Wednesday’s, yesterday’s and today’s trade rags get a chance to sing to the same tune when it comes to the Cambridgeshire busway. They are all enthusiastic and with good reason. Only today’s Passenger Transport indicates that the first week saw over 55,000 passengers. One was Omnibuses’ Northern Correspondent. Here, Omnibuses NC goes beyond the trade press and ponders what is seemingly the imponderable. What might make the busway even better?
- It’s difficult for the ordinary punter to distinguish between a Whippet and a Stagecoach single deck. They both adopt the same busway livery but they are in competition with each other. They offer different fares, there’s no ticket interavialability and they operate at different frequencies. Mr & Mrs Average Cambridgeshire will not be impressed. The all-operator carnet-style ticket is not enough. Since access to the busway demands a partnership & operator payment, why can’t a QC be extended to fares?
- Between whole swathes of countryside are but a handful of “stations”. You approach these quite fast. That’s a good thing. But because there is little distinguishing geography on the route, an audible announcement might be useful to help locate your stop. Since the driver is hand free and operating on what is a private road, this needn’t be automatic, though linking audio to the RTI would be good.
- Timing points on the web timetable refer to the As and Bs serving “central Cambridge” with no real idea where this is. Can passengers find their stop? The printed version is clearer and precise and has maps with stops, too. It would be good if this were also on the web. Other than on a Sunday, in the eastbound direction, there’s no indication as to whether the Bs serve Drummer Street or not; and the Cs mention Drummer Street without reference to it being a bus station. You’ve got to be in the know.
- Some Stagecoach drivers seemed to be wearing baseball caps! Is this standard uniform? Even First seems to have dropped this dumbing down practice and such attire takes the shine off what are very customer focused drivers.
- Fares are high. I’m not suggesting that those charged are out of scale compared to general bus routes in the area. To attract impromptu parkers & riders, £10.80 for a couple just isn’t going to do it. Or £6 for an adult plus child (after 0930). Better to take the very A14 the busway tries to avoid to one of the regular Cambridge P&R sites and pay £2.40 return (via self-service machine; £2.70 on bus) and up to three children travel free.
- When compared to a weekday bus over the core section of every 10 minutes, evening & Sunday services are very poor. If the busway is to be a credible option in promoting modal shift, operators need to rethink services at these times. Access charges are waived on Sundays.
- In particular, the southern section (towards Addenbrooke Hospital & Trumpington P&R) is very well engineered but sees no Sunday or evening service; and only a 20 minute service on weekday daytimes. Might operators make more of this section?
- The C timetable also shows some journeys on the A. It doesn’t make it clear which operator does which. Indeed, no timetable refers to operators at all.
It might say Whippet on the front but not everyone will spot the difference on services liveried identically