Smarter Cambridge Transport

Cambridge Station plans for 2019 sure to upset everyone

Proposed changes at Cambridge station are a set-back for sustainable transport

A major planning application is in for two tower blocks to be built on Cambridge station car park. Tacked on are changes to how the pick-up/drop-off area operates. To relieve the regular traffic jams that pollute the residential Great Northern Road, taxis licensed to use the station rank will instead use Station Rd. They will enter and leave the pick-up/drop-off area via lanes cut through the pedestrian space in front of the station. Gt Northern Rd will see a reduction of up to 32% of car movements in the evening peak. But, if vehicle traffic (including Uber) grows at the 5.7% that station usage has been growing annually, relief will be short-lived: in just five years traffic volumes will be back to where they are now.

One of the proposed new tower blocks will house a multi-storey car park, replacing 206 of the 430 surface parking spaces. Why build a new car park with a 50+ year lifespan, when we need to be planning how to integrate the promised metro station? That will make driving in and parking an unnecessary inconvenience for most people.

In the meantime, we should be making bus connections as attractive as possible. So, where is the bus turn-around to facilitate fast, cheap shuttle services to the city centre, Biomedical Campus and Trumpington P&R? Or the multilingual ticket machines selling all-operator day passes? By my reckoning, cycling accounts for about 17% of station entries and exits, compared with 15% for access by car¹. Considering how comparatively space efficient cycling is, you’d think we’d be doing more to make cycling to, from and past the station as attractive as possible? But even expansion of the cycle park – a franchise commitment for Greater Anglia – is blocked by these plans.

For the large majority of people who access the station on foot, the proposed changes will significantly worsen their experience. How does any of this fit with the sustainable transport ambitions of the local authorities? Please take a moment to comment on the planning application – more details here. Comments should be accepted until 16 January, the date of the Development Control Forum.


This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 26 December 2018.

¹Calculation of station transport figures

The figures from the Office of Rail and Road for Cambridge station is 11,530,238 entries and exits, and 551,305 interchanges in the financial year 2017–18. (For Cambridge North, it is 488,878 and 1,102 respectively.) Average daily entries and exits at Cambridge station is therefore 31,590.

Mott MacDonald extrapolated their 2-hour manual traffic count to 13,500 weekday vehicle movements on Great Northern Road (in either direction). This seems to be an overstatement, so I’ve extrapolated from a manual count performed by South Petersfield Residents Association, to arrive at a rough estimate of 8,000 vehicle movements for pick-up/drop-offs plus 800 entries and exits from the car park.

The car park holds 430 cars, nearly all of which are filled from early morning until commuters return in the evening. That accounts for about 800 daily car movements (9% of motor traffic) and station entries and exits (2.5% of total).

The pick-up/drop-off (taxi, private hire and private) trips are either a drop-off or collection (only very rarely both) and typically carry just one passenger. Therefore, two vehicle movements account for one station entry or exit. So, 91% of motor traffic accounts for 4,000 or 13% of station entries and exits.

The cycle park has around 2,800 spaces, with a daily turnover of around 2,200 (some spaces are used overnight by inbound commuters, which are replaced during the day with people travelling out of Cambridge). Those account for 4,400 or 14% of station entries and exits. An estimated 500 cycles are taken on trains, accounting for another 1,000 or 3% of station entries and exits. So, in all, cycling accounts for about 17% of station entries and exits.

That leaves about 68% (21,400) trips on foot or by bus (but we don’t know the split).

Edward Leigh

Edward Leigh is the leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, chair and independent co-opted member of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, chair of the South Petersfield Residents Association, business owner, consultant, and occasional blogger about making the world and Cambridge a better place to live.

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