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, GCP still has no plan for where all the new buses will go in Cambridge city centre.
Ex-mayor James Palmer provided a tantalising solution: he would secure billions of pounds to tunnel under the city. Exactly what would run in the tunnels was becoming increasingly unclear. But then we elected a mayor with a very different set of priorities. For now, more buses are the solution. But the only way for them to move quickly through the city is to reduce the volume of other traffic.
GCP’s City Access strategy sets out the options. But, so far, politicians have failed to agree on anything that will really alter travel incentives and secure future funding for better bus services.
Local authorities are still planning on the basis that growth in population and jobs must inevitably lead to more cars, more trips and therefore more congestion. GCP’s answer is to build more road capacity – only for buses. Seems like common sense? But this “predict-and-provide” way of planning is completely incompatible with decarbonising transport because it actually perpetuates car-dependence. We have to move to a “vision-and-validate” planning model, in which we design the future we want, then test plans for making it a reality.
Meeting government housing targets is important, but not more important than decarbonising road transport, restoring ecology, reducing toxic air pollution, reducing illness from inactivity and social isolation, and eliminating deaths on the roads.
So, we have launched a petition to ask the GCP Executive Board to change its spending priorities from busways and car parks to schemes that could be delivered in less time with greater cumulative benefit, and much lower environmental damage.
With a new mayor in post and a new administration at the County Council, now is the time to ask for change. You can read and sign the petition here at smartertransport.uk
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 16 June 2021.