In autumn 2022, the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) held a public consultation on its ‘Making Connections’ project. The scheme aimed to transform the bus network and invest in better walking and cycling infrastructure, and included the introduction of a Sustainable Travel Zone (STZ) which would include a road charge. In August 2023, the proposals were revised, but following a breakdown in political consensus the GCP Executive Board agreed not to progress the project. All parties agree that inaction – on issues including congestion, road safety, air pollution and carbon reduction – is not an option, but a new plan is yet to come forward.
What were the GCP’s Sustainable Travel Zone proposals?
Camcycle published an explainer guide to the Sustainable Travel Zone in August, when the proposals were first announced. More information was then published on the GCP’s consultation website: this GCP consultation booklet gives a summary of what was planned and this video also provides a useful overview.
Initially, the plan was for a £50 million upfront investment in sustainable transport (mostly improved bus services, but some cycling and walking improvements too), followed by the introduction of a daily weekday road charge for drivers of vehicles travelling into, within or out of the ‘Sustainable Travel Zone’ which covered the majority of the city within (and excluding) the Park & Ride sites. Income from the road charge would have been used for long-term funding of the bus network and further active travel and public realm improvements. Following the feedback gained from the consultation report published in May 2023, revised proposals were published in August 2023. Camcycle produced a summary of the STZ changes in this blogpost. However, these proposals were not scrutinised by the GCP Joint Assembly or Board as it had become clear that the unanimous vote needed was not possible due to the withdrawal of support for the scheme from South Cambridgeshire LibDems and then the Cambridge City Labour group.
What was Camcycle’s position on the Sustainable Travel Zone?
Camcycle supported the principle of a Sustainable Travel Zone for Cambridge because the consistent funding and increased roadspace freed up by a reduction in traffic would have been transformative for cycling, enabling many more people to ride on safe, attractive and convenient routes. However, we were concerned about public lack of trust in the quality of the sustainable transport alternatives and the scant detail on walking and cycling improvements. We also wanted to see a detailed communications and behaviour change plan to help support people as they made the transition to sustainable modes of transport.
We have surveyed our members several times on the STZ proposals. There was a wide range of views within our membership, but 88% supported the principle of a Sustainable Travel Zone in August 2022 and a significant majority continued to support our position on the scheme. We included many detailed points from members in our official consultation response and used member feedback to inform our campaigning after the publication of the consultation report.
What campaigning did Camcycle do around this issue?
Camcycle’s policy on car use and ownership states that ‘reducing the use of cars and reallocating space and priority to walking and cycling helps to solve urban and environmental issues and creates safe, healthy and attractive places for people to live, work and visit’. We have long campaigned for demand management measures, which may be fiscal (e.g. road or parking charges) or physical (e.g. modal filters and roadspace reallocation) to achieve these aims.
Because the Sustainable Travel Zone was a wider transport scheme, we united with Cambridge Living Streets (the local branch of the pedestrian charity) and Cambridge Area Bus Users to form the Cambridgeshire Sustainable Travel Alliance, an organisation working for a transport network that protects our future and offers genuine choice. The Alliance currently represents 31 different charities and groups focusing on transport, environmental issues and health. It promoted public engagement in the STZ consultation through a campaign asking ‘If not now, then when?’
Following the GCP’s consultation, the Alliance commissioned a representative YouGov survey of Cambridgeshire residents to find out more about what the public thought about the proposals and how local authorities were tackling transport issues including affordability and climate change.
This list highlights some of Camcycle’s campaign action around the STZ:
- Consultation guide to Making Connections 2021 (the first consultation around the scheme)
- Initial statement on proposals for a Sustainable Travel Zone (August 2022). We were interviewed by BBC Look East and ITV Anglia around this time.
- Explainer guide to the Sustainable Travel Zone proposals
- Question to the GCP Joint Assembly (8 September 2022) – watch on YouTube. Topic: ensuring sustainable alternatives are delivered quickly and there are good communications and behaviour change plans in place.
- Question to the GCP Executive Board (28 September 2022) – watch on YouTube. Topic: ensuring the consultation reaches people of all ages, from all demographics of society.
- Monthly meeting with Alistair Cox, the GCP’s Technical Director for the STZ. The recording includes answers to nearly 50 questions from attendees.
- Our Winter 2022/23 magazine included a summary of the STZ proposals, an article on the launch of the Cambridgeshire Sustainable Travel Alliance, a short consultation guide and an opinion piece by trustee Robin Heydon on why ‘the Sustainable Travel Zone is the only way to solve the problems we have’.
- Online consultation guide and full response to the Making Connections 2022 consultation.
- Camcycle was invited to appear on the BBC Politics East debate in February 2023 and featured in the BBC’s online report of the show.
- Our Spring 2023 magazine included a short update on the STZ campaign.
- Our Board of Trustees published an initial response to the GCP consultation report in May 2023, which included feedback from our second member survey on the STZ.
- Question to the GCP Joint Assembly (8 June 2023) which focused on ways to make the scheme better and fairer: we produced a detailed briefing paper to support these points. View the recording on YouTube.
- Question to the GCP Executive Board (29 June 2023) – watch on YouTube. Topic: ensuring income for sustainable transport, ringfencing 20% for walking and cycling and delivering active travel quick wins.
- Our Summer 2023 magazine included summaries of results from the GCP consultation report and our second STZ member survey, plus an update on the Cambridgeshire Sustainable Travel Alliance.
- Explainer summary of the proposed revisions to the Sustainable Travel Zone
- ‘Inaction is a political choice’: statement released following the annoucement of the withdrawal of support from the South Cambridgeshire Lib Dems. This was picked up by several media outlets including the Cambridge Independent, Local Transport Today and Road.cc. We chose to read this at the GCP Joint Assembly meeting (7 September 2023) instead of our pre-prepared question on active travel funding. View the recording on YouTube.
- Question to the GCP Executive Board (28 September 2023) – watch on YouTube. Topic: political failure, what’s next?
What happens next?
A bold scheme is still needed to reduce traffic in Cambridge, improve sustainable transport options and tackle issues including pollution, congestion and carbon emissions. Camcycle is working on our theory of change for the next steps of this campaign. Meanwhile we will continue to scrutinise other plans from the GCP and other local authorities such as proposals on a new road hierarchy, an updated parking strategy and a revised Local Transport and Connectivity Plan.
How can I help?
JOIN Camcycle if you’re not already a member. We need your voice and support to help shape and direct our campaigning.
SIGN UP to get involved with the work of the Cambridgeshire Sustainable Travel Alliance. If not the STZ, then what? If not now, then when will we begin to tackle our region’s issues?
DONATE to this work. You can directly support our work for traffic reduction, by giving via this Sustainable Travel Zone donation page. Your kind contributions will be used for campaigning costs such as creating campaign content and printing leaflets and posters.