality, etc - those are ten-year agreements.

The agreements with Stagecoach and Whippet are guaranteed services for five years in exchange for which they have exclusive rights to the Busway. Beyond five years, other companies can run on the Busway.

Q: If the bus companies don't want to continue after five years - or if people don't get on the bus - does that mean we'll be left with an unsuccessful system?

A: I think that's very unlikely. In five years' time there will be new houses at Northstowe, lots of people living there and huge demand for the Busway, but we put this agreement in place to guarantee exclusive rights for the Busway services.

Q: Why did you decide to go ahead with the Guided Bus despite the vast majority of tax payers not wanting it?

A: We're finding that people are increasingly turning around to it. We're getting more and more enquiries about when the buses will run, what times they'll run and what the fares will be. People are starting to think about how they'll use it.

There are still those who are die-hard opposed to it and always will be. And even when we're carrying 20,000 people a day, they'll probably still tell me it's a flop.

Q: Do you know what times the buses will run yet?

A: We know it'll take 20 minutes to get from St Ives to the Cambridge Science Park and 32 minutes from St Ives to the city centre. And we've signed the bus companies up to a guaranteed service from 7am to 7pm, but it's very likely that we'll have services from 6am to midnight - not as frequently as during the day - when we're looking at running eight buses an hour.

During the day, the bus companies will pay the access charge which will cover the running costs of the Busway. They won't pay an access charge outside of the 7am to 7pm times - and that's a trade-off to encourage them to run evening services.

Put your questions to the Guided Busway team

If we didn't have time to put your question to Bob - or there's something we haven't covered in this feature, you can email your queries to us and we'll put them to Bob and the team at the council.

last updated: 26/11/2008 at 12:54
created: 08/10/2008

Have Your Say

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.


How safe will the cycle lanes be alongside the busway, and what is the distance from Longstanton to the city on the proposed cycle way alongside the guided bus?

Jim Holyoake
What will the bus capacity? I think single deckers are about 40, so at 20,000 passengers a day that's 500 buses a day (if they are all full). Assuming 12 hour operation that's 33 per hour or every 2 minutes. If they are only 1/2 full every 1 minute. Or is my maths wrong?The Cit 7 takes between 1 and 1.5hrs from Histon to Long rd at peak periods, mostly because of Histon Rd & Regent St. How will the guided bus cope?

how much does a ticket cost on guided bus?

The current 55 bus service from St Ives often gets to Cambridge (Round Church area) in 25-30mins, especially off peak and Saturdays. Where is the advantage? Not sure I want to travel the long way via the Science Park. Also, are all these extra buses going to end up at Drummer Street, which is already rammed and a disgrace of a bus station for the size of the city.

When the guided bus is up and running we are promised 8 buses an hour. I assume that this is in each direction. So with the road barriers down to let it cross the road in St Ives together with the traffic lights to get into the car park, surely the traffic will stack up all around the town, discouraging folk from coming in altogether

Will there be a vehicle car park at each stop?

All I read about is the benefits for the good citizens of St Ives. Apart from years of disruption what's in it for the people of Cambridge and the villages to the South, West, East, and indeed most of those to the North ? Oh and are you anywhere near finishing the Hills Rd bridge work? No? Thought not.

Sue Homer
I travel from Buckden to Cambridge for a 10am start. Driving to St Ives during rush hour seems counter-productive. What links will there be from Huntingdon - will there be some kind of park and ride facility from Huntingdon, as I will have to park there somewhere and currently parking is v limited and prohibitively expensive. As a concerned citizen with green aspiriations, I would like to use public transport, but the additional cost and logitics make it unrealistic. Any ideas?

As a Cambridge resident who is paying for and being extremely inconvenienced by the building of the guided bus - how will it help me and my family get into town from South Cambridge villages? As we pay 2.40 for 3mins on the train will this service help Cambridge residents at all?

Slim, Cambridge
Will the guide wheels be retracted when the bus is travelling on a normal road? I am concerned that if they do not retract, they will be a dangerous projection which could injure cyclists.

What we do need is a fast service from Huntingdon to Addenbrookes Hosp.(for appointments and visiting) Will this bus fit the bill please?

neville barnard
can public use free natioal mbus passes

Why wasn't the old railway line from Huntingdon to Cambridge reopened? Wouldn't this have been cheaper and faster?

if your bus becomes full you cannot add another coach as you would with a train or light railway

What happens when a bus breaks down? presumably everything stacks up behind it?

Godfrey Waller
What provisioins are there in case of a mechanical breakdown, from engine problems through to punctures or broken guide wheels ? Will there be a breakdown vehicle to take the bus away and what will happen to the passengers ?

Harry Hinds
I think it is a great idea.Right now I live over seas and plan on living back in cambridgeshire again from next year and living on the GUIDED BUS ROUTE I will only need one family car. Right away that is will be a big saving. My location will be Trumption at one end of the route. Just keep the fares reasonable and more people will get rid of they second cars,and live on or near the route.Oh by the way do I get a pension pass?Harry "Crock"

The bottom line to if this is a success or not is what the far structure will be. Any ideas what a ticket will cost yet

When exactly will the Guided Busway be opening?

How long does the cycle path run for and will there be access on and off it along the whole route?Have there been any toughts on if people can take bikes, onto the bus or store them somewhere around the bus. Surely cycling to a bus stop, and having a bike to use when you reach the terminus is better than driving and parking at the stops, which will still clogg up the roads, just not in cambridge?!

Andy Newell
What measures are there to prevent non-authorised people using the busway?

E Kent.
Will the Concessionary travel pass for pensioners be valid on the guided bus.

Mark Flack
Why will the busway work along the old railway lines when the trains did not.Why not improve the rail service rather than put hundreds of extra buses on roads that are already at bursting point.I have to drive for my job as an Electrician and most of the roads are already gridlocked.If you got rid of the buses and used trains the roads would work better.Mark

Myreaction follows your 3rd questions about failure in Paris for a guided bus:truth is we have 2 automatically driven lines: 1 and 14(this new one has even no driver at all).But we are developing circular tracks for tramways all around the capital, partly sharing usual roads. I do not think we have tested guided bus like they will run here.Cheers

Janice Merry
Will there be enough space to park cars at the pick up stops for the busway - or will there be a shuttle bus, for people who do not live near the bus stops

Debbie Davies .
I think that what people would really like to know isthis: What local services will be axed because of the busway & will stagecoach make a statement about this:Both daytine & evening services: Girton,Oakington,Bar hill & all the villages which are served by the number 15 bus.I hope we get a reply. Debbie.

Are there any plans to improve access to the St Ives terminal? Surely having thousands of passengers getting the bus from there will result in a huge increase in traffic through St Ives, particularly Audrey Lane and the bridge over the river from the A14.

Lawrence Simpson
How is the "on road" part of the scheme going to be funded?

What is there to stop hooligans driving their cars along a guided route?

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