Tuesday 12 March 2013

Plus Bus to Cambridge

All the trips I have described so far have been leisure trips, either days out or longer holidays, but I also use the train as much as I can when travelling on church work. It is not always convenient, unfortunately, for meetings in Lincoln (although it is occasionally and I'll describe one of these trips in due course), but when I can I use trains so that I can work during the journey. Indeed, I have written for the magazine on many a train journey on church business!

Last year I had occasion to visit a parishioner in Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. Such a long trip to see one person can take a huge amount of time for the benefit gained if it is taken by car, but by rail the time taken is very much less, and it also saves a small fortune in mileage and NHS car parking charges.

While there is a direct train to Cambridge every hour through the day, many people are put off going by train because the station is "so far" from anywhere you'd want to be in Cambridge, but there are very frequent buses from the rail station to both the city centre and Addenbrookes (and most other places as well) right outside the door of the station, and you can buy your bus ticket with the train ticket, valid all over Cambridge all day (as you can for most other large towns and cities). So I bought my Cambridge Day Return PlusBus tickets and settled into my seat with my computer and wrote whatever deanery synod report I was working on at the time (obviously not something very memorable, though presumably of some importance then), with occasional glances out of the window.

There are some fascinating places where there is more water visible than land (at least there were last year!), and it is always worth breaking off work to look out as the train approaches Ely. Coming in to the north of Ely from the west, the railway gives a distant view of the cathedral and then as it draws near, it turns southwards so that the train goes round the north and east sides of the cathedral as it approaches the station. On the final approach to the station at Ely a marina dominates the foreground with scores of boats and a great amount of activity with the city and its unique cathedral as a backdrop, and by the time the train stops at Ely you have seen three sides of the cathedral!

Back to work as the train sets off to Cambridge. The trains on this line are well laid out for work, even in standard class, with plenty of tables and comfortable seats with armrests, but there are no charging points so a decent battery is needed if using computer or smartphone.

At Cambridge I walked out to the bus stop and found that since I'd last been there the guided busway had been installed towards the hospital: there is now a choice of using this or the more frequent "normal" buses from a different stop. I opted for the latter and was on my way to the hospital within a couple of minutes of getting off the train. The hospital is just a few moments bus ride; those going to the city centre would have a few moments' ride in the opposite direction: the bus stops are clearly labelled. It would have been quite possible, of course, to do both: had I had time I could have travelled into the city centre after my visiting and returned to Stamford later in the day - the PlusBus ticket is valid all over the city.

St Ives Park & Ride site on the 
Cambridge guided busway

Addenbrookes Hospital is so vast that it has its own bus station with buses coming and going all the time, and it is a short walk from there to the reception and thence to the ward to pay my pastoral visit. Coming out I thought I'd try the new guided bus back to the railway station and found that this does not use the bus station with all the other bus services but instead drives through the hospital campus calling at several stops all over the hospital, so if you know where you're going and where to get off this might generally be a better option. Leaving the hospital it joins the guideway (a disused railway line!) and accelerates towards the rail station and the city centre - these buses then wend their way through the tight central streets of Cambridge before joining the guidway the other side and heading out to St Ives, where those who go to Cambridge by car can use them for Park & Ride off the A14.

Back at the station, waiting for the next train to Stamford I could have bought coffee and cake to take on board if I'd wished - there being no catering on the train until Peterborough - but was OK on this occasion and was soon sitting down and reading through some papers as the train whisked me back home, back through the delights of Ely (which, this time, I did not look out and see, absorbed as I was), through the much-reduced station at March, no longer the important junction it had once been, and across the watery fens to Peterborough. I have become so used over the years to changing trains or leaving trains at Peterborough that I have to make a real effort to stay sitting down and wait for the train to get to Stamford! I may never get used to it since I still have to change at Peterborough fairly often, and quite often am using the train to get there from Stamford anyway - it is always rather amusing to arrive at Peterborough from Stamford and outside the station be offered a lift home by a Stamfordian who assumes I've arrived from some distant place!

Soon the train dives through the only tunnel of the journey and slips into Stamford station. Those of us in the know try to sit towards the rear of trains travelling this way so that we're near the footbridge and thence the exit and the walk back across the meadows and home. What a fantastic re-introduction to Stamford, that walk across the meadows, with the spires and towers marking this out as a very special place to which it is always a joy to return after a trip of any length. And the railway is a great way to avoid the stress of the A14 and the difficulty and cost of parking in Cambridge. I am not sure whether it is quicker or not, but in any case the time can be put to very good use, and if you are at leisure and not needing to work there are some great views to be had from the windows.


http://www.elycathedral.org/  Guided buses at Addenbrookes Guided buses in the city centre
PlusBus  PDF of Cambridge bus route map

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