City Deal for Madingley Road/A1303/A428 corridor

This article was published in 2015, in Newsletter 121.

The first City Deal (bit.ly/gccitydeal) scheme to come to public consultation will be for the Madingley Road/A428 corridor. Local councils have identified improving public transport as the top priority. Unfortunately they, or their contracted consultants Atkins, decided that building bus lanes/ways is the only solution worth considering for this corridor.

Briefly, the proposal is to build new capacity for buses in two phases using two tranches of funding: the first will run to a proposed new park-and-ride site at Madingley Mulch roundabout; the second onwards to Cambourne. The options, shown in draft on the map below, range from adding a bus lane along sections of the route to building a new busway from Cambourne to Grange Road.

It is proposed that [cycling and walking] facilities will remain largely unchanged, but the bus lane may provide an alternative option for those cyclists who choose to use the road (Atkins report)

The busway options (1c and 2c) offer the most for cyclists because they incorporate dedicated cycle/footways similar to those found alongside the Guided Busway. However they are also by far the most expensive (at £67m and £27.5m respectively), and will meet concerted opposition from protectors of the green belt, and residents in Coton and Newnham.

The other options, for the most part, offer little for cyclists. Graham Hughes (executive director of economy, transport and environment at Cambridgeshire County Council) has given repeated assurances that ‘high quality’ cycling infrastructure will be a part of whatever scheme is built, but this is difficult to reconcile with the Atkins report (bit.ly/atkinsreport): ‘It is proposed that [cycling and walking] facilities will remain largely unchanged, but the bus lane may provide an alternative option for those cyclists who choose to use the road.’ [para 2.63 and similarly in 2.59]. The existing facilities are mostly poor and disjointed, with little scope for improvement if the road is widened. And sharing a bus lane is neither safe for cyclists nor good for bus punctuality.

Although the City Deal Executive Board is willing to back a ‘hybrid option’, it is not willing to put forward a stand-alone cycle/footway option, even though it might be popular and cost-effective when combined with one of the cheaper road options.

Councillor Des O’Brien (Bourn, S. Cambs) has expressed a generally held scepticism about a cycleway linking Cambourne to Cambridge: ‘How realistic are plans to have cyclists commute ten or more miles to Cambridge and beyond?’ But he and others miss the point: linking Cambourne, Highfields Caldecote, Hardwick, Coton and Cambridge is not simply about getting commuters into Cambridge; it’s about linking communities with each other and with local schools, shops and amenities.

A British Cycling report (bit.ly/cyclingbenefits) concluded that Danish levels of cycling in the UK could save the NHS £17 billion within 20 years, reduce road deaths by 30%, increase mobility of the nation’s poorest families by 25%, increase retail sales by a quarter, and cut congestion. The city council might buy this, but the county council and South Cambs Council do not.

Perhaps most disappointing is the total lack of consultation, research, analysis and traffic modelling in coming up with these proposals. Why, where, when and how do people travel now? What choices do they have and would they like? For each of these options, what will traffic flows be once thousands of new homes have been built in this corridor, including the 3,000 homes and 2,000 rooms for postgraduates on the North West site (www.nwcambridge.co.uk)? This is critical information that people will not have when they respond to the public consultation in September/October.

In the next newsletter we will review the options in more detail, propose alternatives, and let you know how you can influence the outcome of the consultation.

Edward Leigh @edwardaleigh

Draft map of options coming to public consultation in September.
Image as described adjacent