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South-east busway would be ‘poor value’ finds report

An independent report has found the proposed £130million Cambridge South East Transport corridor busway could be routed along a disused railway line rather than through the green belt.

South-east busway would be ‘poor value’ finds report
South-east busway would be ‘poor value’ finds report

The damning report also accuses the Greater Cambridge Partnership of a lack of assessment transparency and failing to properly take public consultation feedback into account. It says the preferred route offers poor value for money.

The parish councils of Stapleford and Great Shelford and community groups including Cambridge Past, Present & Future are now calling on the GCP to change track.

The GCP is currently analysing responses to a consultation as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the route, which will 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.

They say the busway scheme has been designed to align with the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM).

The councils argue the GCP proposal risks “exposing Cambridge’s green lung to speculative development” and skirts around the edges rather than serving the villages.

Stapleford and Great Shelford parish councils, supported by crowdfunding, commissioned the independent investigation of an alternative route following the disused Haverhill railway line: the ‘Shelford Railway Alignment’ in a bid to protect its greenbelt for future generations.

A GCP map of the routes considered for the Cambridge South East transport corridor – the brown was chosen. Below, how the busway could look
A GCP map of the routes considered for the Cambridge South East transport corridor – the brown was chosen. Below, how the busway could look

The report from specialist consultancy i-Transport was published last week and found that:

  • The Shelford Railway Alignment can meet the specifications required by the GCP. It can be fully segregated, compliant with a future Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM), and does not require the large-scale demolition that was given as a reason for excluding this route.
  • Using the old railway line would take the alignment through the villages, which would increase passenger numbers compared to a route on the edge of the villages.
  • The economic case for the Cambridge South East Transport Study (CSETS) scheme relies on the community using the new busway. The costs of the CSETS scheme relative to the benefits offers poor value for money, with a benefit-to-cost ratio of less than half that sought by the GCP board.
  • Reusing the former railway would avoid damaging the greenbelt.
  • The costs of the scheme relative to the benefits demonstrate the GCP’s preferred provides poor value for money.
  • There are serious weaknesses in the process used to arrive at the conclusion reached by the GCP, including a lack of assessment transparency, unsubstantiated key decisions and public consultation feedback not properly taken into account.

Stapleford and Great Shelford Parish Councils have now made a formal request to the GCP to pause its plans and reappraise the use of the disused railway line as a genuine alternative.

Despite consulting on transport options with local politicians, parish councils and the community since 2016, the GCP has never asked for views on re-using part of the former railway line.

Cllr Howard Kettel, chair of Stapleford Parish Council, said: “We owe it to future generations who will live in our village to protect our greenbelt countryside for them to enjoy. We are incredibly grateful to the local community for donating £12,000 towards this effort. i-Transport’s report shows that there is an alternative and we now want to see the political will to look at this option properly, including giving the people of this an area a chance to have their say.”

A GCP spokesperson said: “We have received a report on an alternative Shelford Railway alignment proposal for the Cambridge South East Transport Phase 2 project on behalf of Great Shelford and Stapleford Parish Councils. Our project team will consider the proposal.

“The GCP’s Cambridge South East Transport project will provide rapid and reliable journeys between the city, key employment sites and communities to the south-east on a dedicated public transport route and improved walking and cycling links. The scheme has been developed over many years, including three public consultations and extensive technical work. Rail-based alternatives were considered but are more expensive, inflexible and would not be able to provide the level of connectivity the GCP’s proposals will to serve major new developments in the area.”

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