The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is at an advanced stage of planning to build three busways and five car parks at a cost of £419 million. That’s £1,370 per resident of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire, or up to £180,000 per new bus user. Furthermore, the GCP still has no plan for where all the new buses will go in Cambridge city centre after leaving the busways.
We, the undersigned, call upon the Greater Cambridge Partnership to:
- Prioritise funding for walking, cycling, improved bus services and bus prioritisation on existing roads.
- Fund these projects by withdrawing funding from the current busway-and-car-park schemes.
- Re-appraise all projects against current government climate change targets.
- Follow the elected mayor and county council in putting people’s health at the heart of all projects.
- Support the mayor to give everyone in Greater Cambridge access to convenient and affordable bus services.
- Support the mayor to work with residents to develop a comprehensive, coherent and sustainable transport strategy.
See notes below for more detail on each point.
Thank you for adding your signature.
Your name and postcode will be stored and presented to the Greater Cambridge Partnership and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. It will not be used for any other purpose.
Notes on the petition
Many projects to support more walking, cycling, use of public transport and ride-sharing can and should be delivered quickly. They must help people reach employment sites, and also shops, friends and family, leisure facilities, heritage sites, parks and countryside.
- Safe, coherent and convenient walking and cycling infrastructure to create a dense network connecting all settlements in Greater Cambridge with local and city amenities, building on the Greenways programme. This will include new paths, cut-throughs, bridges and underpasses for walking, cycling and e-scootering.
- Travel hubs that connect people to rail and bus services without needing a car. This small bus and railway stations should be designed to provide a convenient, safe and comfortable environment for interchanging between walking, cycling, bus and rail services. Local communities should determine the appropriate quantity of car parking for private, shared and club cars. They should also be offered the opportunity to design in other amenities, such as a hub for local deliveries, co-working space, nursery, shop, café or space for mobile services and markets. Travel hubs can also give Cambridge residents car-free access to country walks and heritage sites.
- New or replacement bus shelters at major stops to improve user comfort. Consult with communities about relocating bus stops to improve access, user safety and service reliability.
- Actively managed bus lanes on the approaches to Cambridge and priority at traffic signals to give buses an effective and visible speed advantage over private transport.
- Appropriate parking controls throughout the city, to reduce on-street commuter parking, increase provision for delivery vehicles, and incentivise people to ride-share or use club cars instead of owning their own.
GCP is currently proceeding with these schemes:
- Cambourne to Cambridge (busway and car park at Scotland Farm)
Cost: £157 million
Additional daily users: 872
Cost per additional user: £180,000
- Cambridge South East Transport (busway and car park at A11–A1307 interchange)
Cost: £132 million
Additional daily users: 917
Cost per additional user: £144,000
- Cambridge South West Travel Hub (car park at Hauxton)
Cost: £42 million
Additional daily users: 946
Cost per additional user: £44,000
- Waterbeach to Cambridge (busway and car park at Waterbeach New Town)
Cost: £52 million
Additional daily users: unknown
- Eastern Access (relocation of Newmarket Rd P&R car park)
Cost: £36 million
Additional daily users: unknown
Total budgeted cost: £419 million
Expenditure per resident (all ages): £1,370
Expenditure for a household of two adults and two children: £5,480
From the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate’s Initial Recommendations report:
“Greenhouse gas emissions in the Combined Authority region are high. In the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) area, emissions are approximately 25% higher per person than the UK average. At this level of emissions, we have only about 6 years remaining before we will have exhausted all of our ‘allowed’ share of emissions to 2050, if we are to play an equal part in delivering the UK’s critical Net Zero target.”
The “‘allowed’ share of emissions” refers to the maximum quantity of greenhouse gases the world can emit and still have a 50% chance of limiting average global temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and thereby hopefully preventing runaway changes to ecosystems. It’s not a target we and future generations can afford to miss. Since it is cumulative emissions that are driving climate change, the sooner we act to reduce emissions, the less dramatic and disruptive will be the actions required in future years.
The government has set three targets for reducing carbon emissions relative to 1990 levels:
The first two are much more ambitious than the 2050 target as they require acting now to ‘bend’ the emissions curve, rather than delaying serious action until the 2040s, when it will be too late.
Any 2030 scenario for road transport that is compliant with a 1.5°C carbon budget requires a large reduction in total vehicle-mileage relative to 2019, not small-percentage reductions relative to a business-as-usual growth scenario. That requires a paradigm shift in the uptake of walking and cycling, public transport and ride-sharing. It also requires faster change than can be delivered by building big infrastructure alone. None of the busways will open before 2024, and two schemes are not due to open before 2027. We need new transport options now, not in six years’ time.
Building busways to give buses priority is seen to be the politically least difficult way to give buses an advantage over private cars. But it wastes hundreds of millions of pounds and precious years to kick-start a transition that will render the infrastructure redundant.
Worse, the busways and car parks result in more carbon emissions – both in construction and operation – than if they were not built at all. People driving to Park & Rides to catch a bus do not reduce their carbon footprint by much, if at all. Walking or cycling to a local travel hub to catch a bus or train will reduce carbon emissions much more, especially if the quality of local transport provision enables more people not to own a car, and to use club or rental cars or vans only when needed.
