This article was published in 2002, in Newsletter 41.

You’ve probably seen some details in the press about the proposals for a Guided Bus route from St Ives to Trumpington. We wrote about it in Newsletter 38 but, following a public launch in March, more details are now available. The current proposals are an amalgam of the two separate proposals, put forward by separate groups, for routes north and south of Cambridge.

Some details are on the Web at

The proposal is to have concrete guideways for the ‘off road’ sections with normal, unguided running on the street. Such systems have been running in the UK for a number of years, and can use purpose built vehicles or conventional buses with a ‘guideway’ adaptation

Why should the Campaign in particular, and cyclists in general, concern themselves with this scheme?

Image as described adjacent
Space is tight under Long Road bridge. Could there be a cycle track and two lanes for the trams?

There should be gains for cyclists:

  • In general, improvements to public transport reduce the number (or slow the increase) of cars on the road. Such improvements also allow the authorities to further reduce car access to the central area. (Carrot before Stick)
  • Much of the off road sections should create the opportunity to provide a parallel high-quality cycle route, as the envelope of land is generally wide enough for both. This 3m or better ‘cycleway’ can double as a maintenance and emergency access, so would be of significant value to the operator of the guideway. There is even enough room under the A14 near the Regional College and the B1049 at Histon for both.
  • A spur to Addenbrooke’s Hospital will require a bridge or tunnel to cross the very busy rail line south of Long Road. This would provide a vital cycle link, both to Addenbrooke’s, and for the Sustrans route in the area. It would also eliminate the ‘at grade’ (level) footpath crossing which has seen fatalities in recent years.

But, as always, there is a downside:

  • We’ll have new articulated buses with a length of 18 metres on City centre streets. Although the swept path (see Kicking Buses in Newsletter 39) should be no greater than existing Citi vehicles, and such buses have worked in other towns without problems, driver training will be important, as will be the vigilance of cyclists. We’ll need to vet the routes these vehicles use very carefully, as well as their stopping points.
  • If there had been no prospect of improved public transport on the two disused rail corridors, we would have had cycle routes on them years ago!
  • There are going to be pinch points where guided bus and cyclists compete for space. Where these are close to proposed stops, and are short in length, a section of ‘single track’ would produce little delay for guided vehicles. Under Long Road, and under Hills Road where a new arch is proposed, would be good locations for such compromise. Two sections of more concern are between Hauxton Road and Shelford Road, and near Histon station. We will need the co-operation and support of the County Council to ensure a viable route is provided in these areas.

Image as described adjacent
The Cambridge area metro might reach Addenbrooke’s with a link over the railway. So where’s the cycle track alongside?

When proposals for such schemes in Cambridge were first announced, there were suggestions for multiple articulated vehicles with lengths of some 30 metres, complete with guiding grooves in the road. Fortunately such ideas seem to have been dropped. Perhaps this follows an incident on a new route in France where the rear vehicle slewed across the road and hit a lighting column following failure of ‘guidance’.

Concerns have also been raised about the stopping up of rights of way that cross the route. I’ve been told that small gaps in the Guideway, such as those required for footpath or bridleway crossing, should not require the vehicles to slow, and the vehicles have stopping distances similar to normal road vehicles. Hence as long as there are adequate sight distances, say 50 metres, there should be no reason to close such crossings. After all, we cross wider roads with much higher traffic flows every day.

The Campaign has, along with Sustrans and groups representing walkers and horse riders, had meetings with those proposing the scheme, and will be meeting them again. We hope that these meetings enable us to best represent the interests of our groups.

Jim Chisholm