I haven’t met many people who fully grasp how big the Addenbrooke’s site (the Biomedical Campus) will become. It already hosts 15,000 employees, but the total could be double that, or 30,000, by 2030. To put things in context, that’s more than the population of Thetford, or Newmarket, or Huntingdon. Most will be travelling onto the site each day. And there are thousands of patients and visitors in addition to this.
There is no way to increase road and parking capacity enough for most people to drive, so the majority of staff will need to enter the site on foot or cycle, or by bus or rail. Enabling this will require a staggering feat of organisation.
We’re expecting a Cambridge South railway station around 2020, which is a great start. That will create an even stronger case for better access to the railway, through new stations at Fulbourn Hospital, Soham, Wisbech, Six Mile Bottom, and a parkway at Foxton. Affordable ‘key worker’ accommodation is planned for the development at Waterbeach barracks, but that will necessitate major improvements to Waterbeach station. Existing stations such as Shelford and Whittlesford will need improved car parking and access.
Whether we have a reinstated railway from Sawston, Granta Park or Haverhill in 2025 will depend on the City Deal being considerably more visionary than it has been to date, perhaps urged on by the future mayor. Employers around the A11 already spend over £1m a year on private buses to bring staff in from Cambridge. Can we get creative enough to match money to the wider need for better transport links?
Then there’s the challenge of bringing staff and patients in from west of Cambridge, especially when Papworth Hospital is transplanted to the site. In a presentation to local residents, project manager at the Biomedical Campus Simon King said that, unless transport is improved, “there is very little chance that staff will come.”
Ambitious schemes have been proposed by Railfuture, Rail Haverhill, Cambridge Connect and Smarter Cambridge Transport. The City Deal and the new Mayor for Cambridgeshire & Peterborough need to give these serious consideration if we’re to avert a crisis which the County Council and Addenbrooke’s should have prepared for many years ago.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 22 February 2017.