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Hunts Post September 17 2003

Guided bus consultation

17 Sep 2003 13:02

THE leader of the group hoping to re-instate the St Ives to Cambridge railway line has attacked the consultation process about the proposed rapid transit system, calling it an insult to the intelligence.

Tim Phillips, chairman of the Cambridge and St Ives Railway Organisation (CAST.IRON) claimed the process that led to controversial guided bus plans being recommended was "designed to eliminate the rail option from the outset."

The Cambridge to Huntingdon Multi Modal Study (CHUMMS) recommend the guided bus option - which The Hunts Post opposes - to Government and Cambridgeshire County Council has been charged with bringing the £80 million plan into being.

But CAST.IRON thinks there is still potential for the original railway line to be used and that keeping it open will eventually allow a direct rail operation between Huntingdon and Cambridge, rather than the proposed bus-based system.

Mr Phillips said: "The recent public consultation asked if we would like a high quality rapid transit system but there was no opportunity to tick a box that selected rail for this system.

"The original CHUMMS study was so biased towards the guided bus it made it virtually impossible to vote for rail. That was bad enough, but this option also included the most destructive road plan. People voted anti-road, not anti-rail and certainly no pro-guided bus. Since then, the council has been telling us that rail was rejected.

"It's an insult to the intelligence of the electorate."

Mr Phillips advised people to look very carefully at the wording of the announcement about the results of the preliminary public consultation with the rapid transit scheme conducted by the county council.

He warned: "We do not accept that a vote for 'high quality rapid transit' is a vote for guided bus."

His comments echo those of Hunts Post editor Paul Richardson last week. He said: "Mr Phillips is repeating the arguments we have upheld for a couple of years. People are not voting for a guided bus scheme, they are backing a high quality, fast public transport network. And we have always said the CHUMMS consultation was heavily flawed - something which is now widely accepted, at least in private, by anyone closely associated with this."

CAST.IRON wants to establish a community commuter railway and re-open the railway line in stages, Mr Phillips saying: "A proper rail scheme has not been on the table for people to consider before. We have received overwhelming support because people want to see rail on the route and they have the vision to see it as a means to an end - a way of opening the door for the ultimate prize, Cambridge to Huntingdon connected to a national main line at each end."

He estimates the first, limited Cast.IRON services could be operational in 2004 for a cost of under £2 million and the St Ives to Huntingdon rail option could be achieved for under £10 million. [Editor's note: Tim did not say this! The cost of re-opening and electrifying St Ives to Huntingdon would have been £10 million in 1994, but would cost much more now.] The council says the guided bus scheme will be completed in 2007.

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