Motor vehicles pose the single greatest threat to people’s health and wellbeing:
- Toxic air pollution from engine exhausts, tyres, brakes and road materials, contributes to between 28,000 and 36,000 premature deaths annually in the UK. These are prefigured by often debilitating diseases of the lung, heart and brain.
- Motor vehicle collisions kill around 1,750 people and seriously injure around 26,000 people each year.
- Insufficient physical activity, partly owing to over-reliance on driving everywhere, is contributing to one in six deaths and costing the UK an estimated £7.4 billion annually.
Lack of access to practical, safe and affordable transport options perpetuates social inequalities, depriving people of access to employment, social contact, sports, leisure and culture. Everybody needs access to good transport, not just residents of new developments.
Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and the new administration at Cambridgeshire County Council have both indicated they will put people’s health at the heart of their policies:
Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
The new mayor, Dr Nik Johnson, set out his priorities in the Cambridge Independent on 22 April 2021.
If elected, what would your priorities be for the next term?
I will be the mayor who develops a fully integrated, greener, countywide transport system.
I will be the mayor who provides free transport for 16-18 year olds, and subsidised travel for all under 25s.
I will be the mayor who actually delivers affordable and social housing with green, sustainable, carbon neutral developments.
I will be the mayor who helps build a county-wide water management group to prevent flooding and save precious water resources.
I will be the mayor who encourages people to lead healthier lifestyles.
I will be the mayor who encourages the arts.
Is the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro the answer to our transport challenge – and can it realistically be delivered?
In a word – no.
I believe in being honest and upfront with voters and therefore I have to say it straight out – no I will not support this project.
I want to start my term as mayor with a clean sheet and consider all transport options with a fresh eye.
I want to concentrate on making more immediate positive transport changes for the betterment of residents across Cambridgeshire.
In principle I’m not totally opposed to a rapid system project but this has all the hallmarks of being an expensive folly and a potential financial blackhole.
Cambridgeshire County Council
The Joint Administration Agreement includes the following priorities:
3. Health and care
We will adopt a ‘health in all policies’ approach, as advocated by the World Health Organisation. Mindful of the importance of clean air for public health, we will increase air quality monitoring across Cambridgeshire, including in villages as well as in towns, cities, and along major trunk roads.
We will focus on modal shift to encourage more residents out of their cars, along with infrastructure development, the encouragement of sustainable travel, and securing safe routes and connections for pedestrians and cyclists. We will consult communities openly and transparently on highways projects that affect them. We will seek to invest more in road, footway, and cycleway maintenance and routine gulley clearance, and end the freeze on residents’ parking schemes.
We will continue to work on ways in which we can limit HGVs rat-running through villages and urban communities. In partnership with local communities, we will make the option of 20MPH zones more widely available, and easier to obtain.
Communities need practical and affordable alternatives to driving. Key to that is having access to frequent bus services with quick interchanges (bus–bus and bus–train) to all major destinations. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, under the leadership of the mayor, Dr Nik Johnson, has powers under the Bus Services Act 2017 to:
- Commission new, extended and expanded bus services. GCP can fund these in the early years until fare revenues and other funding sources (see point 6) cover the operating costs.
- Re-plan bus routes to meet the needs of a wider range of people and avoid overwhelming city and town centres.
- Implement simpler and fairer bus and rail fares, in particular for multi-stage trips. Fares should be set to maximise patronage not profits.
- Simplify journey planning and ticketing across all transport modes: bus, rail and hire of cycles, e-scooters and cars.
The longer-term transport plan needs to be more than just a sum of individual transport schemes. It needs to give most residents new and attractive transport options, enabling a large proportion of the population not to own a car. The steps to achieve this are:
- Build a complete picture of the region’s transport needs, problems and opportunities.
- Co-create a coherent vision for a comprehensive transport network that is truly sustainable. This must respect both environmental limits and the needs of all residents.
- Agree ways to fund good public transport and infrastructure maintenance long-term.
- Develop incentives to encourage people to walk, cycle, use public transport or ride-share whenever possible.
This process should tap into the deep knowledge and understanding of residents, local groups, schools, businesses, bus and taxi drivers, care workers and many others. It will reveal what infrastructure is needed and where, and what types of transport provision are most appropriate where. Ideas for consideration may include (but are not limited to!) new railway lines connected to the national network (such as to Wisbech and Haverhill); light railway (tram) lines into and across Cambridge city; a transport hub at the Girton Interchange, including a coach and visitor transfer station; and freight consolidation and distribution hubs.
Community involvement should include elements of deliberative democracy. These use juries and assemblies, drawn randomly from the local population (like courtroom juries) to consider evidence and options, typically over a number of days. They debate ideas and trade-offs in a respectful environment, guided by trained facilitators, and agree recommendations that are voted on and published. If the process is commissioned by politicians, or run with their blessing, the recommendations can determine or strongly influence public policy. This House of Commons Research Briefing provides a good summary.
