Cambridge Rapid Transit System

This article was published in 2001, in Newsletter 35.

Cambridge Rapid Transit System Limited (CRTS) is promoting a new form of public transport which they hope will offer the best characteristics of buses and trams and attract people away from cars. Purpose-built modern vehicles similar to those in use in some continental cities would appear in Cambridge both on city streets and on purpose-built routes. High-tech information and ticketing systems are proposed to increase the attractiveness of the system. Some exhibitions and public consultations took place during March. This follows the submission of plans to the City Council earlier this year for the first stage of what the promoters hope will be a larger system.

These first routes would run, segregated from normal traffic, from the Trumpington Park and Ride site to Addenbrooke’s Hospital and to the main station, then via Hills Road to the city centre. The route along the old Bedford railway line as far as Hills Road bridge has been reserved for just such a system in the Local Plan. Most of the route would have a welcome high quality cycle/foot path alongside, although there may be width restrictions at some locations.

Image as described adjacent

A new type of larger passenger carrying vehicle, probably articulated, is proposed, which would use some type of ‘guidance’ at least on segregated sections. This guidance may be a concrete edge, recessed guide rail, electronic cable, or optical system, dependent on trials. Consequently approval for both vehicles and route is required by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). On normal roads within the city there is much concern over the use of such large vehicles. The ‘off tracking’ (whereby large vehicles occupy a much wider path on corners) could squeeze cyclists at some of Cambridge’s busiest junctions.

As well as HSE approval, a ‘Transport Works Act’ is required for all forms of guided transport. This can include powers to purchase land or even bypass the need for a public inquiry. Funding needs to be found, possibly through national or EU grants, so even optimistic forecast puts completion many years away.

Although the possibility of major improvements to public transport is to be applauded, some people are concerned that these plans may have blighted extensions of some other cycle paths, including parts of the National Cycle Network south of the city. Those paths to Trumpington, Addenbrooke’s and the Shelfords, which could otherwise have been completed relatively quickly and cheaply, may now be ‘on hold’. It is also possible that similar or smaller amounts of money spent on transport infrastructure projects elsewhere within the city might produce a much more dramatic reduction in car commuting and congestion.

CRTS have a pamphlet describing this scheme, which could form the first part of a larger network. They can be contacted at Wellington House, East Road Cambridge CB1 1BH. phone (01223) 451027. e-mail

Jim Chisholm