Busway surfacing

This article was published in 2011, in Newsletter 96.

By the time you read this, work on surfacing the cycleway alongside the Busway should be well in hand.

The County Council is very keen to make sure people know that the route is closed while the works are carried out. In fact, the cycleway has never actually been open officially, though the northern section has been accessible for a couple of years now. It is very well used.

The County is being very guarded about how long the work will take. They have been bitten once too often in making predictions about Busway dates and are very sensitive about anything which looks like an opening date! So it will be done when it is done.

There are several additional bits of work which also have to be done. In the south, a new junction is being constructed to serve the Clay Farm development, which we will have to get used to calling Great Kneighton. And near St Ives, the river bridge requires repairs and the cycleway needs to be raised higher. These may delay usability of the cycleway in that section.

More than we expected

At the last minute, Cambridgeshire Horizons [1] has realised it can actually afford to surface more of the cycleway than it originally thought. The tarmac surface will now extend as far west as Swavesey. Previously it was going to stop at Longstanton. As the southern section, including the spur to Addenbrooke’s, always was included, that leaves only the fairly short stretch between Swavesey and St Ives with a crushed stone surface.

We were told that the unsealed surface on that section is not just about money, but also because of objections from the Environment Agency to having a sealed surface in an area which has major drainage problems. It seems likely this will be revisited in time, though.

On a par with the Dutch

When eventually opened officially, the surfaced section of the Busway cycleway promises to be a extremely high quality facility. The 20km of 4m-wide tarmac off-road cycleway with few road crossings is up there with the kind of provision the Dutch expect.

One might ask what is the attraction of the comparatively small villages of Swavesey and Longstanton that merits such a magnificent facility. But of course, that’s not at all what it is about. The main purpose of the Busway and perhaps even more of the cycleway (given most people aren’t going to commute by bike from St Ives) is to serve the new settlement at Northstowe. If it goes ahead, Northstowe may eventually be a third to half the size of Cambridge.

In a way, the recession has let the lateness of the Busway off the hook. Had Northstowe construction gone ahead as planned, we might well have had many thousands of people moving into the area by now.

[1] Cambridgeshire Horizons is the organisation which brings together strategic planning for major developments in the area for the the three councils involved. It is being abolished in the autumn.

David Earl