You can travel by coach from Cambridge to London, and to all London airports, Norwich, Birmingham, Oxford, Nottingham and Liverpool. The coach stops are alongside Parker’s Piece, near the fire station. But there are no toilets there, no café, no waiting room, just basic bus shelters and some bins. British Rail abolished third class travel in 1956, but coach passengers still get the experience.
To be fair, the stop location isn’t National Express’s choice: long-distance services were removed from Parker St (now the taxi rank) on a “temporary” basis: the plan in 2008 was to move them to the “new railway station plaza” when ready. A decade on, I think we can safely say, that ain’t happening.
Although services also call at Trumpington or Madingley Park & Ride, most people board and alight in the city. So, where else might we find a permanent home for a coach station, with excellent connectivity to the city and surrounding villages, and all the facilities you’d expect to find at a city train station?
A really neat element of the Cambridge Connect light rail proposal is that the Isaac Newton line would run from Cambridge station under the city, emerging in West Cambridge to continue north to the Girton Interchange. That’s where the A14, M11 and A428 converge. Which makes it the perfect location for a coach station: coaches travelling in any direction would not waste half an hour struggling through the middle of the city.
It would also be the perfect location for tourist coaches to unload, and other visitors to park and ride into the city. In fact, there’s a good case for making this the only Park & Ride for Cambridge, a mammoth transport interchange and car park woven into the concrete road jungle. It would also be a hub for rural buses, in particular from Cambourne, Bar Hill and Fenstanton. Frequent trains would whisk people in and out of the city, Cambridge station and Biomedical Campus.
At Smarter Cambridge Transport we’re not generally cheerleaders for big infrastructure, but this is a vision for Cambridge we can get behind.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 7 August 2019.