‘Deteriorating’ Cambridgeshire guided busway may need to be ripped up

Discussion in 'Buses & Coaches' started by nidave, 11 Apr 2015.

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  1. nidave

    nidave Member

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  2. transportphoto

    transportphoto Established Member Quizmaster

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    For those who are unable to view the website linked in the above post:
     
  3. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If only they'd used a proven technology that previously travelled over most of that very same route. Something that uses ballast, sleepers and steel rails with vehicles that have steel wheels. Perhaps you could call it a 'railway'...
     
  4. talltim

    talltim Established Member

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    6 thousand or 6 million?
     
  5. theageofthetra

    theageofthetra Established Member

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    Remind me:- did the civil servants who failed to manage the contract get sacked?
     
  6. Paul Sidorczuk

    Paul Sidorczuk Veteran Member

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    Bearing the matter in mind, will both TfGM and their nominated contractor, Balfour Beatty, have taken on board the lessons to be learnt on the Cambridge entity, on the Leigh Guided Busway project that is currently in the stage of construction?
     
  7. jon0844

    jon0844 Veteran Member

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    The council is dealing with a company far bigger than it is, so it could be a lengthy and expensive legal process - with no guarantee of a positive outcome.

    These large firms usually have very good legal teams that convince councils to accept contract clauses that sound innocent but are later invoked to avoid or drastically reduce liability.

    My parents who consult with housing associations and contractors (who in turn often sub-contact) have seen this sort of thing a billion times before.

    Councils that outsource to massive firms, whether it's Serco, Veolia, Mears or whatever, often for 10 or 15 years, really don't have a clue until it's too late.
     
  8. Springs Branch

    Springs Branch Member

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    A good point. Although it doesn't pass through marshy ground, the area where the Leigh busway is being built has been notorious for subsidence due to collapse of abandoned coal mines beneath.

    I recall that one of the reasons put forward by BR for closing the Eccles - Tyldesley - Leigh - Kenyon railway in 1969 was the cost of repairing continuous mining subsidence.
    Maybe by now most of the old coal workings have collapsed and it's less of a problem (the subsidence has subsided)?

    Further afield, in Adelaide, South Australia, the 7½ mile Adelaide O-Bahn guided busway is approaching 30 years old. Although very substantially built and probably on more favourable ground and in a better climate than Cambridge or Leigh, it is starting to need expensive repairs because of deterioration of the concrete track (accompanied by mutterings by some of "we should have build Light Rail instead").
     
  9. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    They are not known as "misguided busways" for nothing :lol:

    I'd recommend anyone who hasn't yet sampled it to give it a go, if nothing else it will convince you such schemes should not be repeated elsewhere.

    You get a good view from the front seat of a double-decker. ;)
     
  10. Blindtraveler

    Blindtraveler Established Member

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    Anyone who has lived in Edinburgh for 10-12 years knows how much of a headake guided busways can be. As many will know, we had a short lived one which now forms part of the tram route. The irony that the busway used to carry one of the citys busyest bus routes, the 22, and now carries a service that many claim is underused is not lost on many of us.

    Its a shame this has happened in Cambridge but I agree with Ainsworth74 that rail of any kind would have been better
     
  11. kylemore

    kylemore Member

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    And the Edinburgh one was falling apart by the time it closed as well!

    Guided busways - a ludicrous concept.
     
  12. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    But based on the last few posts is it the case that the Edinburgh busway was a more cost-effective measure than the tramway that replaced it?
     
  13. ac6000cw

    ac6000cw Established Member

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    There were good reasons why it was built as a busway - related to how to best serve the transport needs of the areas at each end of the busway itself and financial (like the money wasn't available to build a tramway). These considerations are completely separate from how it was designed and constructed, which is what the current news stories are about.

    By the way, the area it travels through is mostly not marsh or drained marshland (fenland).
     
  14. WatcherZero

    WatcherZero Established Member

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    A lot of work had to be redone in the first place because the contractor attempted to skimp on drainage and not meet the councils specified spec which left areas prone to flooding.
     
