New busway route could link Cambourne to Cambridge
PUBLISHED: 07:56 04 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:34 04 October 2018
Plans to build another new busway linking Cambourne with Cambridge have received a major boost after the mayor called to accelerate the project, after previously asked for it to be paused.
In May, James Palmer, mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, called for the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) to pause to a series of its transport schemes, including the Cambourne to Cambridge busway.
Mr Palmer had said he wanted to wait until there was more information about proposals for a metro, which would bring people into the city from nearby towns and villages then entering Cambridge via underground tunnels, before potentially “wasting” public money on “short-term” proposals.
Now, the mayor says work on the busway should be delivered, in the hope the route will be able to be converted as part of a wider scheme for a metro.
“The brief pause was necessary,” said Mr Palmer.
“But the GCP must now get on and deliver transport improvements, like the Cambourne to Cambridge scheme, that millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been provided to do, and which people rightly expect.
“The GCP will need to decide which is the best route for the scheme, in consultation with the community, and deliver.”
Mr Palmer’s change of tone on the issue has been met with surprise from some on the GCP.
Lib Dem deputy leader at South Cambridgeshire District Council, Councillor Aidan Van de Weyer, who sits on the board of the GCP, said the change of stance on the project is “a mystery”.
“It is really mysterious because he has said so little about why he’s saying what he’s saying,” he said.
“The GCP and the combined authority need to be working together on this project and make decisions on the basis of the best evidence before us.
“The GCP also needs to make sure its schemes fit in with the combined authority’s plans. What is good news is agreement this is a priority to get a high quality link between Cambridge and Cambourne.”
Cllr Van de Weyer said the new route would be particularly important in the light of the new local plans for Cambridge city and south Cambridgeshire, which will see thousands of new homes being built in the area.
Councillor Lewis Herbert, chairman of the GCP’s executive board, said: “We look forward to meeting the mayor next week to discuss the Cambourne to Cambridge transport proposals so we can integrate our plans, both short and long term, to the evidence from the combined authority’s review, including for the route to assist future metro plans.
“Having paused the scheme since May at the mayor’s request, the GCP hopes the mayor and the GCP can now agree alignment of our joint plans for a radical improvement to public transport on this route. GCP will then immediately progress the next stage for this scheme at our joint assembly on November 15 followed by a decision at our board meeting on December 6.”
Representatives of the GCP will meet with Mr Palmer next week to discuss how the route for the busway could be used as part of the metro project in the future.
Mr Palmer said: “The reality is the plans for the Cambourne to Cambridge busway are already at an advanced stage, with millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money already spent and while I will be monitoring progress closely, it really is now time for the GCP to see this project through.”
Mr Palmer restated that he thought the busway was not preferable to the metro, which he said is still a better long-term solution.
He said, however, that if the busway route could later be converted into a route for the metro, which he hopes will bring in passengers from outside the city
“It has always been my position that I do not support busways, as I believe they offer an inferior solution to Greater Cambridge’s pressing transport needs,” said Mr Palmer.
“But my view has also been that if the GCP wants to progress the Cambourne to Cambridge scheme, then it must have the potential to transition into the metro and so provide the long term, world class public transport solution needed.”
Councillor Lucy Nethsingha, Lib Dem leader at Cambridgeshire County Council and chairman of the combined authority’s overview and scrutiny committee, welcomed the mayor’s stance, saying this could help bring the project forward.
“We need houses urgently,” she said.
“And that can only be delivered if we have a proper transport system.”
Mr Palmer said there would be further updates with the metro project within the next six weeks.
“It is a hugely exciting time for the metro project,” he said.
“Following very productive meetings with major investors and Government, I will be making a significant announcement on progress in the next month to six weeks.
“This announcement will provide more clarity on how the project will be phased and funded and what the next steps will be to accelerating the delivery of this essential scheme.
“More detail on the technical next steps of the metro will come in December, when the combined authority board hears the results of a strategic outline business case from consultants