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Cambridge City Labour group says it’s listening to residents over road-charging

Cambridge Labour says it’s keeping an open mind and listening to residents over the introduction of road-charging.

Cambridge City Group set out its position on the proposed Sustainable Travel Zone in a 450-word statement published online.

Traffic in Hills Road in Cambridge Picture: Keith Heppell
Traffic in Hills Road in Cambridge Picture: Keith Heppell

“We believe that everyone should have access to safe, efficient and affordable transport options,” the statement says.

It continues: “We want a city where the air is clean, where no one has to waste time sitting in traffic, and where everyone can get where they want to go.”

The group says moving forward it commits to:

  • Residents’ views being at the centre of the Making Connections process
  • Transparency and openness at all stages of future decision making
  • A scheme that is genuinely fair to people who live, work and study in the city and which contributes to protecting our environment.

In addition, “no decisions have been made yet, and your Labour councillors want to represent you”. The group adds: “We are listening.

“In ongoing discussions, we will continue to work on behalf of Cambridge residents and businesses to make any scheme as fair as possible.

“These will include consideration of the timing of any charge and zoning, the needs of those commuting out of the city, of carers, and of the night-time economy.

“We will continue to champion those on low incomes, small businesses and those who can’t access public transport because of disabilities or medical needs,” the statement sets out.

Under the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) proposals, which went out to consultation towards the end of 2022, car drivers would be charged £5, van drivers would pay £10 and lorry drivers would pay £50 to drive in a new Sustainable Travel Zone across Cambridge between 7am and 7pm on weekdays. Park & Rides would site outside the zone.

The GCP says the money raised would fund a better, cheaper bus network, with longer operating hours and flat fares of £1 within the city or £2 from outside, up to a maximum of £4. There would be exemptions, but not for electric vehicles.

Campaigners against the plans say the charge would, for example, add £25-50 a week to the costs of a carer travelling from client to client, or the expenses of an auxiliary worker travelling to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, or any worker who has to use a van to travel with equipment.

The statement says: “Cambridge Labour has announced a 2030 net zero carbon ambition for the council, and transport options need to be seriously considered if we are going to decarbonise our city, particularly as we know the impacts of climate change fall most heavily on the poorest.

“It is clear that these conversations about the future of our city are vitally important and, while change is needed, we need to ensure that any changes are fair.”

Cambridge City Council leader and leader of the Labour group, Cllr Anna Smith Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge City Council leader and leader of the Labour group, Cllr Anna Smith Picture: Keith Heppell

It adds: “Firstly, we must emphasise that no decisions have been made yet. At this stage, we feel that the only responsible thing to do is to continue to listen to residents, not pre-empt the results of the consultation, and to keep an open mind as to the exact nature of any final scheme.

“Secondly, it wouldn’t be a consultation if residents’ views weren’t taken into account. Over 24,000 people have spent time providing detailed responses, and we need to analyse those carefully, as well as the hundreds of submissions from stakeholder groups.

“It is inevitable that, given the number of responses that have been received, the proposals will at the very least be adapted to take their feedback into account.

“Thirdly, we will continue to insist that no charges are introduced until the buses are significantly improved. A sustainable, reliable and affordable bus service across the city would vastly improve many people’s ability to access and travel around it.

“This is our aim and, without a much-improved bus service in place, we would not support any road charging scheme at all.”

Thousands of people attended a march against the GCP’s proposals on Sunday, February 26. The protest was another significant show of opposition to the charge, following a rally on November 27, 2022.

There was also a rally on December 10, 2022 by those in favour of the charge, who say it will help clean up the air quality in Cambridge and make the city a more pleasant and safe place in which to walk and cycle.

The GCP says it is currently analysing the results from about 24,000 responses to its consultation in 2022.

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