Smarter Cambridge Transport

Greater Cambridge City Deal: A New Approach

Areas of concern

[Updated 23 August 2016: expanded section on access and parking permits]

Here in summary are ten concerns that residents, businesses and observers have voiced about the City Deal:

  1. The City Deal is failing to develop a bold vision for the future because the County Council’s culture is inward-looking, cost-cutting and deeply risk-averse. Senior council officers’ reference points are out of date and parochial, with very little time spent out of the office (and certainly not out of the country) to attend conferences, visit other cities, or talk with leading innovators and thinkers. Policy is being informed by what did or did not work in Britain in the 1970s and 80s, and ignoring or dismissing innovations elsewhere in the world.

  2. The role of technology in changing behaviour is hugely underestimated. Much more resource needs to be put into researching and applying new and emerging technology before resorting to heavy-engineering alternatives:

    • High-quality travel data (for effective traffic management and transport planning). This is part of the Smart Cambridge programme, but more than the £30k allocated is needed to acquire high-resolution traffic data from across the Greater Cambridge region, not just in the city.
    • Accessible and comprehensive travel information with an excellent user experience (making people aware of travel options). This is planned as part of the Smart Cambridge programme, but expectations exceed what is possible with the funding being provided.
    • Multi-operator, cashless/contactless (Oyster Card-style) ticketing with automatic capping (reducing costs and delays, and providing greater flexibility).
    • Ride-sharing (enabling small companies to run schemes that currently are viable only for large employers).
    • Car clubs (like ZipCar).
    • Mobility as a service.*
    • New vehicle designs, enabled by electric drive systems.*
    • Autonomous vehicles (potentially removing the need for on-street parking).*
    • Electrically assisted cycles (greatly increasing range and comfort).

    *These innovations will reach tipping points, where market penetration accelerates rapidly, leading to huge social and behavioural change. Autonomous vehicles in particular will be as revolutionary as the Internet, sat nav and smartphones. Predicting travel patterns beyond those tipping points is futile.

  3. There is no aspiration to achieve outstanding design. The projects are being led by civil engineers at the County Council, and being worked up by consultants who mainly employ civil engineers. Few have adequate understanding or sensitivity to behavioural psychology, social impacts and place-making (creating welcoming, distinctive, attractive and useful public spaces). This is amply illustrated by the woeful Urban Design Guidance document (currently being revised). But even with a good design guide, mediocre designers will still produce mediocre designs.

  4. Communication is poor (though improving slightly), not reaching enough people. The website is difficult to navigate and key information is difficult to find (e.g. scheme timetables). Scheme documentation has lacked clarity, being either too superficial (so-called ‘concepts’ with inadequate explanation), confusing (e.g. the many euphemisms used for bus lanes/ways), or too technical (detailed engineering drawings). Key stakeholders are not defined or identified transparently, and many are not being invited or notified of public meetings.

  5. Consultations have been a whitewash: The report on the Cambourne–Cambridge consultation was claimed to be a ‘stunning success,’ despite over 200 submissions claiming the exercise was ‘misleading’, ‘biased’ or ‘flawed’. The detailed local knowledge and wide range of innovative ideas submitted as part of the Milton/Histon Roads consultation were totally overlooked. Many of the ideas submitted in the ‘Call for Evidence’ and deemed by the consultants to be suitable for Tranche 1 delivery have been sidelined (see final section).

  6. Governance is inadequate, lacking in public profile, accountability, transparency, critical overview, scrutiny and audit at the local level. The Joint Assembly, set up to scrutinise the Executive Board, only ‘pre-scrutinises’ officer recommendations to the Executive Board. It has no powers to review, challenge or suspend decisions made by the Board or delegated officers.

  7. Schemes are proceeding with insufficient evidence. Until recently, the only major source of origin–destination data has been the 2011 Census, which gives no insight into the majority of journeys, even at peak times. The other main data sources are screen-line traffic counts, which do not capture the direction of travel or variation in flows through the day; and vehicle speeds as monitored by Trafficmaster (which tracks 110,000 vehicles across the UK).

    Bus GPS tracking data are currently being analysed by a team lead by Dr Ian Lewis at the University of Cambridge; this is already yielding new insights into patterns of congestion. We understand that Atkins is now using mobile phone tracking data to model the planned Peak-Time Congestion Control Points, which is a positive move that needs to be applied to all other City Deal schemes.

    However, data provides only the baseline inputs to traffic models. Projections into the future rely on a range of assumptions about population and jobs growth, elasticity of demand and adaptation, social change, and viability of public transport services. These assumptions have not been published, even though these will largely be educated guesswork, especially when extrapolated as far out as 2031.

