Tuesday 17 March 2015

Cambridge Awayday Part One

Today Bryan and I went to Cambridge and it really is quite remarkable just how much can be fitted into a few hours. The day started for me at Darsham and a journey to Ipswich on a rather full 156. I met up with Bryan at Ipswich for the 75 min journey to Cambridge on 2 car 170271.

The main aim for the day was to get Bryan on the Cambridge Busway for the first time, and after a brisk 20 min walk into the City Centre we found ourselves in one of Stagecoach's 09 registered Volvo B7rle's whizzing along the Busway to St Ives.

Stagecoach 21229 Volvo B7rle AE09GYZ at St Ives Bus Station

You simply cannot do the Busway without doing it from the top deck and after a brief stop in St Ives to take pics of some Whippet vehicles we boarded another 09 reg vehicle - this time an E400 for the return trip.

Stagecoach 15457 Scania E400 AE09 GYD at St Ives
Now normally the sight of an 09 reg E400 would have me running for the hills but these have Scania chassis, and as long time readers will know, that makes all the difference. Hardly a rattle to be heard, smooth. Comfortable and quiet. In fact everything the Dennis chassis isn't.

One of Go Whippet's B7rle's. WG101 BG59 FYB
I knew there were some 64 reg E400's around and I wanted to sample one. After returning halfway up the Busway to get some decent pics we caught one back to Cambridge. Faultless. If all E400's were like these you wouldn't hear a peep out of me and I'd be happy to travel on them anywhere.

Stagecoach 15200 Scania E400 YN64 ANU at Swavesey
On arrival at Cambridge we had lunch then spent an hour getting as many pics as we could which will form other parts of the post.

Another of the new ones, 15197 in Central Cambridge
One thing I must mention is the seats on these Busway buses. When people talk about leather seating this is what I imagine. Truly luxurious and comfortable. And leagues above ANYTHING We have in Suffolk or Norfolk including the X1.

View of the Busway from front of top deck
A couple of years ago I took a video from the front of an E400 going Cambridge bound on the Busway. Unfotunately I can't find it so this is one of the better ones I found on YouTube, which gives a great idea of what it's like. Maybe watching it will encourage those who haven't ridden it yet to do so. Bryan agreed with me that surely part of the future of bus travel must involve more of these. He described it as trains without rails, and that is really what it is.


  1. Great post Steve. Not sure however that everyone else must agree with your view that in excess of £100mil (and rising because of the maintenance and structural issues) of everyone else's taxes is value for money so a few retirees can have a nice free day out, to be replicated in the rest of the country. But being an enthusiast means that you never have to live with practicalities! And those passengers not on the busway who've lost subsidised routes are less important, of course, since they don't make for pretty pictures.

    That being said I think the Busway is good, but it can't rest on it's laurels and still needs to form part of integrated development (not transport in isolation - and that's still an open question), which at least there is a chance of in Greater Cambridge for other reasons. In Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and elsewhere in the Shires, no chance, whatsoever. Take anything out of context, and you can make an argument for anything. The A14 chaos is less important than the busway? (Or even a Norfolk busway more important than sorting out the Greater Anglia lines?) Perhaps, if you never need to buy anything and don't rely on anyone else doing so to pay your pension. Sorry, but a bucket of cold water is sometimes necessary to wake us up from our dreamlike reverie. (We had an issue in Chelmsford: a busway or a new station with passing loop on the Greater Anglia line to serve major new development? We chose the rail. Did we get it wrong? I can't say so. Look at the cost/benefit).

  2. Ah my dear Smurf I was discussing your first point with Bryan on Tuesday. It was never meant to be 100m, and only contractual disputes and cock ups left right and centre were responsible for toose spiraling costs. So my solution would be to get the Japanese in to build any further Busways. They get things done, on time and to budget or heads roll. I'm all for buy British unless it's crap in which case why not buy from abroad.

    I am also not advocating that rail projects be abandoned for Busways. You will know that the Cambridge Busway is bult on a disused railway, thus providing an alternative use for the land. I'm sure there are a few loss making branch lines around the country that could be turned into something similar - I know ther Medway Valley Line in Kent has long had ideas for a light railway, tramway suggested for it. I would suggest a busway would be even better. And how many disused lines are there that could be converted like the Cambridge - St Ives line. This is not competition with the trains, but an enhancement of bus services to help reduce town and city centre congestion by providing FAST journeys into town. All future motorways and trunk roads should have a guided bus lane as standard built next to the main carriageway with large car parks bult adjacent. just a bit of imagination, Governmental support and watertight
    contracts and there could be a whole new teir of bus travel, not to operate against on instead of local services, but to cater for a completely different market altogether.

    Something else that is part of the Busway that seems extremely popular is the cycle path either side. Build a cycle lane with the busway with these roads and you please everyone including the Greens. It's all there if the country really wants it. The only obstacles are man made and with a bit of enterprise easily overcome.