The single-minded determination of the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) to build busways would be admirable if it wasn’t so profoundly misguided. As expected, the board voted last week to progress development of detailed plans for a new busway, connecting the Cambridge Biomedical Campus to a new Park & Ride site 5 miles south-east of the city, near the A11–A1307 interchange.
This scheme was originally intended to serve the research parks and villages along the A1307 and A1301. This is what Smarter Cambridge Transport’s proposals address. By contrast, the GCP scheme is principally just a Park & Ride for Biomedical Campus staff.
The busway plus cycle/footway will skirt the eastern edges of Stapleford and Great Shelford. GCP rejected taking it through those villages alongside the railway line. Its decision was based on what appears to be a flawed report, which over-specifies the route width, underestimates environmental benefits relative to the “preferred” route, and ignores the benefit of an off-road cycle route through to the west of Sawston and Huawei’s new £1 billion research hub.
GCP has also rejected making the link a light rail line, which is now the preferred option of local parish councils, Rail Haverhill, Cambridge Connect, Railfuture and CamPPF. It also ruled out at an early stage reinstating the railway line from south of Stapleford, even though the initial cost-benefit analysis yielded a benefit-to-cost ratio higher than the busway now promoted by GCP.
Thinking strategically, it could make sense to build a light-rail line from Haverhill to Cambridge and a new railway line south-west to the Liverpool St line via Saffron Walden. The latter would provide a more direct route to London, Stratford (which is becoming a major interchange) and Stansted Airport. Haverhill’s economy, which is strong in manufacturing, would benefit greatly from this connectivity, giving businesses access to the national rail freight network.
Building both rail links would overcome Haverhill’s poor road connectivity and high transport carbon footprint. It would also greatly expand the jobs market for Haverhill employers and residents. Instead, GCP is set on building a busway and car park to benefit a few hundred car-owning commuters to Cambridge.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 1 July 2020.