Smarter Cambridge Transport

More space for living, less for parking

You may be aware that Murdoch House, on the corner of Cambridge’s Station Square, is set to be replaced, but did you know that more buildings are planned to go up on the car park? Initial designs (currently being reconsidered) showed one about the size of the Ibis hotel/cycle park, containing a multi-deck car park and flats, and a second, also about 20m high, containing a mix of offices and flats.

Not only would these buildings be hugely out-of-scale with neighbouring houses, they would funnel a large number of cars, cycles and pedestrians into a narrow corridor between Devonshire Rd and Station Square. Conflicts and congestion are inevitable. There is also concern about how the cycle park would expand, as inevitably it will need to (an equivalent station in the Netherlands provides almost twice as much cycle parking as we have now).

The problem is that Network Rail requires car parking capacity to be maintained. The developer, Brookgate, therefore has to incorporate an expensive multi-deck car park, paid for out of sales of commercial and residential property within the scheme.

But Cambridge needs an inspiring mixed-use development more than car parking spaces. So, what if Brookgate didn’t have to build a replacement car park? It could then scale the buildings down, incorporate expansion space for the cycle park and include more ground-floor retail and office space, rent from which would replace lost parking income for Greater Anglia.

It would mean halving car park capacity from about 430. But let’s not forget that Cambridge North station has 450 parking spaces, and Trumpington P&R offers a cheaper alternative to parking at the station: £18/week, including a return ride on the ‘R’ bus (or just £5 if you bike it), compared with £43.70/week for parking at the station.

It would also strengthen the case for providing more parking at stations outside Cambridge: Foxton, Waterbeach and a new parkway at Six Mile Bottom.

If the councils are serious about reducing congestion and building more housing, the station is the best place to start demonstrating how to reduce car dependency.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 24 May 2017.

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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  • In general, I agree with Smarter Cambridge Transport and the proposals that you have been putting forward to oppose some of the ill thought through proposals that were originally emerging from the Cambridge City Deal. I also agree that Cambridge Station is a nightmare for users and in desperate need of reconfiguration. However, I have concerns about your comments relating to parking at Cambridge Station. For those living in the centre of Cambridge, these proposals don’t seem too problematic because public transport is a feasible option, but for those of us living in the outlying villages, there would be a number of problems. I can only speak for Cottenham but I am sure my experience will be echoed in a number of villages. First of all, Stagecoach has gradually eroded the Citi 8 bus service so that it no longer serves Cambridge Station. Travelling in from Cottenham to Cambridge City Centre then changing buses to reach the station takes well over an hour. It has taken me from 9.30am to 12.30pm to travel from Cottenham to Kings Cross. This is not acceptable. The alternative is to travel to Histon and then take the guided bus. This too takes well over an hour. The bigger problem arises on the return journey with one bus an hour from Cambridge to Cottenham and nothing after 5.45pm on Sundays and bank holidays. It takes a similar amount of time to reach Cambridge North by public transport and, then, the trains from Cambridge North are not always as convenient for travelling into London as those from Cambridge Station with fewer, fast, direct trains during the day and even fewer in the evening. The suggestion that Trumpington P&R provides a suitable alternative is also problematic because P&R buses stop in the evening, quite apart from adding to an already long drive to reach Trumpington. As much of the congestion in Cambridge is probably caused by people driving in from the outlying villages, no solution is possible without tackling the long winded, patchy and diminishing service provided by Stagecoach. I take my car into Cambridge because, on balance, my time is more valuable to me than the amount of money I have to pay for parking. I would be happy to provide any further information or comments as required.

    • Eileen, we completely agree that the current situation is not acceptable.

      Let’s start with the good news: there will be more trains from Cambridge North from May 2018. The draft timetable for the Kings Cross St Pancras services can be found here: Further improvements will follow.

      Now for the bad news. The County Council has decided to cancel the £1 parking charge at Park & Ride sites rather than invest that £1.2m in extending the hours of P&R and rural bus services:

      With funds for subsidising unprofitable bus services drying up, there is now little prospect for extending the hours of existing services, even as the Greater Cambridge Partnership is spending millions of pounds preparing to build new busways and bus lanes.

      We would like to see better use of the existing infrastructure. Imagine, for instance, the following scenario:

      You catch the Citi 8 from Cottenham. You get off at Impington at a new bus station between the busway and the Railway Vue pub – not that you’ll need it on the way in because the busway service to Cambridge North runs every 5-10 minutes. You catch your train from Cambridge North to King’s Cross or St Pancras.

      Going home from London, you get off at Cambridge North and catch the bus to Impington, which is still running every 10 minutes at 10pm. This time you may need to make use of the waiting room at the Impington bus station while you wait for the Citi 8 back to Cottenham. If you have more than 15 minutes to wait, there’s always the Railway Vue to have a drink and stay warm.

      This requires a small amount of capital investment and for the mayor to make use of new franchising powers:

      A little further into the future, imagine that there will be a driverless taxi service between Cottenham and Impington bus station. At peak times it will cost rather more than the Citi 8, but off-peak it may replace the Citi 8 altogether.