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Mayor James Palmer calls for delivery of controversial Cambourne to Cambridge busway


By Gemma Gardner


The mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, James Palmer. Picture: Keith Heppell
The mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, James Palmer. Picture: Keith Heppell

But he tells Greater Cambridge Partnership to ensure it is is future-proofed so it can form part of metro

An off-road version of the Cambourne to Cambridge busway. Image: GCP
An off-road version of the Cambourne to Cambridge busway. Image: GCP

Mayor James Palmer has called on the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) to “step up and deliver” its controversial busway west of the city.

The mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, who paused work on a series of GCP projects in May, said there is now a greater understanding of how those schemes might integrate into his emerging plans for a metro system. Mr Palmer has previously expressed his dislike for busways, and in June said that he hoped “we can do something better”.

He told the Cambridge Independent: “The brief pause was necessary, but the GCP must now get on and deliver transport improvements, like the Cambourne to Cambridge scheme, that millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been provided to do, and which people rightly expect.

“The GCP will need to decide which is the best route for the scheme, in consultation with the community, and deliver.

An on-road version of the proposed Cambourne to Cambridge busway with tidal bus lane. Image: GCP
An on-road version of the proposed Cambourne to Cambridge busway with tidal bus lane. Image: GCP

“It is clearly critical that the views of the community on the Cambridge to Cambourne route are taken on board and taken seriously. The GCP must deliver the best scheme possible, based on sound, open consultation.

“The reality is the plans for the Cambourne to Cambridge busway are already at an advanced stage, with millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money already spent and while I will be monitoring progress closely, it really is now time for the GCP to see this project through.”

He continued: “It has always been my position that I do not support busways, as I believe they offer an inferior solution to Greater Cambridge’s pressing transport needs. But my view has also been that if the GCP wants to progress the Cambourne to Cambridge scheme, then it must have the potential to transition into the metro and so provide the long-term, world-class public transport solution needed.”

The GCP, however, told the Cambridge Independent it cannot push ahead without knowing the results of detailed technical work on the metro by the Combined Authority’s consultants.

Cllr Lewis Herbert. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Lewis Herbert. Picture: Keith Heppell

It says a meeting will be held with the mayor next week to discuss how the route would “assist future metro plans”.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, chair of the GCP’s executive board, said: “The need for a high quality, dependable public transport route between Cambridge and Cambourne has been a central commitment of the Greater Cambridge Partnership from day one.

“We have the opportunity to link the planned metro to existing communities along the A428 as well as to the significant additional new build housing in the adopted South Cambridgeshire Local Plan.

“Having paused the scheme since May at the mayor’s request, the GCP hopes the mayor and the GCP can now agree alignment of our joint plans for a radical improvement to public transport on this route.”

Cambourne to Cambridge busway route options that have been studied by the GCP
Cambourne to Cambridge busway route options that have been studied by the GCP

The GCP’s Cambridge to Cambourne plans have been met with criticism from campaigners, who object to a proposed off-road route through the West Fields at Coton. Now, villagers feel they have lost a key ally in opposing the busway, which would be served with a new Park & Ride site off the A428/A1303..

Liberal Democrat district councillor Ian Sollom said: “The mayor has let Coton residents down badly with this U-turn. He has made much of the fact that the Greater Cambridge Partnership can only deliver transport infrastructure he approves but now he is driving his metro straight through the village.”

Along with his fellow Lib Dems, Cllr Sollom is calling on the mayor to release the findings of his technical work to the GCP and local members, so they can be scrutinised.

He continued: “We will continue to challenge the mayor to make his case for a metro route through Coton.”

CAM metro would run on rubber wheels
CAM metro would run on rubber wheels

The mayor hit back and said the Lib Dems have a key role to play in the GCP.

He said: “The local Liberal Democrats may be attacking me about a GCP scheme, but they have a key seat on the GCP executive board and must take responsibility for their own projects, including the community consultation, especially at this advanced stage. The Liberal Democrats, and others, have also unfairly suggested I am not committed to partnership working, but this is an example of the reality, which is quite the opposite, and I now expect the GCP step up and deliver.

“Last month’s final Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) report urged the delivery of the metro, at speed, as well as advocating significantly accelerated housing delivery, if our area is to continue to be prosperous in the future. The report stressed the huge risks to our economic growth of doing nothing.”

The £1.5billion CAM metro system would have overground sections on approach to the city and a network of tunnels beneath it. Its vehicles are expected to have rubber tyres.

A schematic for CAM metro
A schematic for CAM metro

“The metro will serve the whole of Cambridgeshire, not just the city, with metro stations as hubs, into which other public transport, such as buses, will feed into. My plan is for the metro to serve a series of corridors from stretching out from the Greater Cambridge area to St Neots, Mildenhall and Haverhill,” said the mayor. “This development will be phased, helping our economy continue to grow while unlocking urgently needed new housing of all types including through well-connected garden villages.”

Following “very productive meetings” with major investors and central government, the mayor said he expected to make a “significant announcement on progress of the metro in the next month to six weeks”.

He went on: “This announcement will provide more clarity on how the project will be phased and funded and what the next steps will be to accelerating the delivery of this essential scheme,” he said.

Following the meeting with the mayor, the GCP will then immediately progress the next stage for this scheme at its joint assembly on November 15 followed by a decision at its board meeting on December 6.

The GCP’s executive board has previously selected an off-road option for the £59million busway that would be used only by public transport, linking villages to the south of the A428/A1303 route and entering the city via Grange Road. This is due to be assessed in more detail and compared to on-road options, such as one using the current road, following the A428 and A1303 into Cambridge as far as Lady Margaret Road.

An alternative put forward by the Local Liaison Forum would feature a tidal bus lane in which buses could travel in either direction depending on certain conditions – for the A1303 west of the M11.

Share your views by emailing letters@iliffemedia.co.uk.ecember 6.

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