  15. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    True. As it is mostly wide enough, they might have done better to build it as a full width single carriageway tarmac road, rather than the guided bit with cycle path alongside. Proven technology that would have achieved roughly the same thing.
     
  16. kylemore

    kylemore Member

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    No, because trams need a "track", buses don't. The Lothian 22 bus came off a perfectly good road onto the rapidly flaking concrete of the busway for a couple of miles before going back onto the same road.

    Some claim it saved a minute or two due to possible congestion at two junctions on said road but in my extensive experience (unfortunately!) of driving 22s I saw very little evidence of that congestion that could not have been dealt with by much cheaper alternatives.

    In short Edinburgh Council's Public Transport Unit consciously spent public money on a Gimmick.
     
  17. IanXC

    IanXC Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I wonder how much will end up being spent on the guided busway in, say, it's first 25 years as compared to a rail solution?
     
  18. overthewater

    overthewater Established Member

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    Why can't there just build a normal road with buffers on it?
     
  19. MCR247

    MCR247 Established Member

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    This is what I don't get. Why do we need to spend money on a special surface for buses? Why not just a dedicated tarmac road?
     
  20. Teflon Lettuce

    Teflon Lettuce Member

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    the idea being that if it is a special surface then other traffic CAN'T use it... however on the Luton busway it's a regular occurance for cars to at least TRY.

    I don't see however how anyone can say that the CONCEPT is flawed from the cambridge experience... what seems to be the problem there is poor construction... after all the same system worked well for many years in Essen and the Adelaide O-Bahn was a huge success.

    One only has to see how many BILLIONS HS2 is projected to cost (going up all the time) to see why busways are being built in places where a "rail" solution is needed but cannot be justified financially by projected usage.

    Horses for courses so to speak
     
  21. Mojo

    Mojo Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Because a railway line is narrower than a road. Parts of the route are on embankments, or passing under narrow bridges. If it were a road, buses would have to slow down as they pass each other to avoid crashing.
     
  22. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    The fact is, Cambridge - St Ives already had a railway in place, so wouldn't have cost anything like the billions required for HS2 to bring it back into use. A lot of it had to do with the Government of the day's luke warm attitude to rail. Had the route been in Scotland where Governments have taken a more enlightened attitude to public transport, it would have got the rail solution that residents wanted in the first place.

    Horses for courses was briefly considered in the 1980's but dismissed since rail passengers, not unreasonably, preferred to travel by train. Cheap and nasty would be a better description for the rash of guided busway conversions forced on local authorities during the noughties.
     
  23. Teflon Lettuce

    Teflon Lettuce Member

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    maybe the public did want the railway re-instated... but would it have been cost effective?

    the truth is that most guided busways so far have been short sections to give buses a quick way through traffic bottlenecks (Crawley, Ispwich, Edinburgh)

    so far the only 2 operational busways that cover ground that could be covered by rail are the cambridge and luton ones.

    In the case of cambridge, being a deeply rural area albeit with large commuter flows I doubt there would ever be the passenger numbers to make it a viable rail route. As for luton all that would've been feasible as a rail route is a detached shuttle due to the layout and topography of the junction with the main line. It would've cost millions just to re-align and rebuild the junction.

    I am sure (or would hope) that the councils did their due diligence to cost out all the options against projected passenger flows.

    To castigate the busway option as cheap and nasty shows that you have a natural bias towards rail.... probably rail or nothing.... I wonder what the passengers would say given the option of rail or nothing? I'm sure they wouldn't choose "nothing"

    As I said above the system used in luton and cambridge has worked well in other parts of the world... so the problem isn't the system or idea of busways in use.... it is the poor execution in the construction..

    all a guided busway is is a rubber tyred tram.... seeing as though Paris has managed for years with rubber tyred trains I don't see why people are so anti busway when the only other viable option is "nothing at all"
     
  24. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Quite. Guided busways are suitable for short urban stretches of the type we have in Leeds (providing there is enough land available without destroying the fabric/character of the area.

    They are not suitable for longer distance inter-urban routes that travel through rural areas.

