Cambridge 2000: Cambridgeshire Guided Busway: Orchard Park East

Description: Cambridgeshire Guided Busway: Orchard Park East
Date built: 2007-2011
Cambridgeshire Guided Busway: Orchard Park East map for Cambridgeshire Guided Busway: Orchard Park East
Date photograph taken: 07 Aug 2011 (Alternative map: Google map)

The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway is the world's longest dedicated guided busway, with over 20km of track. It connects Huntingdon in the north with Trumpington in the south, mostly on disused railway lines, suitably converted for the guided buses with special-purpose concrete track. In the city of Cambridge the buses run mostly on ordinary roads.

It is a controversial transportation project. It was foisted on Cambridgeshire County Council by central government, because some bureaucrat or other evidently fancied the idea of a guided busway. Cambridgeshire was offered around 90 million pounds of central government money for the scheme, but it had to be this scheme, and so it was difficult for the council to say no, even though it eventually cost the council the same amount of money again.

The busway was supposed to open in 2009 but there were various construction and contractual issues which needed sorting. As a result, the construction time almost doubled, and the budget almost doubled, as often happens with these kinds of large projects, to around 180 million pounds.

The busway is intended to reduce traffic on the A14. Ordinary buses can use the A14, so time will tell whether it made more sense to produce a single-purpose track instead of just improving the A14. If passenger numbers are not operationally viable then the busway could easily end up being the world's most expensive cycle path. Needless to say, ticket prices have been hugely subsidised by the cost of construction, so that will help keep the scheme going.

The busway opened on Sunday 7 August 2011.

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