Any changes to the timetable will be introduced in July 2021catherine lally

Voting has commenced in a survey to consider eight possible amendments to the University’s U-bus route.

Students and staff, who can vote online until the 25th May, are being asked to consider whether to introduce an Addenbrooke’s weekend service and whether to extend the U-bus route to include Girton College, Homerton College, Wolfson College, Trumpington Park & Ride and Babraham Park & Ride.

The U-bus currently provides subsidised transport for University cardholders between certain Cambridge locations for a subsidised fee of £1 for a one-way ticket.

Rather than a being a final vote, the survey is a consultation to encourage voter feedback and to receive comments which may aid decision making.

Any changes to the U-bus route would be introduced in July 2021 at the start of the University’s new contract with Whippet Buses.

Summary of the eight different U-bus route amendmentsCambridge University Disabled Student's Campaign

A University spokesperson explained that “the review of the Universal bus service is exploring potential route changes, extensions and the use of low- or zero-emission vehicles. Staff, students and the wider community are being consulted as part of the process and their responses will be considered before a decision is made by University committees."

The CUSU Disabled Students’ Campaign (DSC) is encouraging students and staff to rank Option 2.4, which would introduce an Addenbrooke’s weekend service and would include all five proposed new locations, as their first choice.

There would be a split service that would introduce coverage to Homerton and Wolfson without compromising waiting times. Under Option 2.4, the U-bus would service central Cambridge locations every 10 minutes in peak times, which is quicker than the current 15-minute waiting time.

In the University’s recent appraisal, Option 2.4 was the highest-ranked alternative route based on environmental, well-being, sustainability and convenience measures.

Option 2.4 would improve access to Girton, Homerton and Wolfson. Currently, these locations are only serviced by Citi Bus, which students complain is unreliable and expensive.

Walking times to central Cambridge destination with cycling times in brackets as per Google Maps dataRebecca Heath

Girton College JCR Vice-president, Heather Hawkins, comments, “When I had to use the Citi Bus, it was so unreliable that half the time it didn’t show up and it was usually very delayed. I had to factor in at least an hour if I definitely wanted to be somewhere on time”. A return ticket on Citi Bus also currently costs over double that on the U-bus.

As a result, most students choose to cycle or walk. Yet, Girton and Homerton students have to walk over an hour from their colleges to reach locations in central Cambridge – a journey that would be shortened to 20-25 minutes with the Option 2.4 route.

Although cycling provides significant time savings, this is not a feasible alternative for many students. Wolfson College Students’ Association President, Benjamin Remez, argues that cycling is not a feasible alternative for part-time students, for whom it is not economical to buy a bike, and many disabled students. Moreover, not all students know how to cycle before arriving in Cambridge. Cycling is also unsuitable if students have luggage.

Cycling also raises safety concerns for students. Homerton College JCR Vice-president, Henry Wright, states that students are frequently forced to cycle in dangerous conditions, such as in the dark, rain and snow.


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This year, Girton College recorded at least 10 bike accidents in Michaelmas Term alone. Benjamin Remez states that dangerous cycling conditions are a particular problem for Wolfson students, as many postgraduates work 09:00-17:00 and have limited flexibility in travelling times.

The DSC states that poor transport links disproportionately affect disabled students and staff. This year, Becky Foster, a fresher at Girton College, was forced to transfer to Sidney Sussex College due to the limited transport links.

In July 2015, MP David Lammy highlighted the case of Azhir – an autistic student from Tottenham – who ‘began to feel utterly alone’ at Homerton College due to limited transport. JCRs and MCRs at Girton, Homerton and Wolfson argue that Option 2.4 would once again make the colleges suitable for disabled students.

Option 2.4 would also service Babraham Park & Ride and Trumpington Park & Ride. It is proposed that this could make travel easier for Cambridge staff and encourage more eco-friendly travel alternatives.

Proposed changes to the U-bus route could help to address some inequalities between colleges. Varsity has previously documented large differences in rents, welfare budgets and intermission rates, with travel times another issue frequently raised by students.

The timeframe for a decision on which option to take forward was planned for Michaelmas term 2020, however the survey reports that “during the current coronavirus pandemic this timeframe may be subject to change.”

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