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‘We can deliver metro in stages,’ says Greater Cambridge Partnership chief

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

A CAM Metro network of segregated transport routes and underground tunnels is “in touching distance”.

CAM metro schematic
CAM metro schematic

The Greater Cambridge Partnership's chief executive Rachel Stopard has said the £1.5billion CAM metro system could be built incrementally, by converting some infrastructure that already exists and some that is currently being planned. It could then be expanded in future.

The network would have at its centre an underground station in the centre of the city. Wherever it is, Ms Stopard said the visual intrusion would be 'minimal', as people would only see access points at ground level, such as stairways or lifts.

She said elements of the network could be delivered in the early 2020s, and that some segregated busways that are being proposed will likely become part of the network as soon as they open.

Ahead of the plans being discussed by the GCP's joint assembly tomorrow (Thursday), Ms Stopard told the Cambridge Independent:"The schemes that we're currently working on can transition to be part of that metro network. That's the key.

GCP Cambridge Transport Network 2050
GCP Cambridge Transport Network 2050

"You don't have to wait for it all to be running. We can deliver bits that we've started to work on earlier. Ultimately, especially with tunnelling involved, it is going to take a number of years to actually get the full metro system up and running, but we'd like to see some of these elements delivered in the early 2020s. And that's more feasible because of the work that we've already started.

"They can transition to be suitable for the metro if we do arrive at this being the system that we want."

The CAM Metro concept has been proposed after a high-level comparison of many different modes of public transport, determining which would best serve the region. It will be considered by the Combined Authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough on January 31 and the GCP board on February 8.

Ms Stopard continued:"We don't have all the answers yet. But what we've now proven is that there is an affordable public transport system that could be transformational for Cambridge and other small- to medium-sized cities."

She said that while the GCP is looking at a type of public transport vehicle used in China, the body would want to design its own vehicle, which would run on rubber tyres.

"We're in new territory about what this looks like because it is going to go into tunnels,she said."These are a new type of vehicle, but they are rubber-tyred. At the end of the day, you're just building a bit of segregated roadway. It could be for a bus in the shorter term but it then can be for a metro.

"Obviously we want the metro to be autonomous, but if the technology isn't there at the time when this is built, then it can have a driver in the short term. The real beauty of this system is that it can move with the times and be adaptable and build up incrementally over the course of the next eight to 10 years. We can build this network and make transport more efficient and effective during that period."

The GCP is looking at ways to disincentivise driving in the city. Some of these, including a polution charge and workplace parking levy, would make money that the GCP could borrow against to fund the CAM Metro.

Ms Stopard continued:"Costs are around £1.5-£1.7billion. Already you could say GCP has the funding, subject to our gateway review, to deliver these key elements which is probably around £250-£300million.

"In addition to that we're having ongoing discussions about demand management in the city centre, so I think GCP could be contributing in the order of about half a billion towards delivery of this.

"Then the Combined Authority mayor, James Palmer, has got really exciting ideas about land value capture. There are lots of different mechanisms and the private sector is also really excited about this. You're probably looking at a private-public partnership with a range of different mechanisms so that £1.5billion, when you break it down, feels deliverable."

The project relies on working in partnership with the mayor, who is now responsible for strategic transport decision-making. He has spoken against the GCP building busways.

Ms Stopard said:"We're trying to explain that this can help if you see these busways as public transport routes, whether it's a bus in the short term but then a metro in the long term. The beauty is that we can deliver sooner because we're already some way down the line on delivering those routes.

"The mayor has the vision for the metro but it is all part of a joined-up approach and an integrated solution that is all starting to come together and hopefully people can see it is in touching distance that we could have something operating like this which would be transformational in terms of public transport in Cambridge."

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