    Government policy not only sets out not only what goes into the benefit/cost calculation, but has also conspired to ensure that the revenue costs of running a railway are as high as possible, which is why re-openings were quite common during the late eighties and early nineties and why busways were forced on routes such as Cambridge-St Ives which should have been rail more recently. Rubbish policy masquerading as an " objective" calculation.

    It's simply not good enough to say that people should put up with a busway or nothing. They should demand a change to the policies that unnecessarily inflate the cost of the rail option.
     
    Last edited: 12 Apr 2015
  25. Teflon Lettuce

    Teflon Lettuce Member

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    again I point to Adelaide where the distance is similar

    why not? you appear to argue that the only choice should be rail and if that choice is unaffordable then the only other option is nothing...

    I think what I said was that if rail is not feasible for any reason then a busway should be considered... so if people want a railway reinstated and the money isn't there or the demand wouldn't be high enough then the option should be busway.

    of course... IF the traffic generated then makes rail a viable option it can always be converted at a later date.

    there is too much "rail or nothing" arguments with public transport funding. Here where I live in rural west wales there is a vociferous campaign to reinstate the Aberystwyth- Carmarthen railway line... blindly ignoring all the facts such as much of the land has been sold off... more has been built over... and there aren't even enough prospective passengers (unless you start counting the sheep!) to make an hourly normal bus service commercially viable!

    again my point is missed.... that the CONCEPT isn't flawed... in the case of the Cambridge busway it is clear that it is the EXECUTION ie the build quality... remember Cambridgeshire County Council have been in dispute with the contractors since BEFORE the busway was completed... and that the busway's opening was delayed by over a year due to build quality issues...

    The news item that started this thread was just another small step in this long running dispute.
     
  26. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    You are incorrect to suggest that it is a case of "rail or nothing" when I have stated that there are places where busways work very well - notably short urban routes around congestion bottlenecks, such as in my own local area of area of Leeds.

    You also fixate on the issue of affordability, conveniently ignoring the fact that particularly on our railway, affordability is very much affected by Government policy. Think track access charges, rolling stock leasing costs, rolling stock shortages, all of which push up the cost unnecessarily.

    Whether traffic generated makes rail "a viable option" is also down to Government policy in how the sums are added up. This notably differs not only between different countries within the UK, but also, as HS2 illustrates, between different rail projects within England. There is no hard and fast objective formula for what constitutes a "viable option". The only way there would be an objective definition of viability would be to go back to the Beeching idea of all lines paying for themselves directly through farebox revenue, yet we choose to subsidise routes for the greater public good, so this is clearly not an option.
     
  27. ac6000cw

    ac6000cw Established Member

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    Exactly.

    It's not a perfect solution - nothing ever is, there always have to be compromises in the real world.

    In relation to the Cambridge area busway, the heavy rail option would almost certainly have been the worst one due to high operating costs in relation to service frequency and no ability to directly serve the central part of Cambridge. It would likely have required a complete rebuilding to modern standards of what was only ever a single-track branch line (and of which the extension earthworks to Huntingdon station from St.Ives had been partly obliterated - not least by the current A14 road).

    In the current timetable, off-peak Mon-Sat there are 8 buses per hour between St.Ives and Cambridge city centre in each direction - and that is higher frequency than when it opened due to it's popularity (it carried 3.5 million passengers in the year up to August 2014). Once the 'Cambridge North' railway station opens (to which the busway will be extended) I'd expect those passenger numbers to increase noticeably because people will be able to go directly from (fast) bus from St.Ives etc. to train.

    It seems to be mostly outsiders who criticise it - the locals just happily use it ;)
     
    Last edited: 12 Apr 2015
  28. Teflon Lettuce

    Teflon Lettuce Member

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    and what is wrong with that? it is the standard that buses have had to abide by for the last 30 years (with the feeble sop that councils can buy back limited "socially neccessary" services.... IF they can find the money)

    whats good for the goose....
     
  29. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Go on then. Get your political party of choice to propose another round of Beeching cuts and see how far it gets them.
     
    Last edited: 12 Apr 2015
  30. MCR247

    MCR247 Established Member

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    Oh ok that makes sense. I knew there was a rail route but didn't realise the busway used the same alignment
     
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