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How would Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayoral candidates tackle the region's transport challenge?

10 05 16 General views Cambridge. Cyclists, traffic congestion, groups of cyclists buses. Picture: Keith Heppell
10 05 16 General views Cambridge. Cyclists, traffic congestion, groups of cyclists buses. Picture: Keith Heppell

Which combined authority mayor candidate will you vote for?

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor candidates
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor candidates

On May 4, voters will go to the polls to elect the first mayor of a new Combined Authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

He or she will play a key role in driving the local economy, improving services and influencing the Government.

With Cambridge’s well-documented congestion still rife, a key challenge for the mayor will be tackling infrastructure problems.

We asked each of the candidates what they would do.

Conservatives, James Palmer

The mayor needs to commit to a solution to the traffic problems across the whole of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – not simply focus on ‘areas’. It requires a solution that will spread the ‘Cambridge effect’ across the entire region.

The debilitating congestion in and around Cambridge MUST be addressed and I believe the only practical answer is an underground and light railway. Cambridge, with its medieval centre, is a fast-growing seat of business and learning. Buses and trams are an impractical answer to its problems. Only an underground will transport people safely and quickly across the city and beyond.

The poor train service must also be addressed. Travelling to London from Peterborough, Cambridge, Ely, St Neots and Huntingdon is fine; but the local service between our towns and cities is woeful. Investment in Ely North junction will allow more frequent and larger trains to travel across Cambridgeshire. I am fully committed to Wisbech rail, improvements to Whittlesey station and to a new station in Soham. Linking our towns and cities with an effective and frequent train service will attract new business and allow in-situ businesses to expand, providing additional and higher-paid jobs across the county. It also means people can work where they want but live where they can afford to because their commute is quick and simple.

The road network in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is not fit for purpose. Planned improvements to the A14 and A428 are a start, but the appalling A10 MUST be upgraded between Cambridge and Littleport. The A47 needs more investment – it is the only road link between Peterborough and Norwich and its status should reflect this. I will also look at an M11 extension through Fenland and up to Peterborough, linking our two major cities and the food production heart of England. If and when these schemes are planned, cycle routes will be considered.

The role of the mayor is to create a region where people can move freely and easily using public or private transport. My solution is one that works for ALL our cities, towns and rural areas – not just some of them.

Labour, Kevin Price

I see the role of the mayor as critical in delivering on the transport and infrastructure we need to tackle poverty and inequality across the area and ensure our economy delivers not just for the UK, but also for every resident in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. To do this, we need an area-wide strategic plan for the next 30 years covering transport and housing which includes a jobs strategy for the north and east of the devolution area, and is matched with an education and skills plan to give our young people the chance to take advantage of new employment opportunities.

As mayor, I will use the powers in the Bus Services Bill to manage our local bus services with London-style bus franchising, an integrated smart ticketing system and set clear emission standards for bus operators to tackle air quality. Lower fares and more frequent bus services will make a major difference in urban areas like Cambridge, Peterborough and our market towns as well as our often isolated rural areas and will help those who are low paid, jobseekers, young, disabled or elderly.

Rail links are vital for passenger and freight services, so I want to work with Network Rail for new or reopened stations at places like Addenbrooke’s, Fulbourn, Sawston, Soham and Wisbech and rail links to Alconbury as well as strategic links like east-west rail with central, southern and western England. I also want to look at radical solutions for the region, such as light rail. We need to increase capacity on key roads such as the A47 to Peterborough and Norfolk and also along the A10 to support new housing and employment growth, and we need to offer residents a real choice in how they travel by investing in high-quality cycling links in and around our urban areas, connecting villages and towns.

Liberal Democrats, Rod Cantrill

As I travel around the region and listen to people, they tell me they are concerned about the level of congestion in areas like Cambridge and about poor public transport, particularly in rural communities, such as Fenland, where one in five households does not have a car. The Conservative county council has failed people in this region by not investing in a good transport network and by cutting vital funding for public transport such as buses.

I will be the mayor for everyone across the region, delivering sustainable communities based on making sure people have the skills for businesses to succeed, driving through the building of affordable homes and community facilities and, importantly, delivering on transportation.

As mayor, I will set out an integrated transport strategy, focused on sustainable transport such as rail, bus and cycling, enhancing connectivity and improving air quality. I would exploit electric vehicles, smarter ticketing and traffic management and, in parallel, explore ideas such as the bullet bus or light rail for Cambridge. I will also repair the region’s roads and, where right, enhance the road network.

As the region grows, I will ensure transport infrastructure is built in new communities before people live there. This includes investing in new railway stations. I will deliver a strong bus network, using bus franchising powers, providing cheaper fares.

UK Independence Party, Paul Bullen

As a UKIP politician, I am not under a party whip like the old parties’ politicians are. UKIP politicians are truly independent and are free to represent the people that they serve, not the party that they belong to.

