Split opinion over bus plans for Cambourne to Cambridge route
A controversial plan to create a new public transport route from Cambourne to Cambridge has split opinion about whether to spend millions on an off-road bus route.
Almost half of all respondents (48%) to the consultation on the second phase of the Cambourne to Cambridge scheme supported an off-road route between Madingley Mulch roundabout and Bourn Airfield.
But the leader of a coalition of 23 parish councils to the west of Cambridge has branded it a ‘busway to nowhere’.
And 39 per cent of people surveyed said they preferred an ‘on road’ option of some kind, meaning the creation of extra bus lanes on existing roads.
Almost 1,000 people responded to the survey, which also concluded Scotland Farm was the preferred option (63 per cent) for a new Park & Ride over the alternative proposed for the former Waterworks site near the Madingley Much roundabout (17 per cent).
Cllr Lewis Herbert, chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s executive board, said: “People travelling in and out of Cambridge from the west need their share of the world-class public transport system that is being developed for Cambridge and out across Cambridgeshire, so they need alternatives to relying on their cars so they can move around quickly and more reliably in the future.
“Developing the Cambourne to Cambridge scheme will give people the option to leave their cars either at home or at a new Park & Ride outside the city and travel in and out of Cambridge more easily on enhanced public transport services, either buses in the short term or the CAM metro when it links this and five other routes into a single network. This scheme also delivers upgraded foot and cycle paths along the full route as great alternatives and additions, particularly for shorter journeys.
“It is a vital element in completing the overall network and we must take action now to reduce congestion on our busy roads, improve the quality of the air by cutting the emissions we breathe in, and connect growing communities to jobs, education and the city centre.”
The three options for the link between Madingley Mulch roundabout and Bourn roundabout put to consultation were:
Option 1 - entirely off-road, only interacting with other traffic at junctions. Estimated cost: £43m (Phase 2 costs only, excludes land and risk costs)
Option 2 - entirely on-road, with public transport mixing with general traffic and basic junction improvements.Estimated cost: £25m (Phase 2 costs only, excludes land and risk costs)
Option 3 - entirely on-road, but with dedicated public transport lanes. Estimated cost: £38m (Phase 2 costs only, excludes land and risk costs)
In total, 968 people responded to the eight week public consultation on phase two of the Cambourne to Cambridge project, which closed on March 31. The off-road route option received the most support, (48 per cent) while 20 per cent preferred an on-road with public transport priority lanes option, 19 per cent indicated their preference for an on-road with junction improvements option (49 per cent in total for on road options) and nine per cent said they did not want any of the proposed options.
More than 2,000 people responded to a public consultation on phase one in winter 2017-18.
The scheme aims to introduce a reliable public transport link connecting Cambourne with the city to offer sustainable travel and support the predicted growth in the area – helping link more than 8,000 new homes that are planned for 2031 and more than 44,000 new jobs expected in the city region
However, Steve Jones, a councillor in Bourn and the convenor of the coalition of parish councils - representing 23 councils west of Cambridge - said they had concerns about the project.
“It seems hard to justify a huge investment for an off road solution that ends in Grange Road and gets you there possibly only five minutes faster than an on road solution could.
“I think we have to wait until we hear from the mayor about his plans about what is going to happen with a light rail or tunnels through Cambridge. Surely the busway should fit in with that network.”
He added: “Cambourne people quite rightly have a wish to get into Cambridge as quickly and smoothly as possible but only 23 per cent of Cambourne people actually work in the centre of Cambridge. We did a survey last year showing this which is corroborated by the census. We project that even with the shift to bus use brought about by this project the number of cars going through the villages will rise from around 3,000 to around 7,000.”
He offered a different solution to the traffic tailbacks through the villages.
“What we really need from Bourn Airfield is a direct link to the A 428 to reduce the number of cars forced onto local roads that will end up coming through villages such as Bourn, Toft Comberton, Hardwick, Coton and Madingley - basically any way traffic can find to get through to the A603 at Barton to get to Addenbrooke’s, which is a major employer,” said Steve.
“Bourn Airfield is actually a stupid place to build a new settlement because you are tying people into using their cars to drive 15 or 20 miles to get to work. Either they will be driving to research parks north of Cambridge or they are going to be driving to the Biomedical Campus and all of the other biotech businesses south of Cambridge.
All of those going south won’t be able to get there without the Girton interchange being upgraded so they can get onto the A11 without driving through the villages.”
The parish councils back an on road bus lane as a stopgap solution until other decisions are made about the Cambridge metro.
“We shouldn't be spending millions on a scheme which is going to be a busway to nowhere. I’m shocked we are potentially wasting public money. When you don’t have a busway that easily gets you to the science parks or Addenbrooke's it is only a busway for a quarter of the population who actually travel from Cambourne into the city centre. The point about employment in Cambridge is it is very spread out.”
The parish councils represented by the coalition include: Barrington, Barton, Bourn, Boxworth, Caldecote, Cambourne, Caxton, Comberton, Conington, Coton, Croxton, Dry Drayton, Elsworth, Eltisley, Eversdens, Grantchester, Hardwick, Kingston, Knapwell, Longstowe, Madingley, Toft and Wimpole.
Helen Bradbury, of Coton Parish Council, and chair of the local liaison forum, added: “As a scheme we think it is hopeless because it will cost around £200 million and it is not clear how people will reach key employment sites from the final stop at Grange Road.
“We argue they would be better off putting bus lanes on existing infrastructure because we don’t know the details yet of the East West rail link will go, whether there will be tunnels, whether or not the Girton Interchange will be upgraded - which would be an ideal place to start the Metro there instead.”
According to a summary of the survey results, Barton Parish Council, Cambridge Connect, Smarter Cambridge Transport, Cambridge Past, Present & Future, Save the West Fields all felt that the development of the Girton Interchange would offer a greater improvement to the reduction of congestion and connectivity of public transport.
The consultation results and the recommended end-to-end route from Cambourne into west Cambridge will be presented to the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s executive board for a decision in October.
More by this authorAlex Spencer