  8. Interaction between schemes is not being taken account of. All of the following schemes, in progress or planned, will radically alter traffic flows, affecting all of the radial-route schemes currently being put forward:

    • New Cambridge North train station (likely to reduce cross-city traffic, but increase traffic on Milton Road).
    • New train station at Addenbrooke’s (likely to have complex impacts, including reducing demand for buses and taxis between the existing station and Addenbrooke’s).
    • Extended residents’ parking and other controls (likely to reduce the number of vehicles entering the city by a few thousand).
    • More rigorous enforcement of existing Traffic Regulation Orders (likely to improve bus reliability significantly).
    • Extending the Core Traffic Scheme with new ‘control points’ (likely to have complex impacts on traffic flows and distributions).
  9. Tarmacking over green spaces is being proposed as a first not last resort. Bus lanes are a blight on streetscape; roads and busways are a scar on the landscape. Building new road capacity should therefore be considered only after all other, less destructive options have been exhausted. Building bus lanes/ways is hugely expensive and adds significantly to the County Council’s long-term maintenance budget. They are space-inefficient, serving a purpose for only about two hours a day. And they irreversibly damage the natural and built heritage and environment.

    The benefits of bus lanes have been consistently overstated by council officers. Real-world time savings are less than one minute per kilometre of bus lane, confirmed in the City Deal consultants’ modelling predictions, a bus industry lobby group’s report on The Impact of Congestion on Bus Passengers, and other studies referenced in our paper on Can we do better than bus lanes?

    The watchword should be ‘concrete last’.

  10. Investment in the existing rail network is taboo, yet it has a much better cost–benefit ratio than any bus lane scheme, is cheaper than most people realise (e.g. ≈£15m for a new station), and quicker to deliver if the will is there (Addenbrooke’s station may be delivered in 2018).

A new approach

There is still time to rescue the City Deal. Good work has been done, but some of it has been misdirected. The purpose of the City Deal is to support the next few decades of growth in population and jobs in the region, but it will fail in the short term if there is not popular belief and support for the measures implemented. It will fail in the medium term if schemes do not to deliver a marked improvement in mobility for all. And it will fail in the long term if infrastructure built now does not serve the needs of people in 2030 and beyond.

We offer this roadmap as a way to ensure the success of the City Deal:

  1. Vision: Develop and articulate (visually as well as in words) a vision of transport of the future that takes into account social trends and technological developments. That vision must be worthy of Cambridge: bold, exciting and benefitting everyone.
  2. Methodology: Use the unprecedented opportunity afforded by the City Deal to plan a fully-integrated transport policy and infrastructure. Replace simplistic cause-and-effect models in favour of a systems approach. Adopt a scientific, experimental method to testing hypotheses before committing large amounts of money and effort to schemes that may irreversibly damage the city or become prematurely redundant. Apply Marginal Gains Theory (famously expounded by Dave Brailsford, GB Cycling Performance Director): small, incremental changes can feed back positively to create large gains.
  3. Research: Allocate funding and time to enable council officers and decision makers to attend Smart Cities and Future Transport conferences, and visit exemplary cities. Set up a working group to review everything about buses: routes, timetabling, ticketing, TRO enforcement, stop locations, interchanging, economic viability, ownership models, sources of subsidy, etc. (See our paper on Buses.)
  4. Data & modelling: Provide more funding to obtain high quality travel and traffic data, and primary and secondary research into why people don’t choose sustainable and active modes of transport (especially those who used to but now drive). Engage an independent expert to examine and test the robustness and sensitivity of the traffic models being used, and the time range over which they can produce meaningfully accurate predictions.
  5. Communication & consultation: Invest more resources into consultations to make them effective, interesting and useful for all parties. Promote open dialogue and debate, rather than one-way ‘consultation’ and ‘engagement’ exercises. Done well, this could replace some of the considerable email burden that currently falls on officers. Aim to leaflet every household in the Greater Cambridge region about the City Deal, how it will benefit them, and how they can get involved. Create more visually-engaging and interesting information on schemes: 3D visualisations (artist impressions, models, fly-throughs), full-scale mock-ups and trials, exhibitions of actual street furniture and materials, etc.
  6. Governance: Reorganise the management structure and processes to strike a better balance between public input, accountability and speed. Combine Assembly and Executive Board meetings to be the main decision-making meetings, with clear voting rules. Assign Board and Assembly members, lead officers and other co-optees to working groups that meet in public to develop proposals for specific schemes. Greater transparency is needed around who is involved in each scheme, including who are the recognised stakeholders (landowners, lobby groups, businesses, residents, etc), statutory consultees, and project board members.
  7. Design: Engage the best urban realm designers to design (not just review) new infrastructure. Include a landscape architect on each project board.


