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High-tech new bus shelters and a fleet of electric buses in Cambridge have moved a step closer

By Josh Thomas | Local Democracy Reporter

St Ives carport plans
St Ives carport plans

Smart grids' will power the buses.

The proposals would see buses entering the city after charging up at solar-powered charge points at busy Park & Ride sites.

On Friday (May 25), Cambridgeshire County Council’s commercial and investments committee agreed to allocate £300,000 to begin looking at installing “smart grids” at two Park & Ride sites in Babraham and Trumpington.

The committee agreed to support the development budget for £150,000 for each site to bring forward the projects.

The committee heard the “smart grids” would include solar panels on canopies at two of the area’s busiest Park & Ride sites.

The panels would feed huge batteries which would then power charging points for a fleet of electric buses, as well as autonomous vehicles in the future.

The committee was also told the grids could also feed back into the National Grid, providing power for homes from surplus electricity generated.

Lucy Nethsingha, Liberal Democrat leader on the county council, said she was excited about the potential of the new technology, but asked for assurance the infrastructure would still be useful if plans to move or extend the Park & Ride came off.

“I am very pleased to see this coming forward,” said Cllr Nethsingha. “It is potentially a huge opportunity to have solar farms at park and rides.

“But both sites have issues, particularly the Trumpington site, about whether they are going to be expanded.”

Cllr Nethsingha said, however, that her understanding was that, if an expanded Park & Ride was built in Trumpington on the other side of the M11, the existing site would be retained and would continue running as well as the new one.

The possibility of working alongside the University of Cambridge was also brought up, with councillors saying the new buses could benefit from new technology.

Cllr Ian Bates said: “I am aware that the university has been doing research into batteries. That may benefit us as we go forward.”

The committee voted unanimously to support the recommendation of allocating an initial £300,000.

Proceeding with the project in stages, they heard, offered some mitigation to what could be quite a “risky” project.

Cllr Joshua Schumann said: “There is obviously some risk here, but I think our job today is to go forward. I commend the team for the way this has been presented.”

More work will be undertaken, with a further report likely to come back before the committee in the autumn.


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