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Cambridge shuttle bus proposed amid switch of interchange sites

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A zero emission bus could shuttle people around key destinations in the city centre if the main interchange currently at Drummer Street moves.

Drummer Street bus interchange . Picture: Keith Heppell. (57238422)
Drummer Street bus interchange . Picture: Keith Heppell. (57238422)

The St Andrew’s Street, Drummer Street and Emmanuel Street area where many existing bus services begin and end are said to be at capacity. This means the existing interchange would struggle to take an increased number of services under plans to run buses every five minutes or less in the city centre.

There is no space to increase capacity at this main bus interchange, so the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is considering relocating bus routes away from the area and is exploring options for alternative bus interchanges.

The GCP is also looking at further pedestrianisation in the city centre under its review of the road network hierarchy, as we have reported.

Given that walking distances could increase as a result, which could impact on people with mobility needs in particular, the GCP has suggested some form of zero-emission shuttle bus service could link up with places people want to access in the city centre.

The new road classification for Cambridge consultation states: “If the area of pedestrian priority was to be extended, it will be important to ensure that the longer walking distances are not a barrier for people with disabilities and/or mobility needs. This would be done by providing alternative ways to get around the city centre, such as enhanced shop mobility or exploring a form of zero emission shuttle bus service to link up the whole area.

“Restricting access to some streets to pedestrians, cyclists and other active travellers could help to improve safety for everyone.”

Richard Preston, senior delivery project manager for the GCP, told the Cambridge Independent: “Cambridge did have a shuttle bus many years ago, when we first pedestrianised the very heart of the city, and that was a low emission vehicle that ran for many years.

“I think the key issue here is that if you pedestrianise a larger area of the city, that creates a really good environment for people who are using it. But we need to recognise that if the buses are a little bit further out, it means there are longer walking distances.

“For a lot of people that will probably be very good for their health, but we also need to recognise that may be a bit of a challenge for some people.

“We’re thinking, how we can make that central area still accessible to people of all abilities? One of the ideas we’ve suggested we look into is a zero emission shuttle service that can link up all those destinations in that central area.”

Cambridge City Council’s Making Space for People vision proposes making central Cambridge more ‘people focussed’ by increasing pedestrian and cycle priority and reducing access by motor vehicles.

The initial ideas for a new road classification suggest giving priority to walking and cycling in more streets in the city centre.

Drummer Street bus interchange . Picture: Keith Heppell. (57238425)
Drummer Street bus interchange . Picture: Keith Heppell. (57238425)

Moving bus and taxi routes further out provides an opportunity to increase the area that could be limited to pedestrian and cyclist access only. Motor vehicle access would be restricted by time of day and limited to essential needs.

This would benefit both pedestrians and cyclists, but the GCP has acknowledged that in some streets at busy times the interaction between walking and cycling can cause delay and friction. As a result, it is looking at creating alternative routes to give cyclists the choice to avoid these streets.

Cllr Elisa Meschini (Lab, King’s Hedges), the GCP’s executive board chair and deputy leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “We need to consider offerings for everyone because if I’m standing in the city centre, it won’t really hurt me to walk a bit. But do I have the time or am I carrying a shedload of stuff, which means after a while you get really tired, or do I have a screaming child as well as a whole load of stuff that I’m carrying? We need to look at every need.

“There is quite a lot of scope for shuttle routes within the city, but also outside of the city in rural areas. There are a lot of places that are screaming for them, so we are looking at that at present.”

The GCP is also seeking the views of taxi drivers as well as people making and receiving deliveries within the city centre.

It is exploring the use of low emission vehicles or e-cargo bikes to reduce congestion and improve air quality in the city by allowing easier and more frequent access for these types of vehicles to encourage businesses to combine their deliveries.

The consultation adds: “Further restrictions on access to the city centre for motor vehicles would mean that deliveries to businesses would need to be made in a

different way.

“Combining deliveries where possible for the final part of the trip would help reduce the number of goods vehicles that need to get into and around the city centre.”

For more information or to comment on the consultation visit, greatercambridge.org.uk/RoadClassification2022.

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