The City Deal is proposing spending a £142m on a new road for buses from Cambourne to Cambridge. That might seem like a good idea, especially if you live in Cambourne, Highfields Caldecote or Hardwick and commute into Cambridge. But it isn’t.
Many other vehicles besides buses need to access Cambridge city centre, to deliver goods, healthcare and other services. A scheme that only benefits buses condemns those other vehicles to ever-worsening congestion.
It’s also not good value for money. A ‘benefit-to-cost ratio’ of at least 2.0 is normally required for public money to be spent. The City Deal has already rejected reinstating the railway to Haverhill because it scored only 0.99. The Cambourne-Cambridge busway scores just 0.21.
What’s most puzzling about this proposal is that between Cambourne and the roundabout by Madingley Mulch garden centre, there is already both a dual carriageway and a local road. So why do we need a third road?
The main congestion problem is between that roundabout and the M11 junction – and the reason it’s a problem is because much of the traffic is heading for the M11, not the city. How about if that traffic could stay on the A428 and join the M11 directly?
Currently it can’t because the Girton Interchange doesn’t include the necessary slip roads. Nor will it after the £1.5bn A14 Improvement Scheme. But there may be another pot of money coming our way to realise the government’s ambition of an Oxford–Cambridge Expressway. That will require improved connections between the A428, Cambridge city and the M11.
So the Madingley Hill problem could end up being resolved with a much more useful piece of new infrastructure at the Girton Interchange. That would also open the door to having a Park & Ride at a location that serves traffic arriving on both the A14 and A428, without the environmental sensitivities of the site which the City Deal is currently considering.
We urge the City Deal Executive Board to listen carefully to councillors and lobby groups urging further consideration of alternatives. The spotlight will be on them when they meet on 13th October.
Find out more … in our detailed Response to the Cambourne to Cambridge busway proposal, which asks 17 key questions of the City Deal.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 5 October 2016.