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Progress on Cambridge to Cambourne busway to resume... but with no preferred route

One of the Cambourne to Cambridge illustrations showing a bus stop
One of the Cambourne to Cambridge illustrations showing a bus stop

The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is proposing to resume progressing its £160m Cambourne to Cambridge busway project, but a preferred route will not be confirmed until next year.

The executive board will vote next week (December 10) on whether or not to continue progressing with a busway plan, including examining the environmental impacts.

The move follows a protracted dispute between the GCP and the leader of the county’s transport authority, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, the mayor James Palmer.

The mayor proposed an alternative route to the Combined Authority (CA) transport committee on November 4 but failed to secure the necessary support. The GCP board report says that as a consequence, the CA “has no mandate to progress further with the proposals,” and that it is now seeking to resume its own scheme, which was paused while the mayor provided an alternative.

The GCP’s proposal is the revised Cambourne to Cambridge scheme that was due to be discussed by the executive board in June. It includes a park and ride at Scotland Farm, just north of the A428, a purpose-built off-road busway with walking and cycling route connecting from the east of Cambourne to Grange Road in Cambridge, and on-road section with a bus gate in Cambourne.

However, the GCP’s executive board is not yet being asked to select a preferred route, which is an essential step, and the point at which the mayor intervened in February. Instead it will be asked to approve an independent audit which will review the 'assumptions and constraints' that led to the elimination of other route options.

The results of the audit are expected to go before the board next summer and an announcement of a preferred route will follow when the conclusions have been considered.

The board will also be asked to 'initiate the process' of an environmental impact assessment. This will look in greater detail at the issues around a specific route.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, leader of Cambridge City Council and its representative on the GCP executive board, said: “We welcome the recommendations to the upcoming GCP board that both progress and review plans for the Cambridge to Cambourne public transport route.

“People travelling into Cambridge from the west badly need reliable public transport by the mid-2020s to connect both existing and expanding settlements to Cambridge and to employment locations across the area, and a real alternative to cars too often stuck in queuing traffic on the way into Cambridge.”

The December 10 meeting will be the first time the outline business case has been presented to the GCP’s executive board.

The mayor asked for work to be paused on the busway, claiming the GCP proposals may not be compatible with his own transport strategy and metro plan.

The GCP report says that its proposals will be compliant with the transport and metro strategy.

A GCP spokesperson said: “The GCP executive board has not yet made a final decision on a preferred route for the Cambourne to Cambridge scheme and this is not what is being asked at the December board.

“Progressing the C2C scheme is vital to connect growing communities, but the proposed southern alignment continues to face opposition. Stakeholders and residents have asked to see more evidence of environmental impacts and need further confidence in the route assessment process.

“For that reason, in order to make some progress in the face of the significant delay to the project to date, we are recommending that officers should initiate the process of an environmental impact assessment and a further independent audit be undertaken, the results of which would be reported back to the board in July.

“Subject to the outcome of the independent audit, the public EIA consultation on the mitigation proposals for the project would take place in the second half of next year.”

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