Using this new approach, re-prioritise schemes to be delivered by the City Deal. Choose schemes for Tranche 1 (£100m to 2019) that:

  • have the strongest evidence base for encouraging people to change their travel habits and make greater use of active and shared transport;
  • have popular buy-in (because trust is lacking);
  • are deliverable by 2020;
  • will enhance rather than damage the environment and character of the city and surrounding region.

Allow more time to evaluate the business case for bus lanes and off-highway busways.

Suggested starting point for re-prioritising Tranche 1 schemes

This list comprises schemes that are relatively uncontroversial, and which would lay the foundations for a step change in the attractiveness and convenience of public and active transport in the region. Many of these already feature in the County Council’s Long Term Transport Strategy and the Transport Strategy for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire, and just need to be brought forward, ahead of the core City Deal schemes for bus lanes.

  • *Chisholm Trail. This mostly off-road, cycle/footway between the central and new train station at Chesterton is now at the planning application stage.
  • *Improved city cycle lanes/junctions in the city. A few improvements are already being progressed in the City Deal Cross City Cycling projects and other schemes, but there are many gaps in the existing network that need joining up. The priority should be to create Dutch-style, segregated cycle lanes and junctions wherever possible. Segregation is more important than lane width for encouraging new people to cycle.
  • *Smart City data collection platform & multi-modal real-time journey planner. This is part of the Smart Cambridge programme, but needs to be more ambitious and better resourced.
  • *Acquire high quality travel data sets. This is part of the Smart Cambridge programme, though we believe a large budget is required to obtain historical data from third parties.
  • *TROs and signage for parking controls across the city. Residents’ parking policy for the city is currently under review by the Cambridge City Joint Area Committee. We have proposed a city-wide approach that recognises that free parking attracts traffic and creates congestion; and that better enforcement of parking controls would reduce congestion and delays to buses. [TRO = Traffic Regulation Order]
  • *ANPR-monitored access control points on and close to inner ring road. We have proposed alternative locations in our paper on Buses, which we believe would be more effective and less disruptive than the Peak-Time Congestion Control Points proposed by the City Deal. [ANPR = Automatic Number Plate Recognition camera]
  • Smart Traffic Management in Cambridge. Upgrade and integrate traffic signals on all arterial roads to optimise traffic flows, reduce congestion and delays, and permit quicker and more effective responses in the event of incidents, especially on the A14 and M11, which can cause huge volumes of traffic to be diverted into Cambridge.
  • Co-locate traffic signals and road monitoring teams. Currently these two teams, whose work is intimately connected, work out of two locations (respectively, Girton and Shire Hall) and have to talk over the phone when dealing with an incident. The signals team could make quicker and better decisions if they had a more complete picture of traffic conditions.
  • ‘Green ways’ cycle route network connecting Cambridge, South Cambridgeshire villages and travel hubs. This was the subject of a City Deal news release, but is currently programmed for Tranche 2 of the City Deal (i.e. after 2020).
  • Management system for access and parking permits. Develop a centralised billing and enforcement system for paid-permit based access and parking in the city. This would enable vehicle owners to pre-register for automatic charging when passing through access control points in the city during peak hours, or parking at park-and-rides, multi-storey car parks or on-street. Pricing of permits can be tailored to different road users, taking into account need to drive, social and environmental impacts, etc.
    Amsterdam, for instance, has created a centralised parking database with an open API, enabling any private company to offer to provide enforcement services. This is an efficient division of resource: the council owns and protects the data; the private sector competes to provide billing and enforcement services; a change of contractor does not entail a complicated and risky hand-over.
  • Unified, multi-operator ticketing system for public transport and cycle hire. Develop or purchase a platform to support Oyster Card-style ticketing, with automatic price capping, no matter what permutation of transport is used. Ideally this would be integrated into the access and parking management system.
  • New city centre cycle park. There is an urgent need for more cycle parking in Cambridge city centre. A possible location for a 600+ space secure cycle park is in the section of the Grand Arcade car park immediately below the Hilton hotel.
  • Train station at Fulbourn Hospital on the Newmarket train line. This location is within easy walking or cycling distance of at 15,000 people in Cherry Hinton, Fulbourn and Teversham. It would significantly reduce car traffic to the city centre, central train station and Biomedical Campus. It would serve the various new developments planned in the area, including the redevelopment of the hospital site.
  • New bus stations in South Cambridgeshire. These are the highest priority locations we have identified for travel hubs, readily accessible by foot, cycle or car, and served by regular express bus services:
    • Cambourne
    • Cottenham
    • Linton
    • Burwell
    • Comberton
    • Fenstanton
  • Upgraded facilities at existing bus and train stations. Better facilities would attract more people to use public transport from these locations:
    • St Ives bus station: waiting room and toilets
    • Swavesey Guided Bus station: car park
    • Oakington Guided Bus station: car park
    • Shelford train station: more secure cycle parking
    • Foxton train station: 100-space car park plus cycle parking (co-ordinated with Network Rail project to replace level crossing)
    • Addenbrooke’s bus station: waiting room, kiosk, etc
  • New and upgraded bus shelters plus appropriate amenities throughout the region. The locations should be chosen and prioritised in consultation with parish councils.

