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Congestion charge for Cambridge moves step closer

Pollution and peak-time congestion charging have topped a public vote on plans to reduce traffic and improve public transport in Cambridge.

Is this a taster of the traffic congestion this summer? Traffic chaos on the Hardwick Roundabout on Friday morning.. (10975382)
Is this a taster of the traffic congestion this summer? Traffic chaos on the Hardwick Roundabout on Friday morning.. (10975382)

More than 5,000 residents and travellers told the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) their views by taking part in the ‘Choices for Better Journeys’ survey.

The vast majority (82 per cent) backed the GCP’s vision to improve significantly public transport, with 81 per cent choosing a traffic-reducing measure as their first choice for funding it and tackling the congestion challenge in the city.

Respondents opted for pollution charging (44 per cent) as their first or second choice option for funding public transport and cutting congestion, followed by a flexible charge to drive at the busiest times (36 per cent).

The results are being analysed, but could prove influential in bringing about a form of road charging.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, chair of the GCP’s executive board and leader of the city council, said: “We’re going to look hard at the detail, so there’s a bit of work still to be done. What we’ve seen is a growing recognition that the only way to tackle the gridlock that we get particularly at peak times is to see a major investment in buses, and that will also clean the air and help reduce the emissions that Cambridge is contributing to the climate change emergency.”

He added: “There are choices. There’s talk of a targeted congestion charge at peak gridlock.

“There are options looking at a pollution charge and potentially a clean air zone. The findings show that people share our appetite for reducing traffic and improving our public transport so people have better options than using cars, particularly at peak time.”

The results of the survey, which was carried out in collaboration with Cambridge Ahead, also revealed support for introducing pedestrianised zones or physical restrictions (32 per cent).

Choices for Better Journeys infographic (10975015)
Choices for Better Journeys infographic (10975015)

Meanwhile, 29 per cent opted for introducing a workplace parking levy, which would charge employers for parking spaces that they provide. Finally, 20 per cent thought higher parking charges would be the best option.

Of the 19 per cent who put forward an alternative idea first, these included improving public transport to encourage greater use, better Park & Ride provision and higher taxation to fund better vehicles.

Jane Paterson-Todd, CEO of Cambridge Ahead said: “The introduction of a pollution charge garnered noticeable support as people considered a range of options to fund improvements in public transport.

“The survey also gave valuable insights into the prioritisation of other ideas - the objective must now be to ensure that any recommendations are fair and representative of the entire community, and that the wider public is kept informed of all initiatives as they are considered in more detail and eventually implemented.”

The GCP now plans to hold a citizens’ assembly, where dozens of people – supported by an expert advisory panel – will scrutinise the evidence and make recommendations for the GCP board to consider later this year.

Cllr Herbert added: “We need to find answers for our residents and for everybody travelling to work or to study or to visit the city.

“It ensures that there is a representative group in the room. All the information is given to them and the group, representing all the different types of interests and communities across greater Cambridge, can give us all their views and that will have a big influence on the final decisions.”

The citizens’ assembly will be held in the autumn and will consider evidence about how to reduce congestion and better support public transport to improve people’s daily journeys. The solutions will also help to reduce emissions causing climate change.

Recent figures show that 106 deaths every year can be attributed to poor air quality in Greater Cambridge.

In 2017, the GCP spoke to more than 10,000 people in ‘Our Big Conversation’ about their thoughts for improving travel in the area.

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