Sunday, 7 August 2011

Went to see the Guided Bus running

The Busway officially opened today (Sunday 7th Aug 2011) and I believe there were parties along the track, press launches and I am sure a ticker tape parade somewhere.  I was interested in this great spectacle so decided to pop down to the track to see a Guided Bus actually running.

I tried to persuade my children to go for a cycle but they were uninterested so I grabbed an hour for a ride in the afternoon joining at Swavesey where real people were waiting at the stops. No sign of a bus, so I continued my cycle fully expecting to see a bus en-route. I cycled towards Cambridge, the next stop being Longstanton where there is a large park-and-ride car park.  I estimate there was about 100 cars there.  Again, real people at the stops, although I could see there were a lot of parents with children.  It reminded me of a family day out on a novelty steam train.

Still no bus, so I continued on to Oakington, passing the Cambridge Cycle Campaign ride (no time to stop and chat). At Oakington there were six people waiting at the stops. I had been alongside the track for 20 minutes so far and I had not seen a single bus in either direction.  I needed to leave the track here so this was frustrating.  I checked the timetable and realised that although the frequency Monday to Saturday is very good, Sunday is very poor, once per hour in each direction.  

I overheard one passenger complaining that the machine would not let them buy a weekly ticket. On the other side, another potential passenger thought there was a bus coming in a couple of minutes. I didn't spot this initially but I think they read from the live information signs (like the ones on the London tube network) telling you how many minutes away the next bus is.

Oakington Stop.  Passengers waiting.

So I am 2.5 miles from home, and have 20 minutes to get there and shower then go out again.  The bus is two minutes away and I am certainly tapping my feet and continuously looking at my watch. I was a frustrated as you probably are, reading this thinking cut to the chase, show me the bus!  Another five minutes pass and I have to give up. I really had to get home and pelted it back to Cottenham, wind behind at nearly 28mph.

Luckily for you, someone else did see a bus. Here is their short video:

Their description concurs with my view:  The Busway opened today. I went along a few hours after the opening to see if I could spot a bus running along the guided busway, and after quite a wait, I got lucky. It even had passengers on it.

I spent 25 minutes alongside the Busway and thought I would see one in this time.  I am surprised by how limited the service is on a Sunday, one per hour in each direction.  It is actually very good for buses in rural areas, but nowhere near convenient enough for a modern city.  If you want to use it on a Sunday, you'll really need to plan your journey and not miss your bus back.  All that stress and big price (£5.40 return from Swavesey or Longstanton to Cambridge, £3.50 from Oakington).  That's why we all have cars out here, or bicycles of course, but that's not a popular choice for most.

If you want to go Bus spotting, go Monday to Saturday when one should pass every 10 minutes.

Official Busway site including route map and ticket prices

David Jenkins (Councillor): Finally, riding the guided bus

[Update] Great pictures and a video of one passing on Keep Pushing Those Pedals.

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