Smarter Cambridge Transport

Too much busway, too little station

Two more public consultations recently launched illustrate just how out-of-step with the times transport authorities are. On the one hand, we have plans for a new road to connect the Cambridge Biomedical Campus with a 20-hectare airport-style car park by the A11 in the Green Belt. The breathtaking scale of the environmental damage, including huge bridges over the River Granta flood zones, can be seen in the slick fly-through. The new road will provide significant benefit only for about two hours a day, when the A1307 is congested – unless of course it paves the way for development in the Green Belt, like the proposal submitted for 3,500 new homes and an “employment centre” between Sawston and Babraham.

At the Cambridge end of the busway will be a new railway station. Whereas the busway is a massively over-engineered solution to congestion, the new station is woefully under-engineered, and guaranteed to cause congestion. The design capacity of 1.8 million entries and exits per year is a fraction of a sensible estimate – likely 9 million by 2031 when East West Rail should be open. (By comparison, Cambridge station’s throughput in 2018–19 was 12 million, and Cambridge North’s, 0.8 million.)

In the highly constrained space available, Network Rail will struggle to accommodate even 500 cycle parking spaces on the hospital side of the station – far too few for the long term. And, as at Cambridge station, buses will be too far from the entrance, which will create demand for taxis. Pick-up/drop-off at the station will add to congestion on roads that need to be kept clear for ambulances.

Smarter Cambridge Transport proposed the station be built on top of the tracks, enabling close integration with a bus station and an easily extendable cycle park. It also proposed that any new transport link to the south-east must reach Haverhill and link places in between where people live and work. The service must offer the same quality and speed as rail provides, whatever it runs on. In the meantime, there are many quick wins for prioritising buses.

Do please respond to these consultations!

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 28 October 2020.

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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