Anthony Browne MP calls on GCP to pause £290m Cambourne to Cambridge busway and Cambridge South East Transport plans
South Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne has called for a “pause” on the Cambourne to Cambridge and Cambridge South East Transport busway plans.
The Conservative MP said the Greater Cambridge Partnership must “reassess the suitability of both schemes” as they had been due to form a part of the plans for the £2billion Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro, which the county’s new mayor has vowed to scrap.
Mr Browne said: “There is a real need to transform connectivity in South Cambridgeshire and make it easier for us to get from our homes to work, school, leisure facilities and Cambridge City without the need for a car. This must be a top priority for the new mayor, the county council and the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP).
“Cambourne-to-Cambridge (C2C) and Cambridge South East Transport (CSET) are two proposed off-road busways devised by the GCP, which has £500m of government funding to invest in vital infrastructure projects.
“We undoubtedly need a fast, reliable public transport link for Cambourne and major employment sites in and around Cambridge, but since they were first proposed there have been major changes in circumstances which means the GCP should pause and reassess the suitability of both schemes.
“It was always intended that C2C and CSET would ultimately form part of the Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM). However, the new mayor has announced his intention to cancel the CAM, so we need to be confident that these busways will integrate with the new Mayor’s plans for public transport in our area.”
His comments come following the election earlier in May of Labour’s Dr Nik Johnson as mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.
He pledged to abandon the plans of ousted Conservative mayor James Palmer for a metro network, including tunnels beneath Cambridge, to solve the region’s public transport woes.
Instead, he has pledged to bring the bus network under the Combined Authority’s control and introduce an Oyster-card style system for passengers.
Mr Browne said the Greater Cambridge Partnership, which is due to publish its papers on its transport schemes ahead of a June 10 meeting, must reflect on Dr Johnson’s proposals
“While we wait to understand his alternative proposals, there are other questions that need to be answered by the GCP,” he said. “Firstly, the long-term impact of Covid on the business case needs to be properly analysed.
“Recent BBC research shows that 43 of the UKs biggest employers won’t bring workers back to the office full time. This is supported by many employees, with YouGov reporting that 57 per cent of people want to work from home for at least some of the time in the longer term.
“For example, if people end up working from home on average two days a week, that will be a 40 per cent reduction in passenger numbers and the associated revenue. In the light of such profound changes, GCP must review previous assumptions about travel patterns and commuter activity.
“The other significant development is the publication of East West Rail’s preferred route alignments, which confirm their commitment to a new station at Cambourne.
“I have previously highlighted the fact that the C2C business case failed to even mention East West Rail, which is extraordinary given that both schemes share the same passengers, taking the same route for the same reasons.
“Before we spend such huge sums and carve up our countryside, we need to press the pause button on these two highly controversial schemes while the GCP answers these fundamental questions.
“Furthermore, we have a new opportunity to work cross-party and bring all levels of government together to fix our local public transport. I am committed to playing my part in that process, and I’m calling on the new mayor and the GCP to work with me to overcome these challenges.”
The off-road busway schemes have been mired by controversy and delays.
When he was mayor, Mr Palmer also prompted a pause in progress on the £160million Cambourne to Cambridge busway plans to seek reassurance that it would fit in with his metro plans. The Combined Authority acts as the region’s transport authority, meaning Mr Palmer was able to exert influence over the GCP proposals.
He was a vocal opponent of the scheme, supporting villagers who were angry that the busway would carve up the countryside of the West Fields near Coton. In Hardwick, residents have been concerned about having eight lanes of traffic in front of their homes, with the new busway due to run beside the existing village road and the A428.
In December 2020, the GCP promised an independent audit of its work to date on the scheme.
Then in January, the Combined Authority called on the Greater Cambridge Partnership to analyse a northern route along the A428 corridor, rather than through the West Fields even though its own initial assessment found disadvantages with the concept, including a build cost of £122.7million versus £91.1million for the southern route, and potential negative environmental impacts.
The GCP’s current proposed route would use existing roads through Cambourne before joining a dedicated section of new road running through the forthcoming Bourn Airfield development.
It would continue on a dedicated route south of the A428 and A1303 before rejoining existing roads in west Cambridge, via the Rifle Range track. The plans include a new Park & Ride site at Scotland Farm and a dedicated segregated cycling and walking route along its length.
Meanwhile, in March, a damning independent report was published on the proposed £130million Cambridge South East Transport route, which suggested the busway could be routed along a disused railway line rather than through the green belt.
Stapleford and Great Shelford parish councils and community groups including Cambridge Past, Present & Future called on the GCP to change track.
The GCP has been analysing responses to a consultation as part of an Environmental Impact Assessment of the route.
It is due to start near the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and run parallel with the railway, before diverting to the east of Great Shelford and Stapleford, crossing the River Granta and running to the east of Sawston.
A GCP spokesperson said: “The GCP’s high quality public transport routes have always been designed to meet the growing needs of greater Cambridge area, as set out in the local plans, to transform journeys for people getting in or out of Cambridge.
“These schemes - which were planned as standalone projects - are progressing and our Executive Board will consider the next steps at their meeting on July 1. Each route could also serve as part of a wider Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro, but the future of the metro is subject to decisions by the new mayor of the Combined Authority.”
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