It would be easy to say that the prospects for good transport in south Cambridgeshire are as far away as they were when we started writing these columns a year ago. However, some of the great ideas coming from the public may be starting to filter through, as those who attended Smarter Cambridge Transport’s recent AGM heard.
After the award of ‘City Deal’ government investment from 2015, far too much new transport development responsibility was handed over to an under-resourced county council department. Its initial plans involved Stalinesque quantities of concrete, and provoked an unprecedented reaction from the local population. Independent think tanks were formed, protest marches were widely attended, technical special interest groups produced alternative plans, and whole communities have woken up and organised themselves. They all know that Cambridge can do better.
Now there’s a better-resourced and seemingly more competent team managing the project under the ‘Greater Cambridge Partnership’ branding. Dare I say it, more recent projects look more promising. To the south of the city, the Local Liaison Forum told the consultants to go away and come back with something better, and insisted on data to underpin the work. Excellent leadership has been shown by a South Cambridgeshire councillor, and the communities feel involved. The A1307 corridor is as important as any coming in and out of Cambridge, and there’s scope for genuinely healthy debate about what to do.
The Smarter Cambridge Transport-inspired concept of ‘Rural Travel Hubs’ is getting widespread support. There’s also been an almost blank-sheet approach to consulting on these and the rural ‘Greenways’, which is excellent.
However, there are still problems in turning around the plans for connecting Cambourne and improving Milton Road. This is taking hundreds of hours of campaigning by groups like the Milton Road Alliance and Save The West Fields, as well as Smarter Cambridge Transport. We must continue with our efforts.
The authorities can take advantage of the massive amounts of enthusiasm and real expertise being offered by the people they are supposed to represent. Or they can spend their time arguing with us. The optimist in me genuinely believes they’re going to choose the right path.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 11 October 2017.