Smarter Cambridge Transport remains opposed to the proposed busway and car park on the grounds that it is entirely incompatible with the future we now need to build for. The objectives of the City Deal can be achieved in other ways more cheaply, with lower environmental cost and wider social benefit.
It is our understanding that the justifications for the CSET and other busway projects are principally that:
- Demand to travel into Cambridge will continue to grow as more houses and jobs come to the region.
- Roads into Cambridge will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be congested with private, mostly solo-occupancy, cars at peak times.
- Building new bus-only roads to the city, and bus lanes within the city, are the only measures available to GCP to give buses a time advantage relative to private cars stuck in congestion.
We contest those justifications because:
- The necessity to decarbonise transport within the parameters of the Paris Climate Agreement and to reduce the ecological and public health costs of private transport together create an imperative on GCP and transport authorities to implement measures urgently to reduce vehicle-miles.
- Demand management measures, which are part of GCP’s City Access programme, are a more effective way to shift incentives in favour of public and active transport and thereby to reduce vehicle-miles. With only a small reduction in the number of peak-time trips by private vehicles into Cambridge, there would be little congestion. Existing roads would have sufficient capacity to carry all public, private and commercial vehicles.
- Since the Bus Services Act 2018 was passed, the Combined Authority has been able to exercise much greater control over bus services than the County Council could when the Transport Strategy for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire was adopted. Historical resistance by Stagecoach to Partnership Agreements and franchising is no longer relevant: a new management team and the pandemic have changed everything.
It is therefore clear to us that GCP’s priorities should not be to build new busways and car parks, but should instead include the following:
- Build a comprehensive, coherent and safe walking and cycling network, building on the existing Greenways programme.
- Work with transport authorities and operators to expand the quality, coverage and integration of public transport services in the region, using the £75 million already allocated.
- Build appropriate infrastructure, such as travel hubs, to give people everywhere in Greater Cambridge convenient and safe access to public transport services without requiring a car.
- Intervene tactically in the road network to prioritise buses, such as smart signalling, Inbound Flow Control and bus gates within the city.
- Develop and implement demand-management measures in Cambridge, starting with a Workplace Parking Levy.
- Work with central government to develop a road pricing scheme that meets local as well as national needs in terms of managing demand and raising a revenue to support local transport.
Non-motorised user (NMU) routes
The highest priority infrastructure should be the Linton and Sawston Greenways, which should be delivered without delay.
The current NMU bridge over the A11 is not fit for purpose nor well-located, for instance for people wanting to cycle between Sawston and Granta Park. The A505 cycle path is also not fit for purpose, running too close to a 70mph carriageway and ending at the start of the narrow, 60mph slip road to Granta Park (see Figure 1).
Irrespective of any infrastructure built for buses, a network of cycleways needs to be designed to provide convenient and safe routes connecting all the villages and employment sites between the M11 and A1307 (see Figure 2). That should include a new NMU crossing of the A11 (and, depending on location, A505) that is wide enough to accommodate cycles, horses and pedestrians safely.
The benefit to cost ratio for these projects is likely to be very much higher than the CSET busway, at a fraction of the monetary and environmental cost, and deliverable much more quickly. Furthermore, benefits accrue as each link is completed, whereas the benefits of the busway would be realised only on completion of the whole scheme.
Irrespective of whether a future public transport route is created alongside the railway line between Great Shelford and Stapleford, we want to see the route opened up as soon as possible for non-motorised users. This can provide a safer and more direct connection between Sawston and the DNA path from Great Shelford to the Biomedical Campus.
We understand that public access to Granta Park from Great Abington has been stopped. This seems extraordinarily short-sighted, and we would urge the park owners, BioMed Realty and TWI, to come forward with a plan for a public cycle route through the estate between the main road entrance and Great Abington. Babraham Research Park and Wellcome Genome Campus’s future plans offer precedents.
Until there is clarity about the design of the CAM vehicles and road/track on which they will run, it is not possible to design cost-efficient infrastructure for it. In the meantime, infrastructure changes should be tactical, with a short payback, so that public money is not wasted on retrofitting design changes at a later date.
Francis Crick Avenue
It is premature to consult on the details of the engineering works on Francis Crick Avenue when there are fundamental unknowns:
- Cambridge South station: what will be the design and access arrangements?
- How will buses and/or CAM vehicles connect with the bus station by the Addenbrooke’s roundabout?
- CAM: what is it?
We are strongly opposed to the proposal to create a dual carriageway along Francis Crick Avenue. This highway should be designed to be convenient and safe for people walking, cycling and alighting/boarding buses. A wide road, narrow footways, multi-stage crossings and long delays between pedestrian green phases are not compatible with that objective.
Furthermore, it is an extraordinarily regressive implication in Q3 of the consultation that a footway on the eastern side of the road is optional. How does GCP imagine people will walk between Cambridge South station and the buildings fronting onto the east side of Francis Crick Avenue?
The immediate priority here should be to provide a separate bidirectional cycleway on the west side of Francis Crick Avenue, linking the DNA path with the busway NMU path. We urge GCP to support our proposal for Cambridge South station to have only very limited access by car (see next section) to ensure that Francis Crick Avenue does not become congested.
Cambridge South station
Our submission to Network Rail regarding Cambridge South station made the case for building the station above the tracks, with access by walking, cycling and bus from a rebuilt busway bridge. Car access would be restricted to disabled station users, railway workers and deliveries. This would allow the retention and continued enforcement of the TRO banning through-traffic from using Francis Crick Avenue, which will limit the volume of traffic to a level that does not require segregation for buses.
Bus routes through Biomedical Campus
Bus routes around the Biomedical Campus are convoluted and slow. Buses cannot access the bus station directly from Robinson Way; they have to make a circuit of Addenbrooke’s roundabout first.
The Cambridge University Hospitals 2020 Vision (see Figure 3) proposed creating a direct bus route between Keith Day Rd and Main Drive. This would radically alter the route that buses would take through the Campus, and make it easier for services to call at both the Addenbrooke’s bus station and Cambridge South.
The car park proposed by the A11 at Fourwentways is intended to intercept people arriving on the A11. It would be much more cost-effective instead to provide a parkway station at Six Mile Bottom. The railway will offer a much quicker journey time to Cambridge and Cambridge South stations than the proposed busway. Investment in East West Rail will ensure there is capacity for the long-term, obviating the need to build a busway.
GCP should be designing and commissioning bus services to link communities and business parks along the A505, from the Imperial War Museum at Duxford to Babraham Research Park, to Whittlesford Parkway station. There may also be demand from people living in Haverhill and Linton, as this is also their nearest railhead. In the longer term, a heavy rail link from the Liverpool St line to Haverhill is needed that can carry freight as well as passenger services.