Petition calls for multi-million pound Greater Cambridge Partnership busways to be scrapped
A petition calling for the Greater Cambridge Partnership to prioritise funding bus service improvements rather than multi-million plans for busways has been launched.
The petition also urges the GCP to fund walking, cycling and bus prioritisation on existing roads instead of its current plans for a combination of busways and Park & Rides.
“The GCP is at an advanced stage of planning to build three busways and five car parks at a cost of £419 million. That’s £1,370 per resident of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire, or up to £180,000 per new bus user. Furthermore, the GCP still has no plan for where all the new buses will go in Cambridge city centre after leaving the busways,” it says.
It comes in the same week that a Cambridge Independent poll (as of Tuesday, June 15) found only one per cent of voters supported off-road busways as their top priority for cutting congestion in the city.
The poll also revealed the top choice for voters was fairly evenly split between a metro system with tunnels (22 per cent), clean air zone with a charge for polluting vehicles (19 per cent), better bus services (19 per cent) and better cycling and walking infrastructure (18 per cent).
Some 14 per cent of voters felt that people need to be able to drive everywhere in the city while just six per cent supported modal filters preventing cars accessing certain roads.
The petition has been launched by think tank and campaign group Smarter Cambridge Transport, who say they will present it to the GCP’s executive board on Thursday, July 1.
It also calls for a re-appraisal of all of the body’s projects “against current government climate change targets”.
The petition goes on to ask the GCP to follow the elected mayor and county council by putting “people’s health at the heart of all projects”.
As well as urging the authority to support the mayor to give everyone in Greater Cambridge “access to convenient and affordable bus services” and to work with residents to develop a “comprehensive, coherent and sustainable transport strategy”.
It says: “Meeting government housing targets is important, but not more important than decarbonising road transport, restoring ecology, reducing toxic air pollution, reducing illness from inactivity and social isolation, and eliminating deaths on the roads. With a new mayor and new administration at the county council, now more than ever, GCP needs to change its priorities.”
The petition can be viewed at smartertransport.uk.
The GCP website says petitions are considered by the joint assembly prior to being considered by the board, suggesting it is not guaranteed to be formally considered on July 1.
A GCP spokesperson said: “The continued economic success of Greater Cambridge means thousands of new jobs and homes are planned for the area which will put further pressure on our transport network.
“We are bringing forward plans for a fully integrated transport network, with high-quality active travel and public transport routes with reliable and frequent services between growing communities and places of work and leisure.
“These will link into the GCP’s City Access proposals, our £130m investment to upgrade the cycling network and other initiatives such as new state-of-the-art traffic signals, as well as projects being developed by our partners at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and Network Rail.
“This joined-up future transport network will mean thousands of people will be able to travel quickly, sustainably and more reliably – helping to cut congestion, improve air quality, tackle climate change and transform how people get around Greater Cambridge.”
The executive board meeting on July 1 will consider recommendations from officers to progress four schemes.
These include progressing the £160m Cambourne to Cambridge (C2C) busway scheme, which includes a Park & Ride at Scotland Farm, to an environmental impact assessment and the £130m Cambridge South East Transport scheme to a Transport and Works Act Order application.
The Waterbeach to Cambridge scheme is recommended to progress to an outline business case while the Eastern Access scheme to develop and consult on detailed proposals.
All four schemes were discussed by the GCP joint assembly on Thursday, June 10 where members were keen to point out that moving the C2C scheme to the next stage does not make the project a “done deal”.
The plan for an off-road busway has been stuck on the verge of choosing a preferred route to progress to an environmental impact assessment for over a year.
Now the joint assembly has agreed to support an emerging recommendation that the GCP executive board should vote to choose a preferred route and subject it to a detailed environmental impact assessment.
However, one member warned of a “complete breakdown of trust between the GCP and the local community” over the project.
Assembly member and leader of the Conservative group on South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cllr Heather Williams, said: “I think Cambourne to Cambridge is something that nobody is winning on at the moment, residents are living with uncertainty along the route, the GCP obviously needs to crack on and get on with things, and then you have Cambourne residents’ ever-growing town that has nothing currently. So we need to find a way forward.
“However, the thing that I think will hold us up the most is the complete breakdown of trust between the GCP and the local community. I have witnessed frustrations boil over on both sides, and we have to draw that to some form of conclusion.”
Addressing the recommendation, the GCP's transport director Peter Blake, said: “This isn’t a done deal. This is the next step. The environmental work will show what it shows and then we will need to respond to that.”
The project cannot proceed to construction without formal planning approval, and Mr Blake has suggested a public planning inquiry is likely to take place during the process.
Following a number of delays, the GCP said last year that the expected 2024 completion date is now “unlikely to be achieved”.
The meeting also heard concerns over the Cambridge South East Transport scheme which will see the GCP’s preferred route start near the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and run parallel with the railway, before diverting to the east of Great Shelford and Stapleford and then crossing the River Granta and running to the east of Sawston.
The parish councils of Stapleford and Great Shelford commissioned an independent report in March to establish whether using the former railway line was technically possible after the GCP had ruled it out, calling the GCP’s proposal an “unnecessary destruction” of green belt land.
They also held a protest attended by more than 200 people ahead of the meeting.
“We don’t want history repeating itself on this one, but I can see similarities,” said Cllr Heather Williams. She added: “What I think is unique to other projects is we have a community here that is proposing an alternative so in principle is not objecting to it and potentially sees some benefit for their areas.”
She called for there to be further information provided on the proposed alternative option so it can be “judged in parity” with the GCP scheme.
Joint assembly representative for Anglia Ruskin University, Professor Helen Valentine said: “Clearly there is a lot of opposition to this scheme. I think there’s been opposition to every single scheme perhaps with the exception of the Chisholm Trail even though we’ve had some opposition. I think there’s some evidence that we’ve been quite responsive to some of those comments and concerns.
“If we’ve got to get on with using our money wisely then we are always going to have make progress in the face of some opposition.”