Smarter Cambridge Transport

Why Park & Ride is NOT the solution

Let’s get realistic about the transport problem facing us. What do we need to do in the next ten or so years before the first ‘metro’ line opens?

Between 2012 and 2017, there was a 13% increase in personal trips into Cambridge: up 9.5% by car; up 40% by train; up 24% by cycle; up 12% by foot; but down 10% by bus.

Looking forward ten years, growth in population, employment and tourism are likely to sustain this rate of growth in transport demand, which could mean 27% or 25,000 more trips every day into Cambridge by 2028.

On top of that, the Greater Cambridge Partnership has an objective to reduce traffic in the city by 10-15% from 2011 levels. This would decongest the city centre, enable buses to move freely, and improve air quality. But it means shifting another 20,000 daily car trips to other modes.

Taken together, that’s quite a challenge: to get an extra 45,000 daily trips into Cambridge to be made by train, bus, cycling or walking.

Cambridge North will make a significant contribution; as will the cycling greenways, and adoption of e-bikes; but probably most of that growth will have to be absorbed by buses.

How might Park & Ride help? Capacity at all seven sites, including St Ives, Longstanton and planned expansion at Trumpington, is 7,022 cars. For Park & Ride to make a 50% contribution to those 45,000 extra daily trips would require fifteen more Trumpington-sized sites, with a total area of ten Parker’s Pieces.

There are no published figures for bus trips into Cambridge, but guestimating from figures for Park & Ride and the Guided Busway, it’s probably 10–15,000 daily, of which 4,200 are Park & Ride. For rural (non-P&R) buses to make a 50% contribution to the 45,000 extra daily trips will require at least a tripling of services.

Both options are daunting, but the social and environmental benefits of radically improving rural bus services far outweigh the damage of tarmacking more green belt and choking necklace villages with traffic to and from Park & Rides.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 15 August 2018.

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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  • Multi-storey car parks are an efficient use of land.
    There must be quite a few people who drive relatively short distances to a p&r site, e.g. from Cambourne. Surely village bus feeder services could be combined written p&r to get even more people out of their cars?

    • Although multi-storey car parks are more space efficient than surface car parks, few people would tolerate their presence in the green belt. They’re also considerably more expensive to build and maintain. There is also the issue of the capacity of roads feeding P&R sites on the edge of the city, and the impact of that traffic on villages.

      P&R has a role, which is to serve as a transfer point for people arriving from beyond the reach of good public transport to Cambridge (by rail or bus). Within the commuter region around Cambridge, we believe the most viable and sustainable solution is to organise bus services to be more like rail, running on direct routes between widely spaced stops, including travel hubs that offer high quality facilities, safe walking and cycling connections, and easy interchanging: