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Stapleford Parish Council argues that light rail is a better option for the Cambridge South East Transport

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Light rail would be more energy efficient and better for the environment than the £130million off-road busway planned for the Cambridge South East Transport corridor, a parish council has argued.

The options considered for the Cambridge South East public transport route. The GCP's executive board have chosen the brown route as their preferred option (45110729)
The options considered for the Cambridge South East public transport route. The GCP's executive board have chosen the brown route as their preferred option (45110729)

Stapleford Parish Council argues that a bus consumes more than seven times the power needed for light rail and with rubber tyres shedding particulates, also poses serious health and environmental issues.

They say it is “tried and tested” compared to the unknowns of the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM), which the busway scheme is aligned with.

Cllr Howard Kettel, chair of the parish council, added: “The current Cambridgeshire busway has proved difficult and expensive to maintain.”

The GCP is currently analysing responses to a consultation as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the route, which will start near the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and run parallel with the railway, before diverting to the east of Great Shelford and Stapleford and then crossing the River Granta and running to the east of Sawston.

But both Stapleford and Great Shelford parish councils have voiced strong opposition to the chosen route as it runs through the green belt.

The assessment is planned to be submitted to the Secretary of State for Transport in the summer.

A comparison of light rail versus CAM and the reason why a rubber-tyred solution was selected was included in the Greater Cambridge Mass Transit Options Assessment Report in 2018, which was prepared on behalf of Greater Cambridge Partnership and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

Cllr Kettel adds that light rail “can operate within a very tight envelope on narrow city streets, clearly defining the hazard-zone for other road users”.

He said: “A bus will not automatically align with the boarding platform unlike LRT which will routinely stop within a 20mm gap.

“The current Cambridgeshire Busway has been prone to accidents, injury and death with very light regulatory supervision compared to other guided transport systems.

“LRT has considerably more capacity than a guided busway and has shown to create a modal shift from car to public transport that is far superior to buses. The current Cambridgeshire Busway’s two sections can only operate on cumbersome dedicated guidance tracks which fail to operate as a busway when sharing city roads where they become ‘ordinary buses’. Until tunnelled beneath the city centre there can be no fully guided system.”

A GCP spokesperson said: “The Cambridge South East Transport project will provide rapid and reliable journeys between the city, key employment sites and communities to the south-east on a dedicated public transport route and improved walking and cycling links.

“The scheme has been developed over many years, including three public consultations and extensive technical work. Rail-based alternatives were considered but it is more expensive, inflexible and would not be able to provide the level of connectivity the GCP’s proposals will provide to serve major new developments in the area.”

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