Hart of the Matter
the competing news items during the past week it has been easy to overlook the
publication of the Suffolk Rail Prospectus – a prestigious looking document that
pulls together the aims for improvement of Suffolk’s rail services, as the
county council sees it.
been conferences and public consultations which have fed into this documents,
along with meetings with the rail operators and the Government minister
Ho ho, I
thought, this will make entertaining reading. And in many ways it does fulfil my
predictions that Haverhill would be little more than a footnote. But that is
not the whole story.
Most of the
document is concerned, of course, with the rail network. A lot of space is
devoted to how services can be improved on the main line between Norwich and
London, on the Ipswich-Peterborough line or on numerous other smaller lines
which carry people and freight across country.
some worthy stuff about the main stations, the market town stations and the rural
stations. But then there is a piece about towns with no station at all.
Haverhill, of course, features here, along with Mildenhall, Aldburgh, Leiston,
Hadleigh, etc, although there is no real acknowledgment that Haverhill is more
than twice the size of any of the others and therefore, one would think, a more
champions the idea of a rail-bus for both Haverhill and Mildenhall. This is a
bus entirely dedicated to carrying train passengers from the town to a nearby
railway station. It would have a timetable dovetailing with rail services, and
passengers would be able to buy their rail ticket on the bus.
this is an attractive idea, and it would certainly be a major step forward. In
the case of Mildenhall the bus would presumably go to either the Bury or
Newmarket stations, which is quite a short journey, and probably not too difficult
anyone who travels on the current Haverhill to Cambridge service knows how
variable its timekeeping can sometimes be – and that is no fault of the bus
operator. The A1307 is an unpredictable corridor.
bus lane would help to ensure that the 18-mile journey could be covered quickly
and to time, and a complete dualling of the road, which has already been mooted,
would also help.
it won’t be Suffolk County Council which has the final say in creating this
rail-bus, because the rail prospectus betrays only the vaguest familiarity with
the geography west of Haverhill.
the assumption that a rail-bus would operate from Haverhill to Cambridge
station, which would not necessarily be the most efficient, it also comments on
the ‘close proximity’ of Haverhill to Great Chesterford station.
I don’t know
if you have ever driven to Great Chesterford station, but I have, in the days
when it used to be a restaurant, and it is a fair old trek.
me to begin with, but I think they probably mean Great Shelford, which was
where the old railway line from Haverhill used to join on, and has always been
seen as the place where any renewed one would also join.
believe it or not, the rail prospectus does mention renewal of the Haverhill
rail link. Having said that the proximity to Great Chesterford means there
should be some sort of link, it says that Suffolk County Council is mindful of
the campaign to provide one. They have heard of it!
that, but they go on to state, in black and white (or blue and white, actually)
that this remains ‘a long-term aim’. Well, I’ll go to the bottom of our stairs,
as we used to say.
suppose this means they expect it to happen within the lifetime of anyone over
50, but at least it’s there – and that is important in these matters.
important would be to see some reference to it in an equivalent document for
Cambridgeshire, or some sort of acknowledgment that Network Rail had been made
aware of it.
In the end,
with the best will in the world, Suffolk County Council is probably not going
to be able even to enable a rail-bus service from Haverhill to Cambridge on its
own. It will be down to Cambridgeshire, who would address the Cambridge to
London main line, into which the rail-bus would need to feed.
to Bury or Newmarket from Haverhill is not much good. One to Sudbury would be
more useful if only the road was not so appalling. Much more sensible would be
one to Whittlesford because, if nothing else, it could relieve the massive
parking pressure there.
would only work if the bus goes at the times people require – and that could be
anywhere from 5am going to 11pm coming back. Is that going to be commercially
the end, the main point of a rail link for Haverhill, would be to make it
easier for townspeople to commute to London or Stansted to work. Of course, it
would be nice to have a commuter train, or better bus service, to Cambridge for
people who work there. That would free up the A1307 a bit, if it went at the
But that isn’t
a rail-bus, because no one would actually need to get on a train. So we are
talking about links further afield than Cambridge, and for that, Whittlesford
or Audley End are more convenient. Perhaps a bus could shuttle between
Whittlesford and Audley End via Haverhill, making it more viable.
It would be
nice to think we might live to see that.