I will offer the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough what they deserve: more power for local people and local communities and more say over what happens in their street, village, town and city. I’ll offer an alternative of direct democracy and empower our residents to influence everything that I do by putting democracy back into local government.

I am well aware that partnership working is the only way to get things done and I will work closely with everyone involved in transport and infrastructure in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. However, improving road maintenance will be my priority and mending potholes is more important than council vanity schemes. Initially, my priority will be repairing and improving what we already have, not wasting public money on grandiose schemes that will not work.

I will upgrade public transport, especially maintaining and reinstating rural bus routes that many communities depend on and which feed town centre businesses and markets. I will increase the provision of free parking to regenerate town centres and boost business, and I will oppose any introduction of tolling on roads and motorways as our motorists are already taxed too much.

Notwithstanding the above, I will fight to reduce local government and bureaucracy whenever possible and endeavour to bring all of the existing transport authorities together into just one committed organisation.

Green Party, Julie Howell

Improving the transport infrastructure in Cambridgeshire is a key focus of the Green Party and we’re proposing measures that will ensure people are able to get around the county easily, cheaply and efficiently.

Our focus will primarily be on three key areas:

1. Investment in urban transport to improve walking and cycling provision

2. Action on air pollution to clean up our towns and cities

3. Investment in public transport such as railways and buses to ensure that there is a genuine alternative to the car.

The Green Party has long advocated a modal shift away from cars and towards other forms of transport, be that walking, cycling or using public transport. This can only be achieved if we have reliable, affordable and accessible alternatives. We need to look to our European neighbours, such as Holland, for inspiration so that we avoid the same mistakes they made in urban transport planning 20 or so years ago. Encouraging people to walk and cycle is not only beneficial to their health, but it also means there is less pollution from cars or other vehicles, which is a big problem across the UK.

Tackling air pollution has been the focus of Green Party campaigning for many years. We would investigate the introduction of a congestion zone in Cambridge and the possibility of a low-emission zone in Peterborough and Cambridge. However, ultimately we need central government to act to get the most polluting vehicles off our streets. This could be done by some form of national diesel scrappage scheme, which is something the Green Party has been calling for.

Finally, we would invest in buses and railways, rather than just roads. The poor frequency and availability of buses in rural areas of Cambridgeshire is a disgrace. Similarly, the regularly overcrowded and overpriced trains to/from Cambridge are unacceptable. We would divert money away from building new roads to maintaining existing ones and use the surplus to provide residents with genuine alternatives to the car.

That is something that I and the Green Party will continue to campaign for.

Independent, Peter Dawe

Personal transportation is about reliability, safety, speed, comfort, convenience and economy.

Today’s systems have failed. The default method is private car, which was comfortable, convenient, fast, but expensive. However, today, convenience is a function of parking availability, speed a function of congestion and cost a function of parking charges. Public transport, in the face of the private car, has become unreliable, slow, inconvenient and is no longer cheap. I believe we can reboot the transport system into a new 21st-century mode where we have:

n A network of rapid inter-urban links between transit hubs that are gateways to each of Cambridgeshire’s urban communities. Trains and luxury coaches shuttle people between our urban areas, stopping at gateways at the urban boundary, rather than the centre. The routes have a limited number of stops to collect people from rural feeder services.

n Once within the urban boundary, autonomous electric vehicles take you across the town and city from door-to-door or to other rapid transit hubs.

n Rural travellers dial up a to-your-door or near-to-door service, booking a seat on a luxury minibus transporting users to urban gateways or to interchange hubs.

n Goods transfer at urban gateways to driverless electric pods delivering to the door.

This can be delivered in four years within existing budgets.

English Democrats, Stephen Goldspink

I was a councillor in Peterborough from 2002 to 2012 and my record is one of action, not words.

I want to bring quick improvements to transport infrastructure and believe that bringing this into the mayor’s sphere allows opportunities to fully integrate transport plans and rub out the local authority boundaries that have so often led to poor decisions.

I would seek the views of residents about the problems that they see locally and their ideas to solve them. These could be junctions where the design is poor and a small change could make a big difference, traffic light phasing, illogical bus routing or timing, badly designed cycle routes, stations that are poorly served with stopping trains and thus underused or badly timed connections between trains or trains and buses. For example, there are no stopping trains back from Peterborough to Whittlesey in the evening between 5.50pm and 7.50pm, thus making a commute by train very difficult, and no doubt meaning some people who would like to use the train have to use the car. Three trains run straight through without stopping in that two-hour gap. I’m sure you have your own examples.

The motor car has to be the pre-eminent means of transport in our largely rural county and I will resist attempts to demonise the car and motorists or raise taxes.

However, all plans for road improvements will need to pass a test of resident demand, full environmental assessment impact and rigorous cost control.

We need to focus on scores of small improvement schemes to rail services and infrastructure, buses and bus routes, road junctions and cycle routes that benefit many residents every single day, and not spend millions on grandiose schemes that are delivered late, run over budget and fail to meet their objectives.

Still not decided: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor candidates - who will get your vote?

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