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.
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 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
Have Your Say
Debbie Davies .