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£130m Cambridge South East busway route chosen by Greater Cambridge Partnership




The preferred route for a new £130million off-road busway for the Cambridge South East corridor has been chosen by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) - and it could be in place by 2024.

It is designed to connect the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and Addenbrooke’s with communities to the south east of the city, including Great Shelford, Stapleford and Sawston, and will link to the major employment areas of Granta Park and Babraham Research Park.

The options considered for the Cambridge South East public transport route. The GCP's executive board has chosen the brown route as its preferred option. Map: GCP
The options considered for the Cambridge South East public transport route. The GCP's executive board has chosen the brown route as its preferred option. Map: GCP

A new ‘travel hub’ - similar to a Park & Ride - near the A11 at Babraham will enable drivers to leave their cars outside the city and complete their journeys on bike or using the electric vehicles that will run along the segregated off-road public transport route.

A separate path alongside will enable people to walk, cycle or ride horses along the whole length of the route.

Funding is in place from the City Deal money given to the GCP by the government, although it will also seek to recover some of the cost from developer contributions through the planning process.

There are still some steps before the route will finally be approved, however.

A full environmental impact assessment of the preferred scheme and a further phase of public consultation are planned in the autumn.

The final scheme would then come back to the GCP’s executive board for signing off, before an application is submitted to the secretary of state for approval.

The GCP's preferred location for the travel hub for the Cambridge South East public transport route. Map: GCP
The GCP's preferred location for the travel hub for the Cambridge South East public transport route. Map: GCP

County councillor Roger Hickford, who was appointed as the new chairman of the GCP board at the meeting, said: “The approval of the Cambridge South East Transport scheme is a big step in our ambitions to reduce congestion and improve air quality by giving thousands of people travelling from the south east the option to get out of their cars and switch to first-class public transport services to get to work and appointments at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.”

The GCP said the route - planned for delivery by 2024 - will form an integral part of the delivery of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s wider Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) scheme.

The favoured route will start near the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and run parallel with the railway, before diverting to the east of Great Shelford and Stapleford and then crossing the River Granta and running to the east of Sawston.

Cambridge City Council’s Labour leader Cllr Lewis Herbert said it was “badly needed”.

But both Stapleford and Great Shelford parish councils have voiced strong opposition to the chosen route as it runs through the green belt.

They said: “The two councils fundamentally oppose the GCP’s chosen route through the unique and valuable landscape around the Magog Hills and chalk downlands and instead favour the railway alignment through the two villages.”

They argue the GCP has “failed to go through proper public consultation by omitting to include the realistic alternative route of following the railway line in any of their public consultations”.

The alternative railway route for the Cambridge South East public transport route, favoured by some parish councils but rejected by the GCP (37328884)
The alternative railway route for the Cambridge South East public transport route, favoured by some parish councils but rejected by the GCP (37328884)

But the GCP has said the alternative would have fewer benefits, cost £29million more and increase journey times.

Its proposed travel hub would be located to the south west of the junction between the A1307 and A11, between the A11 and Babraham. It could hold up to 2,800 cars, and offer bicycle parking and other amenities.

It is designed to compliment the existing Babraham Park & Ride.

Meanwhile, the executive board also:

  • Endorsed changes to aid walking and cycling along Madingley Road and approved the development of a detailed scheme design following a public consultation.
  • Approved plans for a new travel hub to the south of Foxton station, enabling more people to park and travel by public transport into the city, following another consultation.
  • Backed plans for three more greenways - serving Melbourn, Comberton and St Ives. These are among 12 walking, cycling and equestrian routes designed to link Cambridge and surrounding villages following public consultations.

The board also approved a range of experimental projects supporting work led by Cambridgeshire County Council to promote safer cycling and walking during the Covid-19 pandemic.

These changes - led by the council but involving the GCP - include extensions to the pedestrianised zone in the city centre and other changes to create low-traffic streets, as reported by the Cambridge Independent.

The GCP said it will aim to provide additional cycle parking alongside improved access to ebikes and cargo bikes, and will work with businesses to develop a pilot for deliveries and freight in the city centre.

The schemes are being introduced as experimental traffic regulation orders, meaning they do not require the usual consultation process and can be introduced more quickly.

However, they are only in place for up to 18 months, and feedback will be sought before decisions are made on making them permanent.

The GCP said it had taken into account the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly it organised.

The board has confirmed it will report back to the assembly on its report later this year.

Cllr Hickford said: “Supporting more people to walk and cycle has been identified as vital to the national recovery from Covid-19 - and so I am pleased that we are able to support Cambridgeshire County Council to make it safer for people to get around by funding these schemes that can be installed quickly on an experimental basis and enable people to try them out and provide feedback to us.”

Former chairman Cllr Aidan van der Weyer has moved to vice-chairman of the GCP.

The Cambourne to Cambridge busway plans were withdrawn from the board’s agenda, following significant opposition from the Combined Authority, to enable an alternative route to be considered.

Additional reporting: Ben Hatton, Local Democracy Reporter

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