Cambridgeshire guided busway opens to passengers


A long-awaited guided busway has finally begun carrying passengers on routes through Cambridgeshire.

Buses will run between Huntingdon in the north of the county and Trumpington, just south of Cambridge.

The route, which includes 13.3 miles (21.5km) of guided concrete track, is believed to be the longest in the world.

It is hoped the busway will ease congestion on the A14 and provide an alternative mode of transport for people living at a proposed new housing development in the area.

However, the £116.2m busway has not been the quickest, or easiest, of projects to deliver.

It was expected to open in spring 2009, but has been beset by delays and financial disputes between Cambridgeshire County Council and its original contractor BAM Nuttall Ltd.

In 2001, funding from the Department for Transport was granted for the development of the concrete-tracked busway along a disused railway track between St Ives and Cambridge.

A public consultation was carried out in 2003 to gauge reaction to the proposals. The plans were approved and funding was awarded to the council in 2006 who contracted BAM Nuttall Ltd to carry out the work.

image captionThe buses travel along guided concrete tracks and traditional roads

Martin Bentley from the MG Owners' Club at Swavesey, which lies on the route, tried the bus ahead of the opening date and said the busway could be good for his business.

"We're no longer a backwater village location," he said. "We're right on the main line so we're going to be very exposed to a lot of people who didn't know about us."

However, Marian Cleaver, a parish councillor for Histon, said that although the busway was "very fast and smooth", she was unlikely to use it to travel into the city.

"It's quite difficult to get to the pick-up points and there isn't parking at Impington or Histon. There are quicker ways of getting into Cambridge," she said.

CAST.IRON, the Cambridge and St Ives Railway Organisation, campaigned against the busway. They wanted the railway line reopened instead.

A statement on their website said the group remained "utterly unconvinced" that the busway scheme would "make any noticeable difference to traffic levels on the A14 and there is no doubt it will increase congestion in the city's streets".

Bob Menzies, head of busway delivery at the council, said that although buses would be travelling on roads for some of the route, the guided tracks would significantly speed up some journeys.

"When [the bus] gets to the busway, that's when it's very quick. St Ives to the Science Park in just 20 minutes and that's always been the key," he said.

The chief executive of BAM Nuttall Ltd, Stephen Fox, said: "We are delighted to see [the busway] opening to the public and look forward to its successful operation in the future."

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