Smarter Cambridge Transport

Who’ll pay for the transport from Essex’s new town?

The Government is supporting Essex in its bid to build three new towns, one of which is hard up against the border with Cambridgeshire. Professional reports confirm that most trips from the town will be to South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge.

The seductively named ‘North Uttlesford Garden Community’ would be situated 10 miles south of Cambridge, between Sawston and Saffron Walden, just the other side of the A11 from a large expansion of the Wellcome Genome Campus, currently awaiting planning consent. Its 5,000 homes would make it almost the size of Saffron Walden. Unsurprisingly, there is strong opposition from local residents, campaigning under the StopNUtown banner.

So, how will thousands of people travel north to the employment sites of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire? The Greater Cambridge Partnership is working on plans for an off-road busway from the Cambridge Biomedical Campus to Shelford, Sawston and a park-and-ride terminus near Granta Park. A report prepared for the new town’s developers suggests optimistically that this busway could be significantly extended to serve the new town and Chesterford Research Park. But the same report confirms that neither the developers nor local authorities are obliged to pay for that. So who would?

The report also suggests that the new town might be linked to Whittlesford railway station. But, again, who will pay for the infrastructure and services? Don’t hold your breath waiting for Essex County Council to do any of this.

If nobody is responsible for providing convenient, reliable and affordable public transport, then it won’t happen. Which means we can expect a whole lot more road traffic crossing the border from Essex, adding to congestion on the M11, A1301, A1307 and A505.

Most historic administrative counties developed around a central county town. There are few formal arrangements or obligations between counties to manage the spill-over effects of developments close to county boundaries. We need the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to intervene – somebody should be obligated to pay to provide really good public transport for the long-term.

Genome Campus expansion and North Uttlesford New Town
Indicative plans for North Uttlesford New Town and expansion of the Wellcome Genome Campus

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 10 April 2019.

Chris Rand

Chris Rand is a blogger and campaigner from Queen Edith’s ward, with a keen interest in improving the communication between local government and residents. He believes that a key factor in making the City Deal successful will be generating ideas from the people who live in and around the city, and not leaving things to commercial interests, which will inevitably try to hijack this fantastic opportunity.

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