Smarter Cambridge Transport

The good, the bad and the ugly

The mayor’s recently-published Interim Transport Strategy Statement re-confirms his ambitions for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

After reading several prospectuses for the region’s future that almost entirely neglect to mention social or environmental costs of growth, it is heartening to see that ‘Equity’ and ‘Environmental Responsiveness & Sustainability’ sit alongside ‘Economic Growth & Opportunity’ as guiding principles.

Welcome too is the intention that walking and cycling policy will be “in line with best practice examples from countries such as [The Netherlands]”; that transport access will address social exclusion; and policies will prioritise moving people “safely rather than faster.”

The “Cambridgeshire Metro” figures large, but most of the mayor’s programme is for road schemes (oddly omitting junction improvements like the Girton Interchange). But as explained in last week’s column, it is imperative that investment is committed to public and active transport before increasing road capacity.

The boldest ambition might be the one to provide “residents and businesses with a public transport system that is the automatic choice.” However “public transport” seems not to include scheduled buses, only demand-responsive services. The mayor has a dim view of buses, but he should perhaps look at Brighton, Reading or Schaffhausen in Switzerland to see how well buses can work.

The mayor is all but ordering Greater Cambridge Partnership to re-evaluate its schemes for busways and Park & Ride sites as he does not believe they are consistent with his strategy. However, it is still unclear what the ‘metro’ vehicles will run on: if they have rubber tyres (as currently proposed), they will run on an asphalt road or concrete track – in other words, a busway.

The mayor would not introduce “charging” before there is clarity about what the new public transport alternatives will be. If this excludes a workplace parking levy (WPL), he’s being too cautious: unlike congestion charging, WPL would be relatively easy to roll out gradually with exemptions or rebates; administration costs are low, so it would generate a net income quickly, which could be used to revitalise subsidised bus routes.

Look out for the public consultation on all this later in the year.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 30 May 2018.

Edward Leigh

Edward Leigh is the leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, chair and independent co-opted member of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, chair of the South Petersfield Residents Association, business owner, consultant, and occasional blogger about making the world and Cambridge a better place to live.

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