A better City Deal for Greater Cambridge

This article was published in 2015, in Newsletter 122.

Making transport easy and reliable for everyone

The Greater Cambridge City Deal, worth up to one billion pounds, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the councils do something radical and transformational for transport in south Cambridgeshire. Cambridge is already the cycling capital of Britain; it could become the green transport capital.

That may seem like a pipe dream given the mess we’re in now. Those lucky enough to live in the city have the best of it: they can get around the city on their bikes without too much difficulty. And £12.5m of City Deal money is already earmarked for improving cycling infrastructure in the city, including the Chisholm Trail.

Leader of the Better City Deal campaign, Edward Leigh, was recently interviewed by Cambridge TV News to explain the ten-point plan and the benefits for cyclists.
Image as described adjacent

But for people living outside the city – not by choice in many cases – the situation is dire: long and unpredictable journey times, dangerously congested trunk roads, and villages blighted by rat-running. Few villages have safe, well-connected cycle paths, so cycling isn’t even an option for most people.

When the City Deal board published proposals to build either a bus lane along Madingley Road or a busway through the West Fields, alarm bells started ringing: surely we’re not going to solve the region’s transport problems with bus lanes? And the idea that a bus lane can serve as a cycle lane (as it would have to on the relatively narrow Madingley Road) is dangerously regressive.

Hence was born the Better City Deal campaign, supported by the Cycling Campaign. A growing team of people have come together to design a coherent transport infrastructure for the Cambridge region. Our mission is simple:

  • give people more travel options
  • make journey times predictable
  • enable buses to run faster
  • make multi-modal* journeys easier
  • make paying for transport and parking simpler
  • make cycling and walking safer and more enjoyable.

We have put together a ten-point plan for realising these aims

1. Implement smart traffic management in the city

Use proven technology to regulate traffic flow into the city, so that congestion is experienced (if at all) only at the edges of the city. This will result in predictable journey times for all road users (electronic signs will indicate expected queuing times), and faster journeys by bus. There will be no need for bus lanes within the city, leaving space for more segregated cycle lanes.

2. Build more Park & Ride sites

Every major route into Cambridge will pass within easy reach of a Park & Ride site.

3. Create transport hubs in and around Cambridge

These hubs will typically be sited within easy walking and cycling distance of a large number of homes or a significant destination (such as a business park or school). Some, like Park & Ride sites, will serve primarily as transport interchanges. All hubs will provide shelter, secure cycle parking, and live transport information. Larger hubs will also provide car parking, a waiting room, toilets and lockers. Some may also have a coffee shop or a small convenience store, also serving as a parcel/shopping collection point.

4. Reorganise bus services

Reorganise city, rural, Park & Ride, works and school bus services into express and local services. Express services will run frequently between transport hubs, following direct routes with widely-spaced stops. These will connect at hubs with local services, providing connections to homes, schools, businesses and amenities in the surrounding area.

Traffic jam in Newmarket Road.
Image as described adjacent

5. Simplify ticketing

Implement smart ticketing for all public transport, car parking and cycle hire within the region to facilitate multi-modal* journeys.

6. Create a transport planner

Create a website and app for people to plan journeys, see real-time travel updates, purchase tickets and reserve car parking spaces.

7. Make strategic modifications to the road network

Redesign junctions (such as the Girton interchange), build new link roads (such as a southern orbital), and close more city roads to through traffic to facilitate efficient movement of traffic along major routes, and reduce the volume of traffic through residential areas and villages.

8. Enhance access to rail services

Build a Cambridge South station to serve Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the new Biomedical Campus. Build a new station to serve Fulbourn, Cherry Hinton and Teversham. Build a new station at Soham. Replace Waterbeach station with a larger station to the north, serving Waterbeach New Town and village. Create eastern entrances to Cambridge Central and North stations.

9. Promote city-wide goods delivery services

Promote integrated delivery services to and from local shops and businesses via depots/collection points at transport hubs (see 3). Specify operating conditions, including low environmental impact, for couriers to be granted privileged access into the city and through road closure points.

10. Rationalise car parking in the city

Gradually phase out free parking options for commuters. Shift some residential parking to off-street sites. Repurpose multi-storey car park space. Phase out on-street parking where it is especially hazardous to cyclists. Charge employers a workplace parking levy to encourage employees to use alternatives to driving.

If this ten-point plan is implemented, congestion in the city will be rare, and transport engineers will no longer be under pressure to design road infrastructure to maximise motor vehicle throughput. So we can expect to experience less noise and pollution and to see:

  • better facilities for pedestrians, including wider footways and more road crossings
  • more segregated cycle lanes
  • advance green lights for cyclists at all major junctions
  • and high quality cycle paths connecting homes, businesses, shops and amenities throughout Greater Cambridge.

We will publish more detail about each of the ten measures on the Better City Deal website (bettercitydeal.com) over the coming months. As part of developing our ideas we are consulting widely with people across the region: councillors, council officers, residents’ associations, special interest groups, business organisations, and individuals with good ideas. Don’t wait for us to find you: talk to us now!

Follow us on Twitter @BetterCityDeal or sign up on our website for regular updates. And if you have some time to give, join us or help us: we need your support on this epic journey.

Edward Leigh (@BetterCityDeal)

*Multi-modal: involving more than one mode of transport to complete the journey, e.g. catching more than one bus, or cycling to catch a bus, or taking a bus then renting a bicycle.