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Transport for London modelled authority proposed for Cambridgeshire

CAM metro would run on rubber wheels
CAM metro would run on rubber wheels

A Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) could be the vehicle that drives forward a Transport for London-style authority for Cambridgeshire, with mayor James Palmer at its head.

In a comparison of different modes of public transport that could be adopted in the region, CAM was thought to be the ‘only option’ that could provide value for the £1.5billion it would cost.

The network would introduce 42km of segregated road, including tunnels under Cambridge, that would link the city to surrounding towns, navigated by driverless electric vehicles based on some used in China.

The findings of a study by consultants Steer Davies Gleave were presented at a meeting of the Combined Authority’s joint assembly last Thursday.

A spokesman for the firm said: “We can’t at all say that it does represent value for money, but we are fairly clear that it’s the only option that offers the potential to offer value for money.

“What is fundamental is that it would be owned and managed by the Combined Authority, which means it would have control over the routing, frequency, fares and vehicles.

“It would also be fully integrated with other public transport modes.

“Subject to further analysis we think it would be commercially viable and not require any subsidy to operate.

“When you get units to a driverless operation the nature of segregation means you’ve got a win-win in that you’ve got faster journey times, which reduces the costs side of the equation, and it’s more attractive to passengers so you get more revenues.”

They said “significant local funding” would be required, but that there would also be potential to gain hundreds of millions of the funds needed from central government, National Infrastructure Commission and other technology-related funds.

The network could start operating in 2021, with potential for the full network operating by 2026-27.

Business leaders at the meeting welcomed the plan, with Claire Ruskin, CEO of Cambridge Network, calling it “ambitious and progressive”.

Sir Michael Marshall, chairman of Marshall of Cambridge, said: “It’s a brilliant concept, if deliverable and sustainable, affordable and so on. But it must not come at the cost of other road improvements.

“You need to make sure that at every point where you might be able to get one of these buses, for want of a better word, there is parking for those who get to those points.”

The Liberal Democrat leader on the city council, Cllr Tim Bick, said the debate being had was “half-cocked”, and more information was needed before a commitment to CAM could be made.

He said: “I’m going to refrain from saying this is totally brilliant because we haven’t got the full report in front of us.

“As with all these things you can only have a snap-shot. There are things that obviously remain to be thought about before one can say that this is exactly the right thing.”

He said some details need to be made clear, such as the ongoing financial sustainability of the network – how much would passengers actually be expected to pay to make it sustainable, and is this cost really affordable? He also said it needs to be made clear how it might impact other public transport provision, and ensure the city centre underground station does not negatively impact or exclude an area of the city.

“If you live somewhere in the middle of north Cambridge it’s difficult to see how you’d make this work for you,” he said.

“We need to think about this in the round. We could be really disadvantaging one part of the city centre if we don’t get that right.”

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