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BRT bad and worse

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  • Simon Norton
    Gabriel Roth in his description of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway scheme has made several mis-statements. 1. The distance between the two ends of the
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 15, 2008
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      Gabriel Roth in his description of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway scheme has
      made several mis-statements.

      1. The distance between the two ends of the "abandoned railway line" which is
      being converted is slightly less than 20 miles -- perhaps 17 miles. However,
      this includes perhaps 2 miles in common with the main line through Cambridge,
      making the total length of abandoned line about 15 miles. Of this, about 14
      miles is being converted.

      2. There was never any question of the local council financing the scheme --
      local authorities in England don't have that kind of money available (though
      Cambridgeshire might in future if it pushes through its proposals for a
      congestion charge, which face a lot of opposition within as well as outside the
      council). The original scheme was proposed by a Government sponsored study and
      called for a continuous stretch from one end to the other of the 17 mile
      stretch. The Council after working out the proposals further decided that
      building alongside the working railway was not practical and came up with the
      current scheme, which involves sending all buses on an unguided route through
      Cambridge city centre (which is often congested).

      3. The cost of the scheme may have been 70m pounds at one time, but it is now
      nearly 100m even if one excludes the contribution by the developer of the new
      town that will lie alongside the busway. Incidentally, the road scheme proposed
      by the same government sponsored study, and costed by them at 192m pounds, is
      now costed at over 600m pounds and rising (without any add-ons of which I am
      aware). If it succeeds in its aim of tackling congestion on the relevant
      corridor, it will probably undermine any prospect of commercial success for the
      guided busway.

      4. Gabriel is reasonable in wondering why a conventional busway wasn't used,
      though I don't support his idea of opening it up to toll paying cars, at least
      not unless the above road scheme was largely withdrawn (otherwise we'd get even
      more traffic). One disadvantage of a guided busway has just emerged in
      correspondence I have had with the new town developer: a proposal I put to add
      an extra stop for the busway was dismissed as impossible because it would not be
      within the powers of the authorisation of the guided busway.

      5. However, the simplest solution to the problem would surely have been to
      reopen the railway line. Ironically, one of the reasons why this wasn't done is
      because of encroachment by new development on a different section of the route;
      the worst being the building of a road -- which ironically is now worn out and
      will be made redundant in its present form by part of the same road scheme (the
      one part I was prepared to support). A major advantage of a railway would have
      been its ability to link with other services at the main line stations at each
      end; both of them will be served by guided buses but only by going through
      congested streets. I do not believe that the disadvantage of having to change
      between trains and (conventional) buses at stations would have been significant
      if a well functioning bus network had been designed -- though thanks to bus
      deregulation over 20 years ago the idea of designing a bus network seems to have
      been forgotten by those who control the movements of bus users. Our government
      is making attempts to move away from this situation with its new Local Transport
      Bill, but they are feeble and half hearted.

      Simon Norton
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