*Already approved or supported by the City Deal Executive Board

Revenue spending

There is also a need for revenue funding to subsidise some bus services, but until an income source is secured, we have identified two areas of need that can be self-funded:

  • More thorough enforcement of traffic regulation orders, especially illegal parking and loading during peak times. This should be self-funded by income from penalty charge notices.
  • Schools transport co-ordinator, employed by one of the councils and funded by subscription from participating private schools.

Call for Evidence Short List

This is an extract from the Mott MacDonald Short List Report of ideas proposed in the Call for Evidence, which provide a wider pool of schemes for incorporation into the City Deal programme:

Proposals likely to be wholly deliverable in Tranche 1 are as follows:

  • Shuttle buses to collect school children at park and ride sites.
  • Provide good access and facilities at the start and end of key cycle paths.
  • Smart-Access controls at existing key congested links.
    [This is being implemented as Peak-Time Congestion Control Points.]
  • Parking / loading controls on key bus routes.
  • Improve walking routes between PT nodes and key destinations.
  • Coordinated, optimised and responsive UTC [Urban Traffic Control] system.
  • Expansion of VMS [Variable Message Signs] network and real time travel information broadcasting.
    [Providing real-time travel information is part of the Smart Cambridge]
  • Increase cycle parking in City Centre core.

Proposals that could commence in Tranche 1 but might take longer to deliver are as follows:

  • Provide and link segregated cycle ways with park and ride sites.
  • Resurface and remark roads, cycle lanes and footpaths including colour coding mixed use areas.
  • Improve vehicular access to existing park and ride sites.
  • New park and ride sites.
    [A new park-and-ride site is proposed at the Madingley Mulch roundabout as part of the Cambourne–Cambridge project.]
  • Deck park and ride car parks to increase capacity.
  • Expand quality cycle parking at park and ride sites.
  • Expand high quality passenger facilities at park and ride sites.
  • Ensure park and ride routes serve highest demand destinations.
  • Maximise routeing of park and ride services on busways.
  • New bus lanes to bypass congested sections.
    [This is the City Deal’s key intervention, though a similar result could be achieved at much lower social and environmental cost using Inbound Flow Control.]
  • Bus actuation at signals to clear queues (where bus lane not possible).
    [This is part of proposals for Milton & Histon Roads.]
  • Expand high quality bus stops/interchanges etc.
  • Expand and improve high quality bus vehicle fleet.
  • Interchange all out-of-city bus services at park and ride sites.
  • Increased passenger capacity at Cambridge station.
  • Cambridge Biomedical Campus Station.
    [This is currently progressing outside of the City Deal.]
  • Frequent buses between stations and main destinations.
  • Improved cycle link between Cambridge station and city centre.
  • Quality cycle links for new rail stations.
  • Identify and prioritise primary and secondary cycle route network.
  • Deliver network of cycle routes to necklace villages.
    [The City Deal has agreed to fund a missing link in the Royston–Cambridge cycleway along the A10. There has been a news release about building ‘greenway’ cycle links, but this doesn’t yet have any funding allocated to it.]
  • Address high pedestrian accident/conflict routes and junctions.
  • Road works management and coordination.
  • Improved responsiveness to disruptions.
  • Dedicated multi-modal journey planning app for Cambridge.
    [This is part of the Smart Cambridge]
  • Consolidate freight at park and ride sites.
  • Consolidate freight at edge of city centre sites.
  • Spread freight movements through Smart Locker technology.
  • Spread freight movements through out of hours deliveries.
  • Freight delivery by cycle.
  • Parcel collection at rail stations.
  • Car clubs and car sharing schemes.
  • School Travel Plans and school bus programme.
  • Roadspace reallocation to non-car modes.
    [This is the City Deal’s key intervention, though higher quality cycle ways could be achieved without the addition of bus lanes.]
  • Road user charging.
  • Implement workplace parking levy.
    [This is the only notable addition to the City Deal Tranche 1 programme.]

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