Smarter Cambridge Transport

Response to the ‘CAM Sub Strategy’

The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority’s draft Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) sub-strategy is a daughter document of its Local Transport Plan and describes the policy framework for the CAM. The document aims to ensure that individual components of the CAM metro network are fully compliant with a coherent and consistent overall vision for the network. This is the Smarter Cambridge Transport response to the accompanying consultation.

1. Risk Management

The Sub Strategy does not mention management of risks. For such an ambitious project (£3.7–4.5 billion at the last estimate), risk is a very large factor that could make or break it.

There are risks in the construction and commissioning of CAM. If these are not managed adequately, the project may have to be abandoned part-way or the Combined Authority may have to take on additional borrowing.

The choice of construction design and techniques, and vehicle technology all have risk profiles that must be fully understood and quantified. In particular, the design of the tunnel infrastructure and how vehicles will operate in tunnels must be finalised and fully certified by the appropriate bodies, such as the Health and Safety Executive, before any constraining design decisions are made for the surface infrastructure and vehicles.

It should be noted that, whilst light rail is more expensive than the minimum estimated cost of a system based on rubber-tyred, optically-guided vehicles, the lack of prior knowledge and experience in the industry of building and operating the latter system greatly increases the relative risks in ways that are exceptionally difficult to forecast. ‘Unknown unknowns’ are the Achilles Heel of innovation.

There are also operational risks, such as higher-than-forecast maintenance or running costs. If passenger numbers are lower than forecast, the required subsidy is likely to be higher. There may need to be retrofits, for instance to resolve safety, reliability or capacity problems that emerge after construction starts or services start running.

All significant risks must be carefully analysed, quantified, independently verified, managed and, as far as possible, insured against. The Combined Authority must not simply rely on the Optimism Bias adjustment in the TAG cost-benefit analysis, which is only a rule-of-thumb based on traditional road and rail transport projects.

Failure to forecast and manage risks adequately will, at best, compromise the Combined Authority’s ability to deliver on its other responsibilities. At worst, unbudgeted borrowing repayments or subsidy payments could push the authority into insolvency.

The chequered history of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway, now the subject of an £80 million law suit, and Crossrail both provide object lessons the Combined Authority must learn from.

2. Integration with coach station

The CAM network needs to integrate with coach services at a location in or close to Cambridge. In the current CAM route map, the only point of connection with coach services is at Trumpington Park & Ride, where some National Express services stop. Cambridge city centre has no coach station, only some basic bus shelters alongside Parker’s Piece. Toilets and shops are some distance away, and there is no luggage storage facility.

We suggest the ideal location for a coach station is at the Girton Interchange, where the A14, M11 and A428 meet, and that CAM should have a station here. Scheduled coach services would need to make only a short detour from the strategic road network to pick up and set down passengers at Cambridge, shortening journey times considerably. Tourists, visitors and school parties arriving by private coaches would also be able to transfer to CAM at the coach station. This could remove hundreds of coaches daily from city roads, in particular Queen’s Road on The Backs. It would also produce a large fare revenue for CAM, especially off-peak when there would otherwise be spare capacity.

There is enough land available within the Girton Interchange for a large-scale, self-financing development, potentially including:

  • coach station
  • Park & Ride (this could replace all peripheral Park & Rides and be specifically designed to serve visitors and tourists)
  • motorway service station
  • electric vehicle charging points
  • tourist information centre
  • hotel
  • conference centre
  • serviced offices with short-hire meeting rooms

Smarter Cambridge Transport

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