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Green party warns GCP road-charging proposals could prolong inequality in Cambridge

A call for a rethink over how public transport improvements would be funded has been made by the Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire Green Party, which warns they threaten to ”prolong Cambridge’s shameful title of the UK’s most unequal city”.

The party has welcomed the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s proposals to improve the bus network but says the funding burden for it must “not fall on the least well-off”.

A rally supporting the need for better buses was held in Cambridge, organised by Sustainable Travel Zone supporters. Picture: Jeremy Peters
A rally supporting the need for better buses was held in Cambridge, organised by Sustainable Travel Zone supporters. Picture: Jeremy Peters

Sarah Nicmanis, convenor of the local Green Party policy group, said: “We cannot go on as we are. For years we have been hearing from residents how frustrated they are with congestion and inadequate public transport.

“We welcome initiatives to reform the bus system to make it usable for all members of our community. In particular Greens have been arguing for a system of bus franchising – the system that makes the London bus system possible since the establishment of the Combined Authority in 2017.”

The GCP has been consulting on plans to provide cheaper bus fares and more frequent services with longer operating hours, funded by a road charge on motorists. This would be priced at £5 for cars, with higher fees for larger vehicles, and would operate from 7am to 7pm on weekdays. The Making Connections consultation closed on Friday, December 23, with about 24,000 responses received.

Despite supporting the plans for improved bus services, the Greens expressed concern at funding the changes solely with a road charge.

They say many people have expressed worries that this places the burden disproportionately on those least able to bear it. The party is also concerned about the impact on small businesses.

Cllr Naomi Bennett
Cllr Naomi Bennett

Cllr Naomi Bennett said: “I hear from residents who depend on the buses and are desperate for action. But I also hear from residents and businesses who feel at the end of their tether after facing pandemic, the Tory mini-budget shambles and the cost of living crisis. To them, any additional costs feel like the last straw. This is why we will continue to argue for fairer and broader exemptions and discounts.”

Cllr Matthew Howard added: “The financial approach proposed by the GCP does a disservice to social justice, and potentially would prolong Cambridge’s shameful title of the UK’s most unequal city.”

The party has previously suggested that a workplace parking levy, which could be brought in fairly quickly, could provide interim funding for the bus network improvements.

The Greens say that then following a more careful re-evaluation and redesigning of the proposals, a Sustainable Travel Zone could “potentially be introduced”.

The GCP points out that a number of public consultations have been held over several years. It says options that involved charging cars for driving in a zone were preferred to options involving additional or new parking charges – such as a workplace parking levy.

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