“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is literally true when it comes to how the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is responding to the climate emergency. Board members have convinced themselves that busways and car parks are an adequate response to the urgent need to decarbonise road transport and eliminate deaths from air pollution and vehicle collisions. They dismissed opposition to their schemes from many quarters, including the 1,900 people who signed Smarter Cambridge Transport’s petition.
GCP’s Transport Director has always presented a false dichotomy between building the busways and doing nothing. Smarter Cambridge Transport has, over six years, offered a wide range of interventions to promote bus and train travel, cycling and walking, any of which could be delivered within one or two years. Why do these count as “nothing”?
By GCP’s own admission, the busway schemes are incomplete without a plan to reduce congestion in Cambridge, which delays buses. A core objective of GCP’s City Access strategy is to reduce traffic in the city by 25–30% by 2025. The busways and greenways won’t open before then, so the big question is, what interventions can GCP make to reduce traffic before new travel options are in place?
Politicians from all parties have argued, entirely reasonably, that they cannot penalise people for driving into Cambridge if they have no viable alternative. So, far from voting boldly for action, the board in effect voted meekly for another three or four years of inaction.
Acting quickly to improve walking, cycling and bus services on existing roads doesn’t rule out building new transport infrastructure. But the latter must complement, not compete with, the national rail network – including East West Rail and potential extensions to Wisbech and Haverhill; and lines into the city must connect in ways that makes cross-city trips fast and convenient. That has always been a strength of the Cambridge Connect proposal.
Our politicians have let us down: they are squandering the best opportunity we have to start to create a transport future with zero carbon emissions, zero air pollution, zero road deaths and zero congestion.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 7 July 2021.