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Tunnelling expert Lord Robert Mair says Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro will be pioneering as he is lined up as SPV chair



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One of the world’s foremost tunnelling experts, Lord Robert Mair, has said the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) can be a “truly pioneering” public transport system, ahead of his expected appointment as chair of the delivery company.

Lord Mair, who grew up in Cambridge, is an international authority on major infrastructure projects that involve tunnelling, having been involved with the design and construction of London’s Jubilee Line Extension, HS1 and Crossrail.

Lord Robert Mair
Lord Robert Mair

He is currently advising on design and construction aspects of HS2 high speed rail link, and has advised on or been a member of expert review panels for the construction of underground metro projects in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bologna, Florence, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Rome, Singapore and Warsaw.

At its September 30 meeting, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority board is expected to appoint him to the £80,000-a-year role of chairing the CAM Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) board.

The SPV will lead the effort to create the £2bn public transport system linking towns and villages with Cambridge, including via an underground section beneath the city, using rubber-tyred vehicles.

Lord Mair, who is emeritus professor of civil engineering and director of research at the University of Cambridge, said: “I am delighted to be recommended as the first chair of the CAM SPV board.

“I grew up, went to school and graduated in Cambridge, returning to the university in 1998 after 27 years in industry. With this background I have a very strong affection and affiliation with this great city and the region.

How the underground metro could change the look of the city (39580723)
How the underground metro could change the look of the city (39580723)

“The vision for CAM is exciting. A flexible, innovative system will be essential in creating the better transport future the region needs and deserves, while also delivering the decarbonised journeys needed to help safeguard the environment.

“The unprecedented effects of a global pandemic have also caused a significant shift in how people travel, which must also be factored into any new transport scheme.

“Now is the moment to deliver a truly pioneering system benefitting people and businesses across the region for decades to come.”

The SPV was set up as a separate company to take responsibility for delivery of the metro, which the Combined Authority hopes could be in place by the end of the decade.

Former Crossrail chief executive Simon Wright has already been appointed as a part-time consultant on the project, as the Cambridge Independent has reported.

Mayor James Palmer said: “The CAM is an enabler of the better, more prosperous and greener future we want for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough by providing world-class public transport normally reserved for cities with populations of half a million or more.

“We have the vision. We are now gathering leading experts with a track record of innovative, bold new thinking to deliver the solution.

Lord Robert Mair
Lord Robert Mair

“It is a testament to the ambition, importance and the pioneering nature of CAM that Lord Robert Mair has agreed to be put forward for recommendation as our first SPV board chair.

“His Cambridge roots will I’m sure add an extra sense of connection to this project and his highly relevant experience and access to extensive networks across industry and academia will help us push CAM forward at pace.

“Momentum is building. Names of the stature of Lord Mair, alongside our appointment of major infrastructure delivery expert Simon Wright OBE this summer, will build further confidence and attract more of the very best talent we need to support the delivery of this groundbreaking scheme.”

Lord Mair was president of the Institution of Civil Engineers from 2017-18, sits as chair of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Science Advisory Council, providing independent scientific and technical advice on road, rail, marine and aviation matters and, since 2015, has sat as an independent crossbench member of the House of Lords, where he also a member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology.

Once confirmed as chair, he will support the recruitment of the rest of the SPV board, with interviews scheduled for the end of October. Recruitment for a chief executive is ongoing.

Metro route map (40404647)
Metro route map (40404647)

The SPV has also now been incorporated, with the name ‘One CAM Limited’, reflecting Mr Palmer’s insistence that a single integrated approach to delivering transport infrastructure improvements for the region is required.

The Combined Authority said it will retain strategic control of CAM, helping to ensure the SPV delivers the vision of a system that supports future prosperity while protecting the environment.

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