Thursday, 1 December 2011

Omnibus addition


Yesterday I took the day off work and travelled with my bike on the train to Cambridge for a ride out with my brother. It was, after all, the day for withdrawing labour in support of one's brothers.

We had decided to investigate the Cambridge Guided Bus route which has its own cycle track from Cambridge Science Park to St Ives, and it was fascinating to see this new service in operation.
Built along a former railway line, this new commuter service provoked much hostility when it was being constructed from campaigners who would have preferred a traditional train or tram service. Well over budget and behind schedule, the 11 mile concrete track was finally opened fully last year and is the longest system of its kind in the World.

Custom built Scania buses travel in the concrete grooves and have horizontal guide wheels which keep the main tyres away from the concrete edges. These buses are powered by bio-fuel produced entirely from food waste and have onboard wifi and laptop sockets for commuters. At either end of the expressway they simply drive off into the normal roads, something trains or monorail systems cannot do.

In theory the whole concept sounds a little odd and detractors had predicted it would become a very expensive white elephant. However, looking at the system in practice I was greatly impressed with the vision of Cambridgeshire Council in supporting such a ground-breaking concept. The buses travelled fast (60-70mph), frequently and full, and the new park and ride areas on route were jam packed with cars and bikes.

video

I couldn't help but contrast this with the train service from Norwich to Cambridge I had used that morning, this week operated by National Express. 15 minutes late, my train had arrived "into" the "station stop" with just a single carriage instead of the normal three "due to a unit shortage" and therefore entailing an uncomfortable 50 minutes in unhealthy proximity to human misery. The system, apart from the diesel engine, was 170 years old and felt like it.

If we are to survive as a prosperous nation we need to experiment with our transport infrastructure like the guided bus system. We need to design, develop and actually manufacture the systems in this Country and use our natural resources to the full. Having squandered our oil resources it looks like brains and ingenuity are all we have to go on.


18 comments:

Tim Footman said...

I want one.

letouttoplay said...

Barney was involved with the design of a bus priority system in Nottingham about thirty years ago. It was going to give buses priority routes in and out of the city and keep cars out of the way. Fares were going to be low and because it was going to be such an easy and efficient way to travel it was going to be economically sustainable.

Unfortunately the final design was presented to the council a couple of months before local elections.

Liz said...

I nominate Rog to be Minister for Transport.

Z said...

Brains and ingenuity. Hmm. We're doomed, darling.

Rog said...

Tim: Christmas is approaching...

Mig: Sounds much too sensible. The car has ruined many of our fine Cities from Lincoln to Lancaster.

Liz: I could be the new Lord Adonis!

Z: Come come. Imagine wifi on the Diss to London route!

Macy said...

Two words.
Edinburgh
Trams
....
Feel free to head north and inspect Edinburgh's transport solution anytime....

Sir Bruin said...

Ban cars altogether - everyone rides a motorbike, or they walk!

Nota Bene said...

That looks like immense fun...a double decker train....

Mike and Ann said...

I think I must go and have ride on that. Do they accept 'bus passes do you know?

Mike and Ann said...

P.s. I've just checked with Google (well I know your sense of humour Rog) and it isn't a leg-pull. We've decided we really must have a go on it, especially as two of its 'bus stops are in Cambridge City centre, and parking in the middle of Cambridge is murderously bad.
Thanks Rog.

Rog said...

Macy: I used to trundle along Dumbarton Road to my Grannie's "hoose", as I believe it was referred, in a lovely old tram which is now in Derbyshire at Crick.

Sir B: Am I allowed stabilizers?

Nota: A train which can drive off at the end! It's like Transformers!

Mike & Ann: I'm pleased you are inspired. I'd love to know what it's like to travel on them so will await your review with interest. There was a nice little coffee shop at St Ives round the corner from Waitrose.

gabriellebryden said...

That sounds like a fabulous idea - I agree, brains is the main thing we have left (though common sense is often missing from the people in power).

Rog said...

Hi Gabrielle and welcome! You could always check out the O-Bahn in Adelaide...

gabriellebryden said...

I never knew about the one in Adelaide - doh! I am a long way from Adelaide though - probably the distance of 4/5 Englands away - haha (I did live in Cambridge UK many years ago - everyone seemed to ride pushbikes).

Pat said...

Oh wait a minute - so it's not St Ives Cornwall?

Rog said...

Gabrielle: I went to Adelaide once. It was shut.

Pat: Now THAT would be a useful service!

Jon Storey said...

Interesting idea, more please! I seem to recall the the linear magnetic monorail was invented in Britain, then the patents given to the Japanese as no one in this country was interested!

Rog said...

Jon: I remember being inspired by Eric Laithwaite but he seemed to be regarded by the establishment as a bit of a maverick.