The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is deeply mired in complexity and controversy over building a busway from Cambourne, an orbital link to Addenbrooke’s, and a new Park & Ride west of Cambridge. It has spent over £1.8m so far developing and consulting on proposals that have been met with dismay and hostility at every step.
Now Mayor Palmer is backing a light rail link to St Neots; Cambridge University and Cambridge Ahead are promoting a high-speed ‘bullet bus’; and GCP is even examining the viability of a monorail.
Breezy assertions that the planned busway will be future-proof do not stand up to scrutiny. A 120mph ‘bullet bus’ could not run safely on any busway built anywhere in the world; and if there are going to be tunnels under Cambridge, the route has to align with a viable entry point.
Transport is about moving people (and goods), not cars and buses, so why don’t we start by looking at how to improve the currently pretty miserable bus user experience?
Start by giving Cambourne an attractive bus station close to the A428. Then the half-hourly Stagecoach X5 could join the Citi 4, 18 and Whippet X3 services, providing a service from 5.30am to 11.30pm that’s almost as good as the Guided Busway service from St Ives.
Combine that with Inbound Flow Control on the A1303, condensing peak-time queues and giving buses priority with just a 500m bus lane up to Madingley Wood.
Those two things would achieve a step change in bus service quality. They’re deliverable within two years, at much lower cost and controversy than the scheme GCP is currently pursuing: no busway through the West Fields; no need to tear up the immaculate verges in front of the American Cemetery.
Meanwhile let’s use some of the money saved to put protected cycled lanes along Madingley Rd; continue to lobby Highways England to get the Girton Interchange ‘fixed’; and get on with planning a Park & Ride there to serve traffic arriving from the A14 and, in future, from the A428 and M11.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 26 July 2017.