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More talking on Cambridge transport – but it’s ‘time for solutions’

Cambridge is heading into a perfect storm, with its burgeoning growth heaping pressure on the region’s under-powered public transport system.

Dr Nik Johnson the mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority seen in Ely where the mayor's office is based. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dr Nik Johnson the mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority seen in Ely where the mayor's office is based. Picture: Keith Heppell

Two consultations have launched this week, with others to follow this summer, designed to meet the challenge and dramatically change how we move around.

But Labour mayor Dr Nik Johnson’s long-awaited transport plan, which sets out how he will tackle the growing needs of the area, comes at a time that he faces a motion calling for him to resign. The mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority will face an extraordinary meeting of the executive board today (Friday, May 20) amid a probe into his conduct.

Former Cambridge City Council leader and current representative on the Combined Authority Cllr Lewis Herbert (Lab, Coleridge) said: “It is not normal to expect someone to resign just because of an investigation.”

Meanwhile, Conservative Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald said he was not looking forward to the meeting and did not “seek to run the Combined Authority down”, adding that it was a “sad state of affairs”.

The political turmoil comes with Cambridge set to create new jobs faster than anywhere in the UK by the end of 2023 according to a study, which has been produced by Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

But, Addenbrooke’s Hospital is already struggling to find housing for its employees, with property prices increasing by 64 per cent between 2011 and 2021 – and workers in the city’s retail, hospitality and leisure industries desperately need a public transport system that is reliable, frequent and affordable.

Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID, writing for this week’s Cambridge Independent, says: “While I appreciate the need to update their 2020 Local Transport Plan, has much really happened in that time that affects the region’s transport needs? I think not. What we are seeking is some delivery of the solutions.”

The Combined Authority’s new Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP) went out for consultation on Thursday, May 12 and will run for 12 weeks to August 4.

The LTCP, when finalised, will replace the current Local Transport Plan, adopted in January 2020.

Greater Cambridge Future Transport Network 2030 - from GCP (56793507)
Greater Cambridge Future Transport Network 2030 - from GCP (56793507)

The new plan is needed to meet shifting demands on transport, including the effects on travel caused by Covid-19, the government’s new national strategies to decarbonise transport and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Panel on Climate’s own recommendations to help tackle climate change.

Also this week, the Greater Cambridge Partnership launched its Environment Impact Assessment consultation over the £160m off-road Cambourne to Cambridge busway.

In the coming weeks, the GCP will begin consulting on plans to change the way that roads in Cambridge are classified, which will alter how people travel around the city by foot, bicycle, car, bus and lorry. And it will publish the results of its earlier Making Connections consultation, which set out plans for buses every few minutes in the city centre paid for by a congestion charge.

Buses lay at the heart of the mayor’s new plan, which promises a ‘world-class transport network’ for Greater Cambridge by working closely with local planning authorities, the GCP and Cambridgeshire County Council.

The draft plan states: “Our strategy for addressing the transport challenges that the Greater Cambridge area faces involves transforming the sustainable transport offer, so more people choose to travel by public transport, cycling and walking and fewer by car.”

The draft plan proposed reform of buses through a new operating model, connecting more places. Cycling and walking will be encouraged, and support is offered for more electric vehicles and zero emission buses to cut carbon and improve air quality.

The plan says bus services in Greater Cambridge need to have longer operating hours and higher frequencies to “genuinely be able to compete with the private car”.

It suggests that rural areas could be served by the TING service, which is a demand responsive transport service trialled in Huntingdonshire.

Cllr Lewis Herbert at the Guildhall in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Lewis Herbert at the Guildhall in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

The plan also pledges its work alongside the GCP on its Greenway active travel schemes, its city access programme and current busway and travel hub schemes.

The Combined Authority will also work with partners on the Cambridge South station plans, A10 improvements (Ely to Cambridge) and capacity improvements to the M11, as well as continuing its e-scooter trial.

Mayor Dr Johnson said: “It is vital that in a fast-changing world that we have an up-to-date, ambitious transport strategy for the region which meets the needs of people, communities, the environment and the economy. This developing plan will guide how we make the region’s transport better. From more convenient, reliable and accessible public transport, to making cycling and walking more attractive for short journeys – we want our transport network to be good quality, safer, fairer, less polluting and accessible to more people.

“And the Combined Authority has an ambition to make growth in our region truly sustainable and we can’t do that if we don’t have the transport infrastructure to match. I want a transport network that supports our growing economy, jobs and homes, but that also tackles inequality and creates opportunity, while protecting our environment and heritage. But what’s important now is that we hear from as many voices across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as possible.”

The draft plan aims to support improved public health, accelerated carbon reduction, protection of the environment, reduced inequalities, and making growth in housing, jobs, and the economy more sustainable.

‘Connectivity’ has been included in the title of the plan to incorporate a digital infrastructure strategy, acknowledging the growth in home working and demand for leisure and shopping online.

Visit yourltcp.co.uk to have a say.

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