Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Cambridge (mis)Guided Bus and other Halloween Stories

Thursday, 28th October: (and later news additions) This week is half-term and so things are a little bit topsy-turvy, well in terms of my routine anyway and the clocks change at the weekend. So cycling has taken a bit of a back seat, but I did pop down for the newspaper on my bike this morning. I must catch up on email and Blog comments though.

It does seem as if a lot of news has caught my eye - well judging from the open tabs on my Chrome browser anyway. The Cambridge misGuided Busway is of course a regular visitor to the news "pages", more regular a visitor than I am to the CGB it seems. It would seem that the "war of words" between the Contractors, BAM Nuttall and the Cambridgeshire County Council CCC is ripe for escalation. Chief Executive of BAM Nuttall, Steve fox has apparently said that "the busway could have been opened to buses in about October last year". He also goes on to state that the "reason the contract is running as late is due to other issues that relate to the detail of the contract" and that he "believes that CCC holds the responsibility and liability for".

I guess this was prompted by a report the day before in the Cambridge News - "Shortcut bid for guided bus 'unacceptable'" in which an email was accidentally sent from BAM Nuttall to the CCC in which BAM apparently discussed tactics to put pressure on the CCC. There is also mention of the car traps being a show stopper, which I assume is no longer a problem as it does not seem to get mentioned in recent CCC documents.

I wonder if we will ever get to know quite what has been going on? However in a Bus related piece of news it turns out that the CCC gets a payment of £1.50 per passenger for each bus that leaves one of the P&R sites and Stagecoach the rest. (Current ticket prices £2.30 or £2.60 if the ticket is bought on the bus.) The gist of the report is that "Park & Ride 'isn't fair on taxpayers'" as the CCC gets only £1.50 versus the amount received by the Bus Company. I suppose I was surprised how much goes to the council. In the end it all boils down to what you are trying to achieve and what the costs associated with the P&R Car Parks and the buses are, to know whether it makes sense or not. Perhaps Press Releases and statements should also be backed by more information?

Various of the places I visit on my travels have also appeared in the news for one reason or another. The smell at Hauxton that has arisen from the clean up of the former agrochemicals factory is 'Not a statutory nuisance' - it did smell the last time I went through there though. Also in an example of democracy in inaction "Villagers are barred from clean-up body" Apparently there is a panel with a membership made up of the potential developers of the site, council representatives and experts - but they will not let locals join the body. So while we have a Government interested in the "Big Society" it would appear that "that sort if thing isn't wanted in parochial matters thank you very much."

Whilst on matter of the land (and water) a Wind Farm in Linton has been turned down at a planning appeal. The plan submitted was for 8 Wind turbines between Linton and Great Chesterford very close to the farm road and bridleway I have cycled on a few times. it seems to me that we do not really have a lot of open land around so whilst it might look attractive from a developers point of view we should not really be trying to fill every last gap with a man-made development. Whilst I am in favour of alternate methods of power generation we should not be trading one form of pollution for another. Potatoes are in the news though - or rather the machines that are used - a potato riddler, when a man got his arm stuck in a potato machine in Aldreth. There seem to have been a number of similar accidents in the area - I guess it is the time of year for lifting and sorting potatoes.

Plans have been submitted for East Anglia's biggest solar energy farm near Wilburton. According to the report the development will cost £13m, occupy 35 acres and provide power for more than 1,2000 homes. Which they helpfully qualify as Wilburton, Aldreth and half of Haddenham. The other half of Haddenham will go back to using candles. The company behind this - Abbey Renewables is part of a local, private group that started trading and storing potatoes but has now branched out into Property development and the renewables Energy Sector.

It turns out that some of the fishermen I see when cycling along the River Cam and River Great Ouse might not be legit - "Four caught fishing illegally land penalty". It appears that you need a Rod Licence from the Environment Agency and for the Cam a Day Ticket of Permit from the Cambridge Fish Preservation and Angling Society. (There are special rules for Local Residents, within 15 miles of Cambridge City centre!) Mind you, the Cam waters are muddy apparently - "Ownership confusion muddies the Cam waters". which means that a legal loophole "allows shabby boats to moor free" between the Elizabeth Way bridge and the Stourbridge Common Cattle grid. The comments are the best bit though.

Helicopters, or rather the Cambridgeshire helicopters are also in the news with "Force helicopter set for the chop" due to plans to create a centralised National Air Police Service by 2012. Apparently the current Cambs Police Helicopter service costs £15m per year and the new system will be more cost-effective, although it does not say what it might cost. Co-incidentally the Cambridge Police helicopter has been busy in a "hunt for hooded robbers" who stole £5,000 of metal. It also seems that the Air ambulance changes are afoot. Anglia 2 - funded by the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) will no longer use the Magpas Helimedix, a charity with around 50 doctors donating their time but instead contract them from a EMSC a private company. This seems rather strange as both EAAA and Magpas Helimedix are charities. The article mentions that Magpas has donated around £2m of doctors' services in a year - so it does look a bit like a "turf war" between two charities, with one charity dumping another - not very charitable if you ask me. MAGPAS also work with the Police Helicopter which can deploy at night.

It also seems that the new Hospital Relief Road from the M11 to Addenbrooke's Hospital has opened. although not all of it is open to general traffic, from Shelford Road to Addenbrookes is for traffic on hospital business only, but it will help by reducing congestion on the roads around it. Although already it has caused confusion with "no cycle" signs. The good news is that there are cycle lanes on the road, but some rather odd "no cycling" signs have been put up which almost look as if cyclists are banned from the cycle lanes. They are really intended to stop cyclists using the pavement - but unfortunately attention to detail does not always seem to be the watchword when facilities for cyclists are planned and built, despite the efforts of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign. Apparently the Addenbrooke's Access road was more than a year behind schedule.

I should not be too negative though - there are also plans for a 60 acre country park to be called Trumpington Meadows and will include a cycle track between Hauxton and Trumpington. It is being funded through S106 money from a housing development (1200 dwellings).

And finally, I think it is my GOM status (Grumpy Old Man) but I do think that the roads are more dangerous, less courteous places to be. There have recently been a series of crashes in the area. A jogger was killed on Ten mile Bank, Littleport. (Which is shown on the Sustrans map of the area as the Fens Cycleway - Southern Loop (.doc). There were also accidents on the A14 (which I don't cycle along) and also on the A1303, where the NCN51 between Cambridge and Ely runs. And of course some road rage - "Wiper snapped in car attack"

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