The A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign was conceived in the autumn of 2012 with the help of Jim Chisholm, Rohan Wilson and Patrick Joyce. Would it be worth launching a campaign to connect Cambridge and Royston? Potential for a shift to sustainable transport – rail and cycle – along this corridor was a no-brainer. But venturing beyond the Cambridge necklace villages with a cycle infrastructure agenda was going to be ambitious, because the radial boundary for Department for Transport (DfT) funding has traditionally been about six miles outside Cambridge. We could work on funding as far south as Foxton but further out we’d be in unknown territory. Nevertheless the consensus was that whatever opportunities might exist would not be realised without a genuine grassroots community group.
Jim contributed the notion of Active Travel which opened up thinking on health benefits. Patrick provided council officer support. Rohan, from Sustrans, scoped-out optimum routes. A spine route connecting Royston through Melbourn and Dunsbridge Turnpike, then sticking to the A10 all the way to Trumpington, was felt to be the one that would facilitate the first priority: enabling people to set off from home by bicycle. From a spine route, a network could grow.
The inaugural meeting of the campaign on a freezing night in January 2013 was quite simply overflowing and instantly broke the artificial county barrier. The show of support from Royston, made a very strong impression and the critical sub-link between Royston and Melbourn could not have been more strongly brought to attention. The fact that the campaign was bound together by new friendships and an ethos of working constructively together helped us to get off the ground and stay the course.
An early opportunity for funding quickly arose: a round of DfT Cycling Ambition grant had spare capacity, to the tune of about one kilometre of pedestrian/cycle path. A ‘Link to Foxton Station’ scheme took shape and the new path – actually in Shepreth headed toward Foxton – demonstrated just how effective good cycling conditions could be – though as an unconnected kilometre of cycle path take-up was minimal.
The City Deal was coming into focus at this time, but not yet off the ground. Our campaign was on the lookout and the next concerted effort was to support Cambridgeshire’s bid to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund for a Melbourn-Royston path. All expectations were that this would be realised, but ultimately the DfT awarded funding for soft measures only. Nevertheless this led to valuable Personalised Travel Planning work in Melbourn, completed in March 2016, which even without new infrastructure brought about a 10% shift away from single-occupancy car journeys and new take-up of rail and cycle options.
As the City Deal took shape it seemed that the Cambridge-Royston cycle link would be a given: it ticked all the boxes in a rural corridor characterised by residential communities, large employers and short journeydistances to work. In anticipation, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire officers, brought together via the A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign, worked on detailed plans for the cross-border connection, including the all-important pedestrian-cycle bridge over the impassable A505/A10 roundabout. Hertfordshire commissioned a detailed feasibility study for a bridge and it was widely expected that a complete Cambridge-Royston link would be commissioned via the City Deal.
This was not the case. The demotion of the A10 scheme to Tranche 2 funding was a bitter blow and the horizon looked bleak. The lone Shepreth kilometre would become a liability rather than an asset if connections north and south were not quickly created. We decided to forge connections with the vibrant A10 business community which stood to benefit from the creation of a continuous cycle link. Over 100 businesses, from the Plough pub in Shepreth to ARM, as well as all eleven Cambridge Biomedical Campus partners, signed a letter to the City Deal Board expressing support for a Cambridge-Royston cycle link. This exercise opened up valuable new relationships and forced us to articulate the case ever more strongly. Campaign meetings moved from village halls to corporate premises, and the conversation strengthened.
A new round of Cycling Ambition Fund was applied for, and two months after the City Deal Tranche One demotion, DfT funding was secured to take a path through Harston, and from Harston to Foxton – critically, joining up with the orphan Shepreth path. The first section to be built connected Harston Mill to Barrington Road near Foxton Crossing and was instantly transformative for cycle commuting. Leisure cycling too took a leap forward and families cycling south to Shepreth Wildlife Park and elsewhere became a familiar sight. Harston High Street options meanwhile underwent detailed public consultations, and plans were tweaked and improved – funding is secure and we hope that the work will take place early next year.
The pieces of the puzzle were coming together now, in spite of the initial City Deal demotion. It has been important to keep the City Deal informed of other efforts at finding funding solutions. It was helpful always to be able to refer to the City Deal’s own Cambridge-Royston cycle scheme aspiration, because it confirmed the broad consensus that this was a valuable scheme.
Focus turned to the southern end, still without funding. Barrington’s Councillor Aidan Van de Weyer and I visited the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) offices in Alconbury, to make the case for putting the Melbourn-Royston route on the LEP radar. Critically, Royston falls within the LEP boundary. The City Deal had made it clear that the bridge connection to Royston fell on the wrong side of the county boundary and never should have been considered for City Deal funding in the first place. It was the LEP lead who coined for us the term ‘missing link’: with so much of the A10 corridor path taking shape, the job now was to find ways of achieving completion.
To allow the LEP’s efforts to focus as strongly as possible on the one stretch that would be un-fundable via the City Deal or other county boundary-confined funding schemes, the notion of finding other funding to connect the one-kilometre link between the Frog End junction and Melbourn took shape. This route leads directly into Melbourn Science Park (MSP), owned by The Technology Partnership and home also to the AstraZeneca (AZ) Da Vinci campus. Parking has become a problem at MSP, and AZ is busy encouraging its workforce to take up cycling to work in anticipation of their eventual move to the Cambridge Biomedical campus. The route also boasts two important retail centres – Phillimore and Wyevale garden centres and associated businesses.
So the case was put to the City Deal: could funding be found to provide the Frog End-Melbourn link, shrinking the ‘missing link’ to a more manageable size? The answer was a unanimous yes. And so bit by bit the overall Cambridge-Royston scheme is taking shape.
We are now working to support the LEP’s bid to the DfT for the final Melbourn-Royston stretch. Though as I write, two days after the EU referendum result, the future looks very uncertain with the instant hit to the UK economy. Nevertheless we’ll plod on.
Susan van de Ven