Smarter Cambridge Transport

Misguided busways and car parks move forward

The disappointment is palpable. Adams Road residents may be relieved, but there is consternation and anger all around south Cambridgeshire.

Let’s start with the “pop-up” cycle lanes painted on Girton and Milton high streets by the County Council. The government asked councils to make more space for people to walk and cycle safely. Narrow painted lanes actually make things worse by encouraging drivers to pass too close to people cycling.

Then there’s the Cambourne busway, which is now to be routed across the most sensitive land on the West Fields, around Bin Brook, to a junction at the narrowest part of Grange Rd. Residents of Newnham, Coton and Hardwick, and countless others, including Mayor Palmer, oppose it.

The economic case indicates a return of under 50p in social benefit for every £1 invested. A scheme representing such poor value for money would normally have been abandoned years ago. But the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) stubbornly insists it is the best way to make the Bourn Airfield development viable. Fixing the Girton Interchange is “somebody else’s responsibility.” Smaller-scale adjustments to existing roads to benefit buses have been ignored or appraised with a clear bias to demonstrate why they won’t work.

Then we come to GCP’s preferred route for the busway between the Biomedical Campus and Granta Park, which misses all the villages that could benefit most from it: Great Shelford, Stapleford, Sawston and Babraham. It has a basic benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 0.7. The earlier assessment of reinstating a mainline railway to Haverhill had a BCR of 0.99, yet that was deemed too low to progress further.

Lastly, Hauxton and Harston residents await final details of the huge new car park on their doorstep. The right location for a new Park & Ride is at the Girton Interchange, but that’s not even being considered.

The point of cost-benefit analysis is to help choose between alternative solutions to a problem, and to prioritise the problems to solve first. GCP is pursuing the wrong solutions to the wrong problems, and spending the best part of £400 million of your money to do so.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 3 June 2020.

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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