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Buses on the Cambridge Guided Busway

The long awaited Cambridge Guided Busway opened on 7th August, and a training course I'm giving nearby brought me close to its northern section yesterday.

Cambridge Guided BuswayAlthough I may have questioned the choice of a guided busway over other options along the corridor, and worried about the delays and budget overruns that have detracted even further from the original case, I now wish the busway every success. It's public transport, in a city / age / era where mass transit is sensibly undertaken by something more efficient that hundreds of (private) vehicles each with its own engine and carrying one person for the mostpart, also parked up for most of the day rather than being in more efficient use.

I understand that upon its opening, there were queues of people looking for a ride, and a shortage of vehicles at first to run the services. Perhaps that's only to be expected - an intial interest, with the "proof of the pudding" being in how it stacks up in the days and weeks following, with repeat usage by the early testers if they like it. My picture here, taken at about 10 past five yesterday evening, shows a bus leaving the busway at the southern end headed for the centre of Cambridge. It has just stopped at the several stops that serve the science park, and I might have hoped that - at that time of day - rather more passengers would have been picked up to ride home to the city, to the railway station on the other side of Cambridge, or to the southern suburbs which are also served.


Guided Bus, CambridgeThe special busway track ends near the Science Park, with the buses carrying on down the main road into Cambridge. And I walked about a mile down that road towards my hotel. I was keeping an eye our for further guided buses along the way - to see their effect on road traffic, and to watch their loading. Alas, I was disappointed; I say plenty of buses to the Park and Ride - well loaded but will seats available - but I saw no more inbound guided buses at all, and the only outbound one (from the city) was this one in my second picture. That's just one bus in my 20 minutes or so walk, and this really isn't as crowded as I might have expected after such a long gap at peak hour, and in a direction that I would guess is the major flow. To complete ths story for newcomers to the guided busway, I should point out that there are two "legs" out of Cambridge, so I probably saw only half the buses / half the peak traffic level as a whole.

A surge at the beginning, then a dip. I hope it recovers from the dip. There's been too much invested into this scheme for it to fail, but rather than being full of the success, yesterday's Cambridge paper headlined a car that had driven into one of the car traps and been wrecked as a result, with pictures oe engineers getting it out. And a proud statement that "services were not delayed". Yeah - but that's probably because there were no services around at the time to actually be delayed :-( . And complaints from residents in a village along the way that there's supposed to be a 40 m.p.h. limit on the busses as they go over a cycleway crossing, but that they're creating a danger as they whizz by at 60 m.p.h. ... of course, had it been a train that would have been even faster - with a class 150 running at up to 75 m.p.h. or a class 158 dawdling at up to 90 m.p.h. Mind you, from within the money that has been invested in the busway, I'm sure that enough could have been found for a cheaper rail option and bridges to ensure railway-level rather than road-level safety.


I'm back in Cambridge again in about a month. Watch out for a follow up ...
(written 2011-08-24)

 
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