Mixed verdict on Combined Authority transport vision with buses at its core
Improving bus services was ranked the highest priority for people living in all Cambridgeshire districts – apart from Cambridge – in a survey conducted by the county’s mayor.
But fewer than two thirds of people felt the Combined Authority’s updated vision is the right future for transport in the region.
The results mark the first stage of a complete rethink of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s local transport and connectivity plan (LTCP) – the strategy for making transport in the region better.
It follows a decision to scrap former mayor James Palmer’s £2bn Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM) proposals.
The results of a four-week public engagement programme have been published ahead of Wednesday’s (January 12) transport and infrastructure committee.
The consultation gave communities, stakeholders and businesses the opportunity to comment about their vision and priorities for transport within and across the region.
The feedback will be used to shape the emerging refreshed LTCP before formal consultation takes place. This consultation is scheduled to begin later this month.
The Combined Authority received a total of 553 online feedback forms and 16 hard copy feedback forms, together with five emails.
The responses have been analysed and the core themes emerging from the engagement will be drawn out and responded to via the drafting of the LTCP. This will take the form of a ‘you said, we did’ exercise say the Combined Authority.
Of the 569 feedback forms received, some 96.2 per cent understood why the vision for transport needs to be updated.
But only 57.4 per cent either strongly agreed or mostly agreed that the updated vision is the right future for transport in the region – and 52.9 per cent strongly agreed or mostly agreed that the aims and objectives listed are the right transport priorities for the region.
The central vision of the LTCP is to create “a transport network which secures a future in which the region and its people can thrive”.
The LTCP aims to meet a range of challenges including on public health, accelerating carbon reduction, protecting the environment, the impact of Covid-19, access to jobs and education, reducing inequality and supporting economic growth.
The consultation said: “It [the LTCP] must put improved public health at its core, it must help create a fairer society, it must respond to climate change targets, it must protect our environment and clean up our air, and it must be the backbone of sustainable economic growth in which everyone can prosper. And it must bring a region of cities, market towns and very rural areas closer together.”
Labour mayor Dr Nik Johnson said: “This engagement was an early temperature test to see what the public thought about the core vision and objectives of the developing LTCP. We wanted to give people an opportunity ahead of formal consultation to have a say and let us know if we are on the right track. And we also wanted to hear what areas of transport were important to them, both at the regional and district and city level. If anyone missed out, there is still the formal consultation in which they can have their say.
“We publicised the engagement in a variety of ways including local media, as well as online, including through social media channels, with the aim of bringing as many people into the conversation as possible. We would of course always love to see more people engaging with our work, but I think as an early engagement, ahead of a formal consultation, there was a strong enough response to make it a very useful exercise. The feedback will help us make sure the formal consultation and the LTCP document itself is more relevant to the public and the transport issues they care about most.”
But concerns have been raised over the timescale of such work and Cllr Anna Bailey, a Combined Authority board member and the Conservative leader of East Cambrigeshire District Council, has previously warned Dr Johnson that “tinkering around with buses does not and will not deliver the game- changing public transport that’s needed”.
The most recurring comments, when asked what changes should be made to the transport vision, concerned: improving cycling and pedestrian links (83 respondents), the need to improve transport infrastructure (75), and a desire to provide new bus routes (72).
When asked about what aims and priorities needed to be included, the top three issues related to: more ambitious net-zero targets (61), the need to provide a greater transport infrastructure (47), and a desire to ensure that the transport network is affordable (39).
Regionally, bus routing and frequency was ranked as the highest priority in five out of six regions, only Cambridge had a different top priority, which was reducing congestion in the city.
The Combined Authority is revamping the plan because of significant changes and developments in transport locally and nationally.
They include the recommendations of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate, new CO2 and electric vehicle targets published by the government, including its Decarbonising Transport document, the developing OxCAM Arc and the changes in travel caused by Covid-19.
The LTCP is planned to be completed and recommended to the Combined Authority board for adoption in March.
The word ‘connectivity’ in the title recognises the increasing influence that the internet has on transport. Working and learning, accessing leisure and services, and seeing friends and family have been increasingly done from home, impacting journeys. The plan will seek ways digital infrastructure can be improved to support these new ways of living.