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MP calls on Cambridgeshire council leaders to reject road charging proposals

An MP is calling on council leaders to instruct their representatives on the Greater Cambridge Partnership not to back road charging proposals.

Anthony Browne. Picture: Keith Heppell. (59644131)
Anthony Browne. Picture: Keith Heppell. (59644131)

South Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne has written to the leaders of Cambridge City, South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridgeshire County councils.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership will today (Wednesday) decide whether or not to go out for consultation on plans to provide cheaper bus fares, more frequent services with longer operating hours funded by a £5 daily road charge.

Mr Browne has launched a petition over the road charge, which has been signed by more than 3,700 residents. A second petition launched by residents has gathered more than 15,800 signatures.

The Conservative MP urged leaders in his letter, which was sent ahead of today’s meeting, to scrutinise the evidence base for the GCP’s congestion charging plans.

He confirmed that his petition has been signed by 3,706 verified residents as of midday yesterday (Tuesday).

Mr Browne said: “If the GCP board votes today to hang the Sword of Damocles over residents’ heads, they have failed in their duty to speak for their constituents.

“Residents do not deserve to be taxed to visit a dying relative, to get to work, or even just to live on the wrong street. Even if they support the principle of a charge, the board members must recognise that this idea needs serious work if it is ever to get off the drawing board. Now is not the time to add to resident’s fears.

“I urge the GCP board – be the voice of residents and push back this draconian tax.”

The executive board will decide whether to approve plans for a public consultation this autumn, before the business case is considered in spring 2023.

Public transport improvements would be delivered first under the plans, with some changes potentially from as early as summer 2023, but the new road charge – if approved – would not be in place until 2026 or 2027.

The proposals set out what would be the one of the largest ever investments in a UK bus network to provide £1 fares in the city and £2 for journeys in the travel to work area.

The plans also include longer operating hours from 5am to 1am Monday to Saturday and 5am to midnight on Sunday and more frequent services – up to eight buses every hour in the city, six from market towns, and hourly rural buses.

Mr Browne’s petition has also gathered more than 2,500 comments, with many criticising the scale and scope of proposals.

The MP says research by his office proves that the Cambridge proposals are the most restrictive of any proposed or existing charge.

He says only one other city - Durham - requires electric vehicles to pay, and even then, only in a small area around Durham Cathedral.

Cambridge would be the only city in the country to charge mopeds, and the only one where the charging zone applies to the entire city, suburbs, and even the hospital, he adds.

The GCP says that lower traffic levels would also provide the opportunity to create more “people-centric” spaces in the city, and said the plans also confirmed its support to deliver 13 cross-city cycling routes.

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