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Debate rages on over possible Cambridge congestion charge

By Ben Comber

Traffic congestion in Cambridge - CIty Deal
Traffic congestion in Cambridge - CIty Deal

City Lib Dem leader says it's a missed opportunity, but South Cambridge councillors vote against

Addressing the City Deal board this week, Cambridge city councillor Tim Bick, who sits on the Joint Assembly asked the executive board to consider a congestion charge.

He said: “You have a public that understands the problem. You have the resources to go ahead with this option. And in year two of the 15 year City Deal project, you have the time needed to get this right and see it through.”

Following the meeting, in which the board said they would not be considering a congestion charge, he said: “What a missed opportunity for the countless people who would love to rely on a truly great bus service!

“It’s no good saying you support the benefits of a transformed public transport system, but then denying the only means of providing it. Not a great day for democracy either, with 3 guys getting together and deciding what’s best for the rest of us, after minimal analysis, flying in the face of good evidence - instead of sharing the options with the public.”

“The notion that the public rejected congestion charging in completing a questionnaire where any question about it was rigorously excluded, is utterly laughable. It’s amazing that despite this, 6% told them anyway. The most notable finding is that the Board didn’t have the courage to even ask!”

Yesterday, January 26, councillors in South Cambridgeshire reaffirmed their view that a congestion charge is not the answer to solve transport problems in and around Cambridge, on grounds that it would selectively penalise those residents in South Cambridgeshire who currently have no realistic alternative to using the car.

Cllr David Bard, local member for Sawston on South Cambridgeshire District Council, proposed the motion which was seconded by Deputy Leader, Cllr Wright.

Cllr Wright said: “A congestion charge is simply not the answer and I am very pleased councillors have backed this motion today. It once again puts a very clear marker down that this Council will not support this draconian measure. Lots of the congestion is from people making trips within the city and a charge would penalise our residents who may not have any genuine alternative other than driving into Cambridge.”

Cllr Francis Burkitt, the City Deal’s vice chair, said: “Because of my dual role, I didn’t take any part in this debate, but I am of course interested in the views of South Cambridgeshire councillors and the council, which I will pass on to my fellow City Deal board members.

“These views support and are entirely consistent with the board’s decision to focus on other measures to tackle the City and District’s transport issues, as indeed we discussed yesterday at our Board meeting.

“For the district, I have been actively pursuing the idea of creating transport hubs in South Cambridgeshire through the City Deal. These would help connect our villages to high quality and quick public transport links into the city. I also support the “Greenways” plan for lots of cycle paths radiating out from the city to neighbouring villages, provided they can be designed in sympathy with the rural environment.

“The board approved further work on a workplace parking levy at the meeting this week and, whilst I of course regret any levy, it will raise much-needed revenue which could, for example, help reintroduce the rural bus services lost recently, and indeed fund more bus routes running earlier, later and more frequently, either to and from the city, or between villages.”


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