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More buses proposed instead of Cambourne to Cambridge busway - but is plan just a ‘sticking plaster’?

A councillor has hit out at the mayor’s “sticking plaster of a few extra buses” plan to tackle public transport problems between Cambourne and Cambridge.

James Palmer, the Tory mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, has unveiled plans for improved bus services, which he says will be “significantly quicker and more convenient” and be operational in the “next three to five months”.

James Palmer. Picture: Richard Marsham
James Palmer. Picture: Richard Marsham

But Labour’s Gavin Clayton, a South Cambridgeshire district councillor, who represents and lives in Cambourne, responded: “He clearly doesn’t appreciate the daily stress Cambourne and west of Cambridge commuters and students face stuck in buses behind queues of cars, HGVs and vans in mile long morning tailbacks all the way up Madingley Rise from the M11 every day of the week.”

Mr Palmer is proposing a new non-stop bus service every half hour to the Cambridge Science Park and Cambridge Regional College from Cambourne, which will run Mondays to Fridays.

He says the service will avoid traffic jams because it will not stop en route and therefore could use any combination of roads.

The Combined Authority will also explore changing the current X3 service to an hourly service that will be extended to run from Huntingdon to Cambridge city centre via Godmanchester, Papworth and Cambourne through to Trumpington, Addenbrooke’s and Cambridge railway station.

An additional hourly X3 service is also proposed to run direct to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus from Cambourne using the M11 motorway.

The moves come weeks after the mayor called for the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s controversial plans for an off-road Cambourne to Cambridge busway scheme to be “immediately halted”, amid opposition from villagers along the route.

He told the GCP that the scheme’s proposals did not fit with the Combined Authority’s aims for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) and that it would take over public transport improvements in the corridor.

This was despite the Combined Authority local transport plan previously confirming that GCP was delivering phase one of the CAM, including out to Cambourne.

Some protested over the GCP’s proposed Cambridge to Cambourne busway.
Some protested over the GCP’s proposed Cambridge to Cambourne busway.

Cllr Clayton said that Cambourne deserves long-term transport solutions and was concerned the move was part of a wider plan by Mr Palmer to takeover the GCP. The mayor has denied this.

Cllr Clayton also acknowledged that while the government’s plans for a new Cambourne railway station along the new East West Rail line needed to be factored in, the town “badly needs” action now, not in 2030 or 2040.

He said: “I was expecting the planned route to be given the go ahead at the last GCP meeting and so I was shocked to hear mayor Palmer announce recently that he had the support of residents here for this attempt to block the Greater Cambridge Partnership, particularly as the off-road reliable public transport plan has very strong support here.

“Mayor Palmer has lost any credibility he ever possessed here over his further delay to sorting that out.

“Rather than adding a sticking plaster of a few extra buses – that will sit in and add to existing traffic jams – what he needs to do, is to back the off-road route as the only way to end the peak-time gridlock and get people to work.

“And bus fares here need to be significantly cheaper than currently because Cambourne people cannot see any benefit on cost or time saving from his quick fix.”

Mr Palmer said: “These services have been planned with a collaborative partnership of operators, councillors and local residents, and there will be further engagement with residents as the detailed timetables are set. I hope to see these new services in operation within the next three to five months.”

Conservative Cllr Ruth Betson, who also represents Cambourne, and has campaigned for better transport infrastructure, was supportive of the mayor, however.

She said: “After numerous conversations with mayor Palmer, I am absolutely delighted that we have found a way forward so quickly. Cambourne residents do not deserve to sit in traffic every morning: more often than not it takes ninety minutes to do just eight miles.

“For some people, these new bus services will halve their morning headache. I now look forward to working closely with the mayor on the CAM project.”

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