Late December is the time for Christmas presents. Perhaps the Government had a sense of humour when it first chose the week before Christmas as the time to announce the amount of money being given to councils to spend on transport for the next year. But the system is changing.
This year, the amount of money available to the county has nearly doubled, to £7.8 million, after years of constraints. And it has shifted in largely the right directions, especially that of the Cambridge Package. This funds most of the changes we see in the city. There will be £2.5 million for this, a whopping increase. Much of the detail will be decided later, but Park and Ride will continue to be a major focus, allowing the planned changes on Hills Road to proceed as well.
After years of neglect, £700,000 has been allocated to ‘minor works’, which will allow schemes outside the City area to be funded, probably including some elements of the Fens Cycle Package, which did not receive funding in its own right. In addition, £850,000 has been awarded for local safety schemes across the county. In my opinion, much of the best work for cyclists in the city has been funded out of this budget. Speed cameras are top priority for this money.
Bridges continue to get lots of money, notably to strengthen them to carry 40-tonne lorries (boo, hiss!), but also simply to keep them maintained. Interestingly, the Carter cycle bridge at Cambridge station is included in the priorities for this maintenance (and no, we don’t expect to see 40-tonne lorries using it next year!).
The Council has persisted in bidding for a Fordham bypass (north of Newmarket), despite the consistent failure of the scheme to find funding. Likewise, the proposed Addenbrooke’s Station. This was again turned down, apparently because Government sees it as a scheme in a vacuum – there isn’t a coherent rail strategy for our area.
‘Continued and increased support for the Cambridge Package is further recognition of the good progress made with a transport strategy that has the clear focus of encouraging a switch from the private car to more environmentally friendly alternatives, set against a background of increasing restraint and local demographic pressures’
Cambridgeshire County Council, report to committee, January 1999.
Local Transport Plans
In future, the funding system will change to a five-year cycle. There will be a practice run for the new system in the first year, for which a skeleton bid will be prepared by March. Next year the Plan will cover a full five years. Also, we should see the amount of money available nationally go up by well over a third in two years. However, the really big bucks will come from charging for workplace parking, so it’s essential Cambridgeshire includes something to develop this.
As well as reflecting the national policy shift of the Transport White Paper, the new system will place much more focus on public participation (us!), on monitoring and feedback (which Cambridgeshire has tried to do in its most recent bids), and on bringing the requirements of the Road Traffic Reduction Act into play for the first time. The themes of the new structure include:
- widening travel choice;
- traffic management and restraining demand;
- integrating transport;
- integrating with wider policies (education and social services, as well as the more obvious land-use planning).
Responses from Government to this year’s bid indicate that the Cambridge Package will continue to be a key element in the new system. However we should also see more emphasis on ‘demand management’ and on bus infrastructure that isn’t just about serving the city centre. Cambridgeshire already gives weight to some subjects which are weak in the national guidance, such as partnerships to reduce car dependence. However, there are still areas where we need to see progress locally as well as nationally. These include reducing road traffic and road traffic danger, and road space reallocation (especially lower speed limits and more people-friendly road environments).