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Good COP or bad COP? It’s hard to tell

Ian Sandison, chief executive of Cambidge BID, shares his view on COP26, public transport and the concept of a Cambridge congestion charge.

Ian Sandison, of Cambridge BID
Ian Sandison, of Cambridge BID

As the COP26 delegates return home, largely by plane, and we digest the detail of what has been agreed there, many businesses are doing a huge amount already to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to limiting the effects of climate change.

What is required though are fairly simple messages and calls to action so smaller and often less resourced and time-poor businesses are able to get involved, by way of a simple ‘how to’ guide, or toolkit that guides their actions in a practical and achievable way.

One way we can all contribute is by walking and cycling more. Living in the city, this is easy for me. However, most people who work in the city do not have this luxury.

Even with the recently announced rise in the minimum wage and this week’s rise in the real living wage, workers in the retail hospitality and leisure industries are towards the lower end of the pay scale. They often cannot afford to live in our beautiful city. They spend too long each day commuting, usually by car, since their home is poorly served by an inefficient and unavailable, at the right times, public transport system.

I was thus taken aback to read of the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s plans to introduce a congestion charge of up to £15. While we would all like to have less congestion and cleaner air, this will also push up house prices and make the city more unaffordable.

I recall 15 years or so ago when a congestion charge was heatedly debated. At the time, an affordable, available, green and clean public transport system was promised. Some would say we are still waiting.

All of the recent consumer data from Visit England states the car will be the mode of transport of choice for the foreseeable future. We need a transport system that supports all modes and all sectors of society and does not cost our low-paid workers two hours salary.

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