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Plans for Cambridge congestion charge to fund public transport improvements move forward

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The public will be asked to have its say on public transport improvements for Cambridge and the measures needed to fund them in the coming weeks.

ULEZ (Ultra low emission zone at all times) and C (Congestion charging zone) signs in London, UK. (51781939)
ULEZ (Ultra low emission zone at all times) and C (Congestion charging zone) signs in London, UK. (51781939)

The Greater Cambridge Partnership’s executive board agreed this evening (Thursday, September 30) to move forward with the plans, which include a much-improved bus network, the management of road space to prioritise active travel, and an ongoing funding source to pay for it.

Peter Blake, the GCP’s transport director, told the meeting: “We want cleaner air, we want to be actively and positively contributing to the climate challenge, not the other way around.

“The proposals outlined today will put us on a trajectory to achieve that.”

He added: “We do need to transform, not tinker with public transport. We need significant improvements in walking and cycling, and we need measures to discourage the use of the private car that allows for the space, and if possible, for the revenue to achieve all of that.”

The plans include a future bus network that envisages a bus every 10 minutes in Cambridge between 5am and midnight, and from larger towns and villages – plus a new hourly service from rural areas.

Lower bus fares and a comprehensive walking and cycling network that would provide flexible travel options are also among the proposals.

Greater Cambridge Partnership transport director Peter Blake Picture: Keith Heppell
Greater Cambridge Partnership transport director Peter Blake Picture: Keith Heppell

The Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Public Transport Improvements and City Access Strategy also suggests modal filters, a clean air zone, measures to reduce on and off-street parking, higher parking fees, and a pollution or congestion charge all on the table.

Isobel Wade, assistant director of sustainable and inclusive growth at the GCP, said: “The paper is clear that such a transformative network has a significant costs - potentially up to £40million a year depending on the level of changes to fares and services - and the GCP could afford to fund some of that but an ongoing revenue source is required.”

By agreeing to move forward with the proposals, the executive board also agreed to go out to consultation on the plans in the autumn.

Ms Wade added: “The proposed consultation will seek feedback from the public on the proposed bus network concept in detail, including views on fares operating hours, and how the network could be funded and delivered.

“The outcome of the consultation would then support work with the Combined Authority bus operators and other partners on the detailed design of the bus network.”

The plans have already been given the backing of the GCP’s joint assembly and the transport body has been urged to “be brave, be bold and take action”.

However, the joint assembly warned of “consultation inertia” and said it must be “fresh and compelling” to encourage the public to respond.

They said it was “imperative” that the public be made aware that public transport improvements do come at a cost, the consequence of which could be a congestion charge.

Joint assembly chairman Tim Bick, the Lib Dem opposition leader on Cambridge City Council, said earlier this month: “We do need to help them understand that really with one comes the other, and vice versa.”

See next week’s Cambridge Independent for further analysis of the plans.

Read more:

Would £1 bus fares or free travel for young people ease the Greater Cambridge transport challenge?

Cambridge road charging ‘needed to tackle deadly pollution curse and congestion’

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough transport rethink is under way

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