One of the most divisive problems we have to solve is how to design and introduce some form of taxation on private transport that is fair; will provide a reliable funding stream to support public transport for the long-term; and create strong incentives for people to choose modes of transport that are sustainable and healthy. Examples include Clean Air Zones, variable (“intelligent”) road user charging, and workplace parking levies. Deliberative democracy could be the best way to explore the complex trade-offs to produce a plan that is publicly (and hence, politically) acceptable.
Why this petition is important
GCP’s current strategy is to spend the vast majority of the £500 million of City Deal money on building busways and large car parks. It is based on meeting one objective above all others, to increase transport capacity to accommodate future growth in population and employment. It does not adequately address the other key priorities for the region and the country:
- Reduce transport carbon emissions in line with a 1.5°C carbon budget.
- Improve public health by reducing toxic air pollution from motor vehicles, and by increasing physical activity and social contact.
- Widen access to employment, education, leisure and social opportunities, in particular for those who cannot afford a car or who are unable to drive.
- Eliminate deaths on the roads.
- Reduce road congestion.
Furthermore, GCP’s strategy has proven to be very high risk. Project costs keep escalating and delivery dates receding further each year. The Cambourne–Cambridge scheme was originally set to cost under £100 million and to open in 2020.
Our proposed alternative programme is aligned with all of the above objectives and will:
- Be realised more quickly, as the interventions do not require the years it will take to make Transport and Works Act Orders, procure constructors in a heated market, and complete construction;
- Result in much lower environmental and ecological damage, as the footprint of new construction is small;
- Benefit many more people, because the available money will pay for more interventions across the whole of the Greater Cambridge region.
- Be broadly supported, provided that the programme elements are co-created with local councillors and communities, with input from businesses, specialist organisations, transport operators and other stakeholders.
There are two ways to increase transport capacity (in terms of people and tonnes per hour) and reduce congestion: either build more capacity or use existing infrastructure more efficiently.
A bus carrying 50 people at 30mph replaces 1km of car traffic. A bus service running every five minutes, carrying on average 50 people per bus, replaces 500 cars per hour. That increases the people-per-hour capacity by 60% (see calculation below). Put those buses onto a separate road – i.e. a busway –, the increase in road capacity is only 3 percentage points. It is the service frequency and patronage that determines the increase in capacity, not the infrastructure.
Furthermore, an absolute reduction in vehicles on the road, as required for decarbonisation, means less congestion. Less congestion means more reliable and cost-efficient bus services on existing roads without building busways.
Approximate calculation: typical road capacity of 800 cars/hour = 960 people/hour at an average peak-time occupancy of 1.2 people/vehicle; each bus takes the space of two cars, moving 50 people rather than 2.4 people; 12 buses/hour increases road capacity by 12 x (50 – 2.4) = 571.2 people/hour or 59.5%. Move the buses onto a separate road, road capacity is increased by 12 x 50 = 600 people/hour or 62.5%.
While the focus of economic development tends to be on highly paid, high-productivity jobs, those are only possible with the support of the far greater number of people who provide health and personal care, child care, teaching, cleaning, administration services, retail checkout, stock management, deliveries, security and countless other roles that are relatively poorly paid.
The essence of current Local Plan policies is to house these people beyond the Cambridge green belt. They require access to reliable, frequent and affordable bus and rail services, and safe walking and cycling routes to local amenities, including travel hubs. Building busways is only a means to an end. For all the reasons outlined above, there are better and quicker ways to provide people with viable alternatives to driving.
It is almost impossible to put a price on our natural and historic heritage, landscapes and ecology. Its loss can be irreplaceable or take decades to recover. There is a biodiversity crisis, with species being driven to extinction. The precautionary principle should apply: do no more harm than absolutely necessary.
The alternative to building busways and car parks is not to build nothing; it is to build just enough infrastructure to meet the objectives for sustainability, public health, population and jobs growth and social equity. Bus lanes on the edge of Cambridge, new footways and cycleways and small-scale travel hubs can do that with minimal impact.
At the same time, we need to be restoring and enhancing the ecology and heritage of all our green and blue spaces, as proposed in the Cambridge Nature Network.
The biggest challenge is, and always has been, how to fund an expansion of bus services. With public funding being reduced, GCP has taken the view that it must enable more services to be run at a profit by creating segregated infrastructure that will be attractive for operators and their customers to use. This is a perfectly rational strategy, but wasteful (for the reasons outlined above). With franchising, as promised by the new mayor, Dr Nik Johnson, and his predecessor, it is no longer necessary to pursue this strategy.
The Combined Authority and GCP can commission and fund new, extended and expanded bus services on existing roads this year. Enhanced Partnership agreements and franchising provide frameworks to integrate ticketing across different operators and co-ordinate bus and rail services. Private bus operators have no incentive to do either of these. Network-wide changes will be much more effective at drawing people out of cars and onto buses than single-route busways.
At a national level, road pricing will be needed to replace fuel taxes and generate a reliable revenue to subsidise bus services. It will also provide a fairer mechanism than fuel duty to incentivise people to choose alternatives to driving.