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All aboard: Taking CAM Metro to the new stop

Politicians and businesses have been asked to work together in a “significant step” towards the creation of a £4billion metro system for the Cambridge area.

Mayor James Palmer at home in Soham. Picture: Keith Heppell. (12523977)
Mayor James Palmer at home in Soham. Picture: Keith Heppell. (12523977)

This week, mayor James Palmer hosted the first meeting of the CAM Metro board, which aims to deliver the public transport system, complete with underground stretches beneath Cambridge, through partnerships between business and local government.

He told the Cambridge Independent: “My belief is that only through local partnership can we deliver something on the scale of CAM Metro, which is probably the largest project ever attempted by local government.”

The board will be made up of representatives from local councils, businesses, the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) and the Combined Authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. It is not thought that a scheme of this nature has been delivered in this way before.

Among those represented will be Marshall, Cambridge Ahead, Cambridge University, the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Granta Park and Babraham Research Campus.

The councils involved are Cambridge city, South Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire County Council, West Suffolk, Huntingdonshire and East Cambs.

Mr Palmer explained: “I believe very much in joint working and local partnerships and I believe this CAM Metro board will be a very significant step forward towards the delivery of the metro.”

Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro CAM Metro (12570097)
Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro CAM Metro (12570097)

Earlier this month a war of words between the mayor and Cambridge City Council leader Cllr Lewis Herbert intensified, fuelled by a row over allowances.

However, Mr Palmer said that the board represented the opportunity to press ahead with the metro scheme that has been “almost universally accepted”.

“My ambition is to deliver on behalf of everybody and I’ll continue to go down that route. I think I’ve shown as mayor that when necessary I’m able to make decisions that are beneficial for everybody and sometimes I have to cut through the politics to do that. But I hope very much hope that it won’t be the case with the metro.”

He continued: “The metro isn’t a political thing. People want it, people need it. We’ve got a crisis in transport in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and I’ve put forward a scheme that has been almost universally accepted. This is about delivery and not about argument.

“I’m absolutely convinced that through the new board we’ll be able to deliver.”

Crucially, the new board will also give businesses the chance to scrutinise the plans, with the mayor admitting that the proposals could change as a result.

He said: “The important thing is putting business in the room with the politicians. Because I think it will sharpen our pencils and equally it will give big business an understanding of local government law as well. We need to be challenged as politicians as to our delivery schedules and as to whether or not the private sector feels we’re doing enough. And as always I’m open to opportunities. I’ll never say ‘no’ to changes as long as they are well argued and I think that there is certainly an opportunity to add to the metro route that we’re putting forward if necessary.

“It’s a forum for businesses to challenge local government and make sure we’re as forward-thinking as they want us to be, and for us to work along with those businesses to make sure the pitfalls are understood.”

The board could also look at financial partnerships with businesses to accelerate the delivery of the multi-billion pound scheme.

“Potentially,” said Mr Palmer. “Those things are yet to be considered by the board. There’s nothing set out in statue for that at the moment. This is the point of the board – to look at how we can deliver and how we can make sure that the impetus behind the metro continues.

“We know that there is massive support for it from local business, we know that there is massive support from the public, and really it is up to us as politicians to make sure that we don’t lose that impetus.”

Under the outline business plan, the system would run into Cambridge on a segregated route before moving underground to serve two city centre stops – one would be at the main railway station.

Outside of the city, the metro would use transport corridors across the Greater Cambridge area, including those to Cambourne, Granta Park, Waterbeach, and Newmarket Road and Trumpington park and rides. It would also serve the wider area, with routes extending to St Neots, Alconbury, Mildenhall and Haverhill.

It is envisaged that the system would have 24 stops, including the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

The mayor concluded: “It’s imperative that I show the public that I can deliver, but also imperative that I can show the public that I can deliver sensibly, within a budget and get value for money for that delivery.

“The people we’re asking are interested because they are excited by the scheme that we’re putting forward. Some might think we can do it better, then fair enough, we might be able to do it better.

“This is what we’re doing here because I want the metro to be owned not just by government, but by people.”

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