Mayor James Palmer to bring forward proposals for Cambourne to Cambridge next month
Mayor James Palmer says “Cambridge deserves better” than the Cambridge to Cambourne busway scheme from the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP).
This week Mr Palmer said the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority would take control of public transport improvements in the area in response to “significant concerns” raised by residents.
“I have a responsibility to deliver a world-class public transport in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and frankly the busway is not that and never will be that,” he told the Cambridge Independent. “It’s a flawed concept. I couldn’t sit by and watch the GCP continue to make errors in transport policy.
“I don’t see why we should settle for second best. With this scheme it wasn’t just second best, it was the worst possible scenario. We can do better. Cambridge deserves better.”
A decision on the final route for the Cambourne to Cambridge busway scheme was due to be made at the GCP’s executive board on Wednesday but the papers were pulled after the mayor’s announcement.
Mr Palmer has told the GCP that the scheme’s proposals do not fit with the Combined Authority’s aims for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM).
The GCP said it was astonished by the mayor’s announcement and added that the Combined Authority had confirmed that its work was consistent with the CAM plans.
A GCP spokesperson said: “We have worked with the Combined Authority on this scheme and the route to Granta Park – and at all points the Combined Authority has confirmed that our work has been consistent with the mayor’s plans for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro.
“It is simply wrong to say our proposals have been developed without input from the Combined Authority. We paused this scheme in 2018 at the mayor’s request, when he wanted to ensure it aligned with his vision for a future metro – and his review concluded that our approach was robust.
“At no point has the Combined Authority raised any concerns about our proposals, which are an integral part of delivering the mayor’s wider CAM network.
“The recently agreed Combined Authority local transport plan confirmed that GCP is delivering phase one of the CAM, including out to Cambourne, Waterbeach, Granta Park, and to the east towards Newmarket – so this decision is completely at odds with recent CA board decisions.
“Our GCP board is demanding an urgent meeting with the mayor to discuss this in an effort to avoid further delay to improving public transport in Greater Cambridge.”
Mr Palmer responded: “I’ve tried to work with the GCP since day one and I’ve bent over backwards for them at times.
“I’ve gone against what I’ve said in public to try to have joint working and I’ve kept quiet, but joint working should mean that, and it never has.
“It’s been very much a one-sided affair as far as I’m concerned.”
He continued: “I couldn’t sit by and watch the GCP continue to make errors in transport policy.
“I will be bringing forward proposals at the March meeting of the Combined Authority transport committee for implementation as soon as possible.”
The Combined Authority is scheduled to hold the meeting on Friday, March 6.
Mr Palmer said the proposals would include an interim solution for the route that would not involve “flooding the city with buses”.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, Cambridge City Council leader and GCP executive board member, questioned whether a plan exists.
He said: “There is no alternative route proposal and there never has been from the mayor.”
Cllr Herbert added: “Perhaps he’s got wider ambitions.
“Our issue is that he hasn’t provided any evidence in the letter he sent or in the comments he’s made to evidence that he’s thinking about people from Cambourne needing to get a bus, businesses needing to get people to work, the mile-and-a-half traffic queue that every morning blocks up Madingley Hill.”
Cllr Herbert also queried why a planned consultation over the CAM Metro had not gone live as planned last week.
“What we want is to see that consultation and then I think the GCP can get on and make decisions,” he said.
Mr Palmer insisted that the consultation, which was pulled hours before it was due to go live, was done so as there was some “tidying up” to be done before he was satisfied with it going out.
He added: “It has become clear to me that the GCP lacks the vision, strategic thinking and the ability necessary to deliver any of the transport priorities for the Cambridge area.
“Local communities deserve better and this failed C2C consultation, which has ignored concerns raised by myself and so many residents, is the final straw.”
A spokesperson for the Combined Authority, said: “Following careful consideration, plans to consult on the next phase of the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro are not ready to be made public on February 13 as originally planned.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and will be in touch as soon as we have a confirmed date for the next round of consultation.”
Cambridgeshire County Council leader Cllr Steve Count also weighed into the debate – the Conservative councillor sided with the Conservative mayor.
Cllr Count said that he understood the concerns outlined by the mayor and felt that they could not be “addressed in a simple phone call or even, I believe, in a quick meeting with the GCP”.
He also called for all of the groups involved to put differences aside and work together again.
He said: “The public expect us to work together, with the GCP, the city council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, businesses and the university and the mayor, all of whom have powers, integral interests and/or funding – to attempt to solve the transport issues currently experienced, and to plan for the further growth predicted.
“In an attempt to diffuse the situation and bring us back to positive decision making, we
expect to immediately go back to the good partnership working that we know we are all capable of, and are asking our partner organisations to do the same.”