We’re at a tipping point in the south of Cambridge: Papworth Hospital, Abcam and AstraZeneca all move in over the coming year, Papworth in under six months. A large step change is needed in the quality of public transport to get people on and off the site. Without that, two new car parks (1,894 spaces) will be built. This could gridlock the local road network, impacting ambulance response times.
Talk of Cambridge South station, tunnels, busways, an ‘autonomous metro’, or congestion charging is an irrelevance. None of these will be ready within five years. The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) has less than one year to act decisively and effectively or the game is over.
We have always maintained that leading with large-scale projects was a mistake. Causing massive environmental damage and years of upheaval to push peak-time buses a little quicker to the edge of the city is just not a great strategy. It would also be largely redundant if we got a good strategy in place in the city.
So what’s the answer? Well hello! We’ve been shouting it from the rooftops for nearly three years. Focus on small-scale, ‘tactical’ interventions that make more efficient use of existing infrastructure, can be delivered quickly and relatively cheaply, and will start making a difference in months, not years.
GCP has now built a team of highly competent officers. The problem is that politicians are still directing them down blind alleys because they’re scared to change course before the new Local Plan is adopted.
Will the Biomedical Campus be the wake-up call they need to switch priorities before it’s too late? Instead of paying consultants huge sums (nearly £10m to date) to develop busway/lane schemes, put these people onto projects that can be delivered within two years.
We’ve identified plenty in our responses to consultations. Parish councils, residents associations, bus operators, taxi drivers (yes, they know what the problems are better than most of us), and many other groups can identify many more if asked.
Urgency on the tactical, care on the strategy. Can politicians please make this their mantra?
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 18 April 2018.