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Opinion: Park & Ride in Cambridge encourages car ownership

While I appreciate the success of Park & Ride sites around Cambridge I do not believe that expanding the sites is the best way to deal with the traffic problems that beset Cambridge and most towns and cities.

In fact Park & Ride might encourage car use/ownership. My opinion is that the objective must be to remove the need to own a car by providing truly viable alternatives. By this means, the requirement to expand the various Park & Ride facilities will be unnecessary.

As with many proposals for expanding infrastructure, in this case transport infrastructure, the plans are based on predictions of never-ending increase in demand, so-called 'predict and provide'. We often hear terms like 'long-term strategy', or 'planning for the next generation'. But this seldom translates in anything other than expensive tinkering with established practice and even worse, politically motivated development aimed at satisfying one dogma or another.

In the case of Park & Ride, and Trumpington specifically, increasing car park capacity will inevitably add to the already heavy traffic on roads leading to the car park, and in turn lead to further demands for more road 'improvements', ie widening, straightening, dualling etc. As is often the case, in the medium to long term, road improvements actually make the traffic problem worse by attracting even more users.

One of the main objectives of expanding Trumpington Park & Ride is stated to be to accommodate drivers approaching from the west of Cambridge. But this will increase already heavy traffic on the A10 through Harston, and is unacceptable, along with the hot potato of a Harston bypass. You can comment on the proposals until December 21 on the Greater Cambridge Partnership website - greatercambridge.org.uk - or telephone them 01223 699906.

A Park & Ride bus. Picture: Keith Heppell
A Park & Ride bus. Picture: Keith Heppell

The only long-term solution to these ongoing issues is to reduce the need for commuters, visitors and shoppers to use a car for any part of their journey to the city. Inevitably this means substantial improvement to public transport from outside Cambridge and from the many rural villages in South Cambridgeshire, as well as radial routes to avoid the need to ride in then out again to reach a destination. For far too long rural bus services have been allowed to decline. It is clear that relying on commercial companies to provide comprehensive bus services in, and from, outlying areas is futile. They have no interest unless there is profit to be made and under the current unregulated system are never going to offer transport for all. We rely on local authority subsidies to provide the routes that commercial companies cannot be bothered with, and as the cash dries up they and become unattractive and consequently unviable in their own right.

A thorough overhaul of public transport in the area is well overdue. I don't just mean promoting glamorous high-tech solutions such as the proposed Cambridge Metro. I mean real down to earth transport for all areas of Cambridgeshire. Put simply this means instigating a public transport management system that is not subject to the whims of commercial operators, is regular, reliable reasonably priced and universally available, as well as being attractive to those who are currently wedded to their cars. With this bottom-up approach, larger park and ride sites would be unnecessary. In fact they are ideally place to provide transport hubs at intervals around Cambridge. This is an idea that has been muted on several occasions but never followed up.

The Combined Authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has the opportunity, when it takes over responsibility for transport in April next year to make the necessary changes to tackle the current failed system. We wait with baited breath to see if any progress will be make.

Steve Edmondson

Cantelupe Road


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