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Residents' meeting reveals no-one present supports Cambridge City Deal busway

By Ben Comber

LLF - Park and Ride mock-up from Coton showing potential light pollution from the park and ride
LLF - Park and Ride mock-up from Coton showing potential light pollution from the park and ride

Plans for a new busway plough forward but residents won't take part in workshops to help shape it until their idea is considered.

Members of the Local Liaison Forum (LLF) – assembled to present the voice of residents regarding the proposed £142 million Cambourne to Cambridge busway – left their meeting last Thursday (February 2) deciding not to take part in workshops that would help shape the scheme that the City Deal is working on, illustrated above.

Instead, they put forward their own scheme, Option 6, which involves no off-road busway and a park and ride further outside of the city, and resolved to wait and see if the City Deal board would consider it when it next meets.

There has been much opposition to the off-road busway that is the City Deal’s preferred option. A vote, put to around 50 members of the public who attended the LLF meeting, revealed that no attendees supported it.

Conservation and heritage group Cambridge Past, Present & Future has spoken against the proposals, which would involve construction next to the Coton Countryside Reserve that it maintains.

Chief executive James Littlewood said: “Even without owning land there, we’d be concerned about building a brightly-lit park and ride on top of one of the few hills overlooking Cambridge and creating a road – even though it would be for buses – down the side of that hill.

“There’s no reason why there can’t be an on-road solution. I think if people felt that both on-road and off-road proposals were going to be looked at equally and fairly they would feel a little bit more confident in the process.”

The portion of the scheme illustrated above is planned to be delivered in tranche one of the City Deal’s funding – £100m that it has to spend before 2020.

When the busway was last discussed by the City Deal board in October, South Cambridgeshire’s Conservative MP, Heidi Allen, said that the £140 million price tag and 0.21 benefit-cost ratio made it a white elephant, and urged a return to the drawing board.

Roughly half of this £140 million is to be spent in tranche one, which would procure a park and ride and a busway, as illustrated above.

With about £50 million from other income streams, this project makes up about half of the tranche one spend.

The City Deal board pressed on, asking for an assessment of whether a busway could fit down the A1303, from Madingley Mulch roundabout to the M11. This was presented on Thursday, and the ultimate answer was that it would not fit and a segregated busway through the Green Belt would be a lot cheaper, safer to operate and less of a hindrance to construct.

Further work on this segregated busway was also shown, with three possible routes, each with its own pros and cons, such as visibility from nearby residences and different places to connect to the West Cambridge campus and Grange Road.

The LLF decided not to participate in workshops to discuss the intricacies of each route.

Chair Helen Bradbury said: “We could have sat here tonight and passed resolution after resolution about what we don’t want. In the end we’ve got to say what we’re prepared to accept and start moving towards a proposal of our own.”

This proposal is Option 6 – completely on-road from Cambourne to Cambridge.

The LLF says it would cost approximately £32 million to £35 million to construct and has a benefit-cost ratio of 1.22.

It also said it would take only two minutes longer to get from Cambourne to the West Cambridge campus in comparison to an off-road route.

The idea is that it links a high-speed service along the dual carriageway from Cambourne to Madingley Mulch, connected to a park and ride at Scotland Farm. Then along the length of the A1303 to Grange Road, with connections at the West Cambridge campus.

One parish councillor asked: “If this scheme is so good, why haven’t the experts come up with anything similiar?”

Helen Bradbury said: “We don’t think there has been a valid on-road option ever analysed to this depth.”

Cllr Bridget Smith, vice chair of the LLF, said: “We’re not saying that we’ve necessarily got it all right here, what we’ve done is collated everything that you have said to us into something that we think is workable.

“There needs to be a proper comparative piece of work done between what has been put forward by the City Deal against what has now been put forward by the LLF, and if they prove that it’s all a load of rubbish then so be it, but there’s got to be a proper evidential base for it.

“We think there’s some serious mileage in this, but the important thing is that it is dealt with fairly, and so far things have not been fair.”

A vast majority voted to present the idea to the board.

However, not all LLF members were in support of this idea, with representatives from Madingley Road not keen on more buses entering Cambridge through their neighbourhood.

Another option was presented to the LLF by Smarter Cambridge Transport, based on the belief that the M11-A14-A428 Girton Interchange is where major new infrastructure is needed.

A statement circulated said: “We do not support building major infrastructure that is inherently compromised, unnecessarily damaging, undermines the case for ‘fixing’ the Girton Interchange or is unlikely to have at least 50 years of beneficial use, be it busways, bus lanes or park and rides.”

A City Deal spokesperson said that no final decision on the exact route has been made. The outcome of assessment work is due to be presented to the executive board at a later date as part of a ‘wider business case for the scheme’. Further proposals will be subject to public consultation in late 2017.

The spokesperson confirmed following the meeting that officers are undertaking assessment of ‘on highway’ measures, including those set out in Option 6 as proposed by the LLF.


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