Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

GCP board pauses CSET busway scheme and Foxton Travel Hub amid spiralling construction costs





Two transport projects have been paused by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) because the expected construction costs of all its projects have soared by more than £200million.

Its executive board has agreed to halt the second phase of the Cambridge South East Transport (CSET) busway project and plans to build a Foxton Travel Hub because the GCP does not have the money to fund all of its schemes, as revealed last month.

Proposals for the CSET busway. Image: GCP
Proposals for the CSET busway. Image: GCP

Campaigners opposing the CSET scheme want it shelved for good and replaced with a simpler, cheaper, quicker scheme but proponents fear pausing the project could make travel to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus worse.

The CSET project aimed to offer better public transport and active travel options for the A1307 and A1301 area, by improving journey times and linking people to jobs in the south east of the city, including the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

The GCP had taken the plans to the stage where it was ready to submit a Transport Works Act Order for permission to build the busway, which would have run from the A11 via Sawston, Stapleford and Shelford to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, with a new active travel route alongside it for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, similar to the one along existing guided busways.

A Stapleford Parish Council protest against the CSET busway
A Stapleford Parish Council protest against the CSET busway

The charity Cambridge Past, Present and Future has been leading a campaign calling for an on-road bus scheme along the A1307 corridor instead, which it argues would offer “similar transport benefits” and cost about £100m less.

Meanwhile, Foxton Travel Hub would have provided 200 car parking spaces and 100 cycle parking spaces in a move designed to cut congestion in the city. Villagers, however, argued it would offer “no benefits to Foxton” and warned the village would itself suffer from congestion.

Both schemes are now on ice - though not cancelled completely - due to the impact of spiralling inflation. While the GCP’s expected income has increased, the gap between it and its estimated expenditure is now £278m.

At a meeting of the GCP board last Thursday (September 28), Andy Williams, a business representative at the board, said he was “particularly perturbed” by the GCP “abandoning” the CSET scheme.

Options considered for the Cambridge South East Transport route - the brown route was selected as the preferred option. Map: GCP
Options considered for the Cambridge South East Transport route - the brown route was selected as the preferred option. Map: GCP

He highlighted the investment and jobs in the science parks planned to be linked by the CSET scheme, and said members should not underestimate the impact pausing the scheme.

Mr Williams also suggested that if alternative funding was not found within the next six months, the GCP should look at alternative schemes.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Brian Milnes, representing South Cambridgeshire District Council, said the GCP was in a situation where inflation was “eating away” at the money provided by the government. If the £500m put aside by the government had inflation taken into account it would now be £664m.

Cllr Milnes said he agreed that a time limit should be put on how long they waited for new funding.

An early proposal for the CSET busway. Image: GCP
An early proposal for the CSET busway. Image: GCP

Cllr Elisa Meschini, the Labour chair of the board, saw the logic of this suggestion, but said the “hectically ridiculous situation” in central government gave her “nagging uncomfortableness” about ‘giving up’ in six months’ time if there was no definitive answer over more funding.

She said: “At the same time, we have got to start looking elsewhere at some point and we have got to start thinking about how we spend our money.

“We don’t have to decide on a timetable now, so I would suggest that we go back and start thinking about when we want that work to begin, and how difficult it is going to be to start coming up with less ambitious schemes, if we look like we have to assume that no further investment is forthcoming.

The Foxton Travel Hub plans, which has been paused. Picture: GCP
The Foxton Travel Hub plans, which has been paused. Picture: GCP

“What we are agreeing now is to support the work that has been done so far in making sure that the things that there is money to do, we actually do.

“If anyone has any clout with people that might provide funding for the stuff that we support, but we no longer have money to do, that would be brilliant. Otherwise we will pivot as this organisation has done many times before.

“Things have been mentioned about ‘why don’t you do CSET in the way that we told you before, why don’t you do it on road, why don’t you use a different alignment?’ We have been through this. It does not mean that all of a sudden we are going to build a scheme that does not deliver just because it is cheap.

Villager Mike Mander at the Foxton railway crossing. He warned that the travel hub in a field nearby would cause major traffic problems. Picture: Keith Heppell
Villager Mike Mander at the Foxton railway crossing. He warned that the travel hub in a field nearby would cause major traffic problems. Picture: Keith Heppell

“Putting buses on roads especially at the moment we cannot do and those are discussions we will very happily have again, but the case for things that came before do not change just because of where we are.”

The decisions came in the same meeting where the GCP ditched its plans for a Cambridge congestion charge due to lack of political support – meaning three of its major projects have now faltered.



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More