Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro has cost almost £10m so far
Plans for a Cambridgeshire metro system that were thrown into doubt when Labour’s Dr Nik Johnson was elected mayor have cost almost £10 million so far.
The Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM), which has been estimated to cost in the region of between £1.5 billion and £4 billion, would see custom-made vehicles travelling on purpose-built routes, including tunnels under Cambridge city centre.
It was a flagship policy of the former mayor Conservative James Palmer, who was ousted from the role in the May 6 elections.
Dr Johnson had strongly criticised Mr Palmer’s metro vision during the campaign, describing it as a “white elephant”.
“This project has all the hallmarks of being an expensive folly and a potential black hole for national and local government finances,” he said in March.
Speaking this week Dr Johnson said: “Although no decisions have been made, I don’t believe the CAM as currently proposed will continue. I think there are opportunities for better, more immediate and deliverable investments to build a convenient, affordable, green and joined-up transport system which works for every community in Greater Cambridgeshire. A revamped bus network, unlocked through potential franchising, is one such improvement I’m focussed on right away.”
“However, I recognise the money already spent on the CAM prior to my election as mayor, and I also recognise the pressing need to upgrade transport, tackle congestion, cut carbon and improve air quality across the region.”
Dr Johnson added he needs to “sit down with the CAM team to understand the project and what aspects of the work done so far can be used to drive forward short and long term transport improvements”.
“Where we can make the most of any investment in CAM, we will do,” he said.
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, which is led by the mayor, said the cost of the metro plans to date is £9,759,632 when responding to questions from the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The ongoing costs of a company set up by the Combined Authority before the election to help deliver the project have not yet been released and may now be subject to change.
However, the authority said it has made offers of employment to three people, who have yet to start their roles.
Further details on the ongoing costs of the metro project and company, One CAM Ltd, are expected in June, but all six non-executive directors have been appointed and remain in their roles.
According to Combined Authority reports they receive a remuneration of £40,000 each per year for a “minimum” of 15 days work.
There is currently £20 million budgeted for the CAM project up until March 2024, according to the combined authority’s medium term financial strategy.
That includes £2 million for One CAM Ltd this financial year, and a further £18 million for delivering the metro’s business case over the next three years.
The Combined Authority said the funding remains subject to approval by the board.
A spokesperson for the Combined Authority said: “We are currently working with members of the One CAM Ltd Board to assist the mayor in developing a new direction for an integrated transport network for the whole of Greater Cambridgeshire. Members of the One CAM Ltd Board are supportive of this process. A decision on the future of One CAM Ltd and the CAM programme will be taken in due course.”
Information provided by the Combined Authority shows the vast majority of spending on the metro – £7.3 million – was in the last financial year from April 2020 to April 2021, with £1.5 million, £930,000, and £28,000 in the previous three years.
The figures provided by the combined authority show £3.8 million has been spent on the outline business case for the tunnelled section under Cambridge and around £4.6 million has been spent on the CAM Innovation Company, including £174,297 on the garden villages strategy, which has been suggested as a way of paying for the metro through land value capture.
Work on the metro has been undertaken by a combination of combined authority staff and consultants.