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Camcycle slams inaction as ‘political choice’ as Cambridge congestion charge plans implode

Inaction is a political choice that will have a detrimental impact on our transport network, say cycling campaigners, as proposals for a peak-time congestion charge fell apart.

The strongly-worded statement from Camcycle comes after Cambridge Labour announced it does not “believe the current proposals on the Sustainable Travel Zone should proceed”.

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

Labour’s declaration followed our report that the Liberal Democrats in South Cambridgeshire are believed to have agreed to oppose the proposals from the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP).

The lack of political support for the plans means the chances of a Cambridge congestion charge have dramatically diminished, for now.

“What cannot happen is that our region wastes another decade and more millions of taxpayers’ money failing to take action for change,” responded Camcycle. “Since 1990, when congestion charging was first discussed, our young people (the majority of whom supported the Sustainable Travel Zone in the 2022 consultation) have been failed. The poorest and most isolated in society have been failed. Our local businesses, strangled by congestion, have been failed. It’s time to turn the tide.”

The group said inaction will not address the urgent issues of our growing region which include health, pollution, road safety and carbon emissions.

The statement continued: “Cycling has always been, and will continue to be, part of the solution. Camcycle will never stop campaigning for the things that enable more, better and safer cycling, which will in turn deliver benefits for everyone, even those who do not ride themselves. To achieve a high-quality, accessible cycle network across our region, it is essential to secure both an increased level of investment in dedicated cycle infrastructure and a reduction in the speed and volume of motor traffic on our roads.

“Our rural routes should be safe for all ages and abilities, and our urban areas should be places for people not traffic jams.”

Camcycle surveyed its members in October last year and found that 88 per cent supported the principle of an STZ for Cambridge.

“If decision-makers are going to completely give up on this idea, and all the benefits it would have brought, urgent action is needed on alternative schemes that will achieve a reduction in motor traffic and the income for sustainable transport modes that is equal to what the STZ was forecast to achieve,” say Camcycle.

The statement continue: “The Greater Cambridge Partnership must accelerate work on the other parts of its City Access project: the road network hierarchy review, quick wins on walking and cycling, an integrated parking strategy, sustainable solutions to last-mile deliveries and behaviour change programmes to support individual and business transitions use of active travel and public transport. It should also consult on other income-generating proposals including a Workplace Parking Levy: a concept that has cross-party support and could be implemented quickly.

“All local authorities must also play their part in improving transport at all levels of decision-making from planning to bus reform.”

The plans are due to go to the GCP’s joint assembly tomorrow (Thursday, September 7), before its executive board decides whether to put them forward to the highways authority – Cambridgeshire County Council – for a decision.

If approved, there would be a £5 charge for cars, £10 for vans and £50 for HGVs and coaches to use Cambridge’s roads on weekdays between 7am-10am and 3pm-6pm to cut congestion at peak times and fund a better bus network.

Cambridge Labour is calling for political leaders to come up with a plan after revealing that they “still have reservations about the proposals”.

Their concerns include the “extent of the mitigations for people on low incomes and the impact of a peak-hours only charge”.

“We hope that political interests won’t make it difficult for us to face these challenges, and we urge all the relevant political leaders to join with us to bring together a plan for the future that works not only for our residents and businesses but for those who come to our city to work, shop or study.

“We would like to thank the GCP officers for all their work to date, and all residents, organisations, businesses and trade unions for their thoughtful and essential contributions throughout the process,” said a statement released by the party.

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