Transport in the East is an unfunny joke

ONE of the biggest charges against this Labour government is not that it has invested billions in the public services, but that much of the money has been wasted on crazy schemes and vastly increased numbers of bureaucrats tasked with trying to implement these projects.

It’s not just health spending, computer projects, and long delayed and over-budget defence procurement, but some schemes which have sounded good in theory but which in practice are unworkable.

Just what possessed the Department for Transport to sanction the guided bus way from St Ives to Cambridge becomes more relevant as each month passes with no sign of it opening.

Given that it is following the route of the former railway line, surely it would have been better to convert it for trams or light railway rather than guided buses. But no. Trams which are good enough for Edinburgh, Tyneside, Manchester, Birmingham and Croydon shouldn’t be wasted on East Anglia, which has to make do with a guided bus way.

The busway is flooded, cycle tracks alongside are subsiding, and no driver training has yet taken place. It is way behind schedule and, of course, way over budget. To add insult to injury, the DfT has approved yet another guided bus way in the East of England, this time between Luton and Dunstable using former railway tracks.

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Those candidates elected as MPs from this region in May should make it a priority to tackle the new government to ensure that spending on major transport infrastructure is directed for the benefit of all six counties.

The East of England will never be a cohesive region while east-west communications are so appalling.

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There are two distinct elements to the East - the Chilterns and East Anglia. They are not connected by rail, despite pledges that the Cambridge-Woburn-Oxford line is on a list of schemes currently being considered by the DfT.

Stansted Airport is virtually inaccessible by rail from East Anglia, unless you get to trains at either Cambridge or Stratford. Whichever route you take, it can take at least two-and-a-half hours to reach the airport by train from Ipswich.

East-west road links are a joke. The A47 from Great Yarmouth to Peterborough is little more than a farm track in places, while the A120 from Harwich to Bishop’s Stortford is dualled only between Stansted and Braintree. Thus the only cross-region major road is the A14 from Felixstowe to the M6 via Cambridge and Northamptonshire, and that is becoming clogged by an ever-increasing number of heavy goods vehicles.

The East of England Regional Assembly is being wound up tomorrow, having failed in its primary mission of being the leading advocate for rail and road schemes in East Anglia.

It won’t be missed.

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