One of the great frustrations with transport planning in the UK is that it is easier, quicker and often cheaper for a local authority to build a new road than it is for the same local authority, Network Rail and train operating companies to get their ducks in a row to build a new railway station or reinstate railway track.
Cherry Hinton used to have a railway station – for two and a half years in the 1850s. Fulbourn held onto theirs until 1967. Since then the line has been relaid as a single track, which can carry only an hourly service between Cambridge and Newmarket via Dullingham.
A station at the point where Fulbourn Old Drift used to cross the railway line could work well: it would be within easy walking distance of Fulbourn Hospital, Capital Business Park and the Ida Darwin Hospital site (203 new homes planned); it would be within easy cycling distance for most residents of Cherry Hinton, Fulbourn and Teversham.
Pair it with the planned new station at the Biomedical Campus and residents could have congestion-free access to Addenbrooke’s and other big employers on the site, with no parking charges to pay. Surely this makes more sense than spending £250m on a busway to link Cambourne with the Biomedical Campus (when what’s really needed there is to connect the A428 and M11 at the Girton Interchange)?
Now reinstate a double track between Cambridge and Newmarket plus the link to the Soham line, and add a parkway station off the A11 at Six Mile Bottom, and East Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk gain congestion-free access to Cambridge, London and Stansted Airport.
The County Council’s Long Term Transport Strategy includes “consideration of new station(s) in the Cherry Hinton / Fulbourn area,” but the timescale is “to be determined.” There isn’t even mention of it in the South Cambridgeshire draft Local Plan, which means the district council cannot ask for developer contributions towards it.
This is the kind of unjoined-up thinking that the new mayor needs to address – and quickly, because valuable opportunities to address Cambridge’s congestion are being passed over.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 19 April 2017.