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Cambridge congestion charge: Hundreds sign parents’ group letter saying leaders have passed the buck

A group of parents is calling for “meaningful action” from politicians to reduce congestion and improve the environment in Cambridge.

Cambridgeshire Parents for Sustainable Travel has written an open letter after plans to introduce a congestion charge were shelved amid a lack of political support.

Traffic in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Traffic in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

The charge, which was proposed by the Greater Cambridge Partnership, would have funded walking, cycling and public transport improvements.

The letter has been signed by hundreds of people in a matter of days.

Anthony Painter, of Cambridgeshire Parents for Sustainable Travel, said: “To have arrived here after years of discussion – congestion, poor safety, and persistent pollution – is a monumental failure of political leadership. What happened over the past few weeks was sustainable travel thrown overboard for perceived short-term political interest. It’s the height of irresponsibility without any backup plan to speak of.

“Those responsible for this appalling situation have made a classic error – they have assumed that because the many who want sustainable travel aren’t as loud as the no campaign, they were happy to see the plan ditched. As our letter shows with hundreds of people signing it in just a couple of days, there is wide dismay.

Lianna Etkind, a member of Parents for a Sustainable Travel Zone. Picture: Keith Heppell
Lianna Etkind, a member of Parents for a Sustainable Travel Zone. Picture: Keith Heppell

“As a matter of urgency, leading political figures from across the parties have to get round a table and come up with a plan that can succeed in delivering more sustainable travel in months not years. They owe the community and future generations that. To just accept failure dumps even tougher decisions on the near future.”

To find out more about the group, visit bit.ly/3F1nizw, or email cambsparents@gmail.com.

Or go here to sign the letter.

The open letter in full

We have been failed. For over a year, communities have been asked what the future holds in a growing region with huge congestion and environmental stresses. The answer from our political representatives? A big shrug of the shoulders.

In a recent statement, the local Liberal Democrats said: “We must reduce the level of car dependency in our county, not only for environmental reasons, but also to tackle the unequal access for those living in rural areas who do not have access to a car.”

We could not agree more. And yet, in the same statement they fail to commit to any meaningful action to address this desperate situation.

It is not just the Liberal Democrats. All the parties – Liberal Democrats, Greens, Labour, Independents, and, most particularly, the Conservatives who basically decided to ride the wave of anger, bear at least some responsibility for the dither, delay, and disarray.

Just last week, the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, promised net zero while delaying the actions that will help achieve it. We are seeing a similar politics locally – too many leading political representatives who say they want to reduce congestion and improve the environment whilst blocking or delaying concrete actions.

They allowed the discussion over the sustainable travel zone to be hijacked by a no campaign that refused to confront the reality of congestion, pollution, and unsafe travel that we desperately need to address. No realistic alternative to sustainable travel plans were presented. None at all.

And now we are left with no plan, no leadership, buck passing to the next generation, and all the same problems we are facing will get far worse over the next decade.

There are good people in all the parties, people who care about the future and are prepared to engage local communities in conversation, work with each other and take the necessary tough decisions – even if they lose some short-term popularity as a result. That is what leadership means and Cambridgeshire desperately needs real leadership now.

If we fail to take real action then we will all suffer. And that includes everyone who drives in an ever more congested city. It includes the health and wellbeing of friends and family too. Now is the time to act, now is the time to lead. You have failed but it’s not too late.

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