Of Kissing, Car Traps and Hoggin

Inspired by Mick's semi-century, I tried to have a go. However, I didn't get out of the house until 11 am and wanted to be back in daylight, so I didn't have the time. That's my excuse. Besides, I spent a while exploring the delights of Cambridgeshire's Guided Busway. And my odometer has a manual start/stop which I fluffed, so I don't have exact statistics. Yeah, that's two more excuses.

But I aim to get fit by summer, so it's worth recording. The route was: Eltisley, Papworth Everard, Elsworth, Boxworth, Swavesey, Over, Willingham, Earith, Colne, Earith, St Ives, Hilton, Papworth Everard, Eltisley. The beginning and end were a bit hilly, with a cool 7°C SW breeze that was with me outwards and against me homewards. About 60 km (37 miles) in 3h 45m travelling, 5h 30m overall. Speeds: 16 kph travelling, 11 kph overall. And I was cream-crackered at the end. That isn't good, and there's no excuse; I'm unfit. In my younger days, I reckoned on averaging 16 kph overall, and that was in hilly Yorkshire or Lancashire with full camping kit.

(I'm starting to sound like my elderly neighbour. Sorry about that.)

Another vaguely interesting statistic: Brown Bike has now logged 507 km since I busted the hip. Plus some distance when I forgot to press "start". Ruby Bike and Folder have also done a bit.

Anyhow, here are some snaps.


Crossing the A14 at Swavesey.


Brown Bike and me at Swavesey guided busway station. The busway follows the route of a couple of old railway lines. I intend to cycle the route someday because it uses the old railway bridges and I like old railway bridges. I've designed a couple in my time, but they were ugly modern concrete affairs.


Brown Bike wants one of these mounted sideways on his rack to discourage overtakers. I have vetoed the idea.


This is what a car trap looks like. I used to keep planks in the back of Katie, my Land Rover, to drive her out of muddy holes. How long before local yobs try a similar idea?

The remaining photos show St Ives station.


"Kiss and ride" is cuter than the usual "drop-off only".


Benches are great for less-abled passengers waiting for a bus. These have been placed in a position where they can't see approaching buses nor the digital display that says when a bus is coming. When one arrives, the passengers will have to sprint across the open area.


Two lanes of guided busway, with cycle track on the right. The concrete tracks for the bus tyres are too narrow for my taste, but this cyclist seems to prefer it to the hoggin surface provided. ("Hoggin" is sand, clay, gravel, ash or whatever. It often changes into mud.)

When the buses get going, it might be more sensible to cycle on the right-hand lane, to face oncoming buses. But I suppose they will have to use the hoggin.

5 comments on “Of Kissing, Car Traps and Hoggin”

  1. Mick F wrote:

    I had never ever heard of guided busways until now! What a revelation to me, and how fascinating!

    Anyway Alan, well done for getting the miles in – or is it kilometres?


  2. Patrick wrote:

    Echoing Mick: well done with the mileage Alan, and good photos.

    I hadn't heard of the Guided Busway either. It seems a strange idea. What's also strange is today's update on Cambridgeshire County Council's website. It reads:

    Contractors BAM Nuttall have not yet completed construction of The Busway. Mark Lloyd, Cambridgeshire County Council's Chief Executive has written to BAM Nuttall to ask when the outstanding documents – which are manditory and act as a guaranatee on their works – will be made available. These are the final pieces of information that are needed for The Busway to be certified as complete.

    BAM Nuttall were appointed to complete construction of The Busway in February 2009 and since then the County Council has been deducting damages of almost £14,000 a day from the contractor for late delivery. Damages deducted to date exceed £9 million.

    BAM Nuttall have not rectified six outstanding defects on the route between St Ives and Cambridge that they were notified of more than a year ago. At the point when the Busway contract with BAM Nuttall is certified as complete, the contractor will be permitted 28 days to fix all the defects to the Council's satisfaction. If, as expected, the contractor fails to complete the work within the permitted time the Council will bring in a new contractor to fix the defects. The cost of the works by another contractor will be charged to BAM Nuttall.

    I've quoted the whole thing as in my experience it is unusual for such a statement to be published like this – going so public on a contractual dispute. Surely they are not going to leave it on there. It doesn't make sense that the Council would deduct damages from the day the contractor was appointed.

    (My link in the quote)

  3. Alan wrote:

    In principle it's a great idea. An extra (and fast) bus route into Cambridge, with adjoining cycle path.

    They started construction 4 years ago, saying it would take two years. The £14,000/day fines started two years ago. That's ten million quid so far. On the other hand, construction costs have increased by a few tens of millions, so I don't suppose the contractors will go bust.

    The project has always been a hot potato. Initially billed as prestigious, hi-tech, world-class, longest in the world, welcome to ultra-modern Cambridge, aren't we wonderful — it soon became the misguided busway which would certainly be finished in the summer of some unspecified year. Cambs County Council can't distance themselves from the project, so they are keen to point the blame elsewhere.

    Last spring I went on an official guided tour of Orchard Park, a new housing development north of Cambridge. A local pointed out to me a house that would be nearly bashed by a guided bus. Someone had got their dimensions wrong: either for the houses or the busway.

    The major delays seem to be the contractor's fault, not realising that the Fens are very flat and very liable to flooding. I've heard the cycle path becomes unusable after heavy rain.

    A couple of photos of the busway on an earlier blog: http://cycleseven.org/dem-bones-dem-bones

  4. Patrick wrote:

    I hope it succeeds. Googling and reading up, it doesn't look too hopeful though. Special buses with extra guide wheels on the front? If the busway passed through an urban area you can imagine how it might work but from the photos, the route seems to go through open country.

    More links here.

    My opinion is coloured by the public/private mish-mash procurement methods that sprung up under Nu-Labour, including Design & Build where the bidding contractors take on extra risk, and PFI (which I think was a Tory invention originally). The public gets confused over all this. They do understand the traditional system in which (i) a scheme is designed then (ii) put out to tender for construction. Nowadays we have 'competitive designs' as part of the construction bids and some of them might not function properly in practice. This one also seems to rely on the two bus operators who've agreed to supply the specially adapted buses.

    Brunel would have kept it clean and made the busway work.

  5. Alan wrote:

    Thanks for the link — it has many docs that I hadn't seen, such as the old optimistic Cambs CC newsletters now removed from their website.

    Operationally, once snags are fixed, it should be a commercial success due to the large commuting demand into Cambridge. Buses can pass close to each other, so it fits into the old railway lines. Capital cost overruns should be shared between the contractors and Cambs CC, so I can expect a council tax hike soon. And many lawyers will get rich.

    My geeky nature likes the scheme, although a railway would be even better. I'm a Brunel fan, too!

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