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Opinion: No change is not an option for Cambridge congestion, says Cambridge University Hospitals chair

By Dr Mike More, chair, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Anyone who knows Cambridge will know traffic congestion is a huge problem, making journeys to and across the city intolerable at times.

I remember when the issue was debated 30 years ago and it is a lot worse now. So I welcome the debate and bold approach being consulted upon by the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

Dr Mike More (33113661)
Dr Mike More (33113661)

Ignoring the problem or tinkering with it won’t improve the experiences of people trying to come to hospital for appointments, to work or to visit loved ones. Promoting positive alternatives and investing significantly in public transport are essential and welcome ingredients of any future proposals.

Thousands of staff and patients walk through Addenbrooke’s doors every day. Many of them will have travelled by public transport, others may have walked or cycled, and others may have arrived by car.

Their journeys will often have taken longer than they wanted and their experience of travelling can be very poor. The main theme I hear again and again is the desire for people to have journeys which are more reliable, quicker and more sustainable.

One of our key priorities at Addenbrooke’s is the recruitment and retention of the best staff. Pay and the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic over the last two years are clearly massive issues for all our staff, but transport is also a big issue.

Driving to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus is simply not an option for the vast majority of our staff, or in fact anyone who works on the site due to the limited parking available on the campus. Therefore, ensuring staff can get to the hospitals and home again on reliable, efficient and affordable public transport is crucial.

This also matters for patients who often get stuck in traffic, making them late for appointments and sometimes missing them entirely. This can be worrying for them and can lead to delays in the treatment of others as staff work to catch up.

For me, I do believe things need to change, so that we provide more sustainable transport options across Cambridge as well as on the Biomedical Campus.

Improved and reliable public transport and safer cycling routes are vital to achieving this. I’m sure we are all cognisant of the need to improve our air quality for wider health benefits.

That’s why I am so firmly of the view that we have to have a constructive debate about the proposals being consulted on by the Greater Cambridge Partnership to introduce improved and more sustainable future transport options. It will be important that the debate is open and honest and doesn’t close down issues too quickly.

An aerial view of Cambridge Biomedical Campus Picture: AstraZeneca
An aerial view of Cambridge Biomedical Campus Picture: AstraZeneca

The proposals aim to introduce additional public transport services and subsidise fares from as early as this time next year, crucially ahead of any road user charge being introduced. I also understand the consultation includes a range of reimbursements of the charge, including for patients attending A&E, health workers providing urgent on-call arrangements and patients not well enough to travel to an appointment on public transport.

The Biomedical Campus, in which Addenbrooke’s sits, is one of the primary contributors to the economy of Cambridge and the region and in that role is a major contributor to congestion. In that respect, I note the statement in the consultation that if Addenbrooke’s isn’t included in the charging area then we won’t realise the benefits of more bus services and freed up road space for more reliable journeys.

This is why at Addenbrooke’s we are actively discussing the proposals with our staff, our patients and our partners and we will participate fully in the current consultation.

I would encourage everyone – staff, patients, visitors – to consider the proposals in the round, looking at the ideas behind more buses, better cycle and walking provision, and less congestion on the roads.

There are no easy solutions to this challenge. But no change is not an option. If other cities can make major changes, so can we.

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