Stagecoach East boss Andy Campbell calls for huge new bus station on Christ's Pieces in Cambridge
He says the current one on Drummer Street is not fit for purpose
There are calls for a new bus station twice the size of the existing one to be built on a Cambridge park because current provision is “unfit for purpose”.
Andy Campbell, managing director of Stagecoach East, said the Drummer Street station is too small and will not be able to cope with increased services coming in from growth in nearby towns like Northstowe, Waterbeach, Ely and Haverhill.
Mr Campbell said a new high-tech bus station, twice the size of the existing one, should be built in Christ’s Pieces.
He said the new station could include toilets and cafes, and could also have electric charging points for electric buses. He added the new bus station should be built on the park in the site currently occupied by the bowling green. He said the green could be relocated to the site of the current bus station, which would be returned to parkland to compensate for the loss of green space.
But Lewis Herbert, leader of Cambridge City Council and chairman of the Greater Cambridge Partnership board, said the scheme is not suitable for such a “sensitive” part of the city centre.
He pointed out that the park has just won a Green Flag award, and that building a bus station on it would not be popular. He agreed that a better bus station would help, but said it was hard to think of a suitable place in the city centre.
“It is not simple with the geography of the city,” said Cllr Herbert. “But I don’t think people will like a proposal that just nicks green space.”
Cllr Herbert said more could be made of an interchange near the railway station. Mr Campbell said the bus station plans have not been very popular with people he’s shared them with so far.
“A number of people have called it the Andy Campbell memorial bus station,” said Mr Campbell. “Because they say ‘over my dead body’. I think it is a relatively easy win and will give people proper facilities where buses can wait.”
Having the larger bus station, with access from Emmanuel Road and Parker Street, would mean the bus stops in Drummer Street and Emmanuel Road could be removed, making those streets less cluttered and congested, said Mr Campbell.
Mr Campbell said now is the time for “radical” solutions to the city’s transport problems. He said he was sceptical of metro plans in the city, and said buses needed to be part of the plan. Other locations for a new station in the city centre, like Parker’s Piece, would be, he said, equally unpopular, but there is a need to improve the bus interchange to make services more suitable.
Mr Campbell also said he did not think bus franchising is the answer. He said it was important to wait to see the results of the mayor’s bus review, but said that, in his view, a quality partnership between bus companies and local government is the best way forward.
“I think we need to do something now, and something fairly radical,” said Mr Campbell. “Cambridge is a beautiful city and we don’t want to put a blot on the landscape. I think it will be more aesthetically pleasing than what is there at the moment.”
Cllr Tim Bick, Lib Dem leader on Cambridge City Council, and ward councillor for Market ward, where Christ’s Pieces is situated, said a deeper rethink of how buses accessed the city was needed.
“Our city does need a massively improved public transport system and part of the solution is likely to be a big increase in bus services,” Cllr Bick said. “We already struggle to accommodate the current number of buses within our narrow historic streets as well as keeping cyclists and pedestrians safe.
“I think we’ve reached the point where this can’t be just about bolting more onto the current approach. We need to re-invent the way buses serve the city, in particular to move away from the idea that all services have to go through the city centre; perhaps also to question whether the centre has to be a single stop in the middle, rather an a slightly larger area accessed at several points on the edge of the centre, with a smaller shuttle bus available around the centre.
“Digging up the city’s open spaces to provide a bigger central bus station hasn’t been acceptable when it’s been raised before and it shouldn’t be now. If we did it, we would start to degrade the destination that makes our city centre so special. Apart from anything else it pre-supposes an overall capacity for buses that the wider city centre simply doesn’t have.”
Campaign group Smarter Cambridge Transport said instead of a large central interchange, there should be a series of smaller bus stops on the ring road around the city.
A spokesman for the group said: “We’re in the process of updating a proposal that would see buses use the inner ring road as a bus hub, making interchanging simple and quick.
“Cambridge North should definitely be developed as a multi-modal transport hub, but it has poor road connections to the rest of the city. That will improve as a bus route opens up through Darwin Green and Eddington into West Cambridge. But south and east, not so good.”
Mr Campbell said small bus stops on the periphery of the city centre would not work, as people would have to walk too far to access the historic core.