So, what transport plans does the new Conservative government have in store for us?
The biggest manifesto commitments were for roads: “£28.8 billion investment in strategic and local roads,” and “the biggest ever pothole-filling programme.” By contrast, investment promised for cycling is a mere £350 million – about 1% of the roads budget. As 58% of car trips are under 5 miles – a distance that most people can cycle comfortably (especially with electric assistance), why aren’t those budgets switched? Switching even a quarter of short car trips to cycling and walking would remove the need to build most new roads, and reverse the upward trend in carbon emissions from transport.
Some of that £28.8 billion will most likely pay for dualling the weak link in the A428–A421 trunk route between the M1 at Milton Keynes and Felixstowe. That will inevitably increase the volume of traffic on the A428 and make the case for ‘fixing’ the Girton Interchange and adding a Park & Ride there even more necessary.
The preferred route for East West Rail will be announced soon. New South Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne has been lobbying for it to go via Cambourne (which would demolish the already weak business case for a busway). Will he and Mayor Palmer manage to push the Department for Transport to get East West Rail, Cambridge South station and new connections at the Girton Interchange built during this Parliament?
The manifesto commitment on buses is surprisingly bold: “We will invest in superbus networks with lower fares – flat fares in urban areas – and increased frequency. We will keep bus fares low, bring back and protect rural routes, and speed up your journeys. We will invest in electric buses, developing the UK’s first all-electric-bus town.” How this will be achieved is unclear, as it implies nationwide franchising of operations.
Re-elected Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner will continue to campaign for investment in reliable, affordable and accessible bus services, and for long-overdue reform of taxi licensing.
The next five years are critical for the future of the planet: will the UK lead the way on de-carbonising transport?
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 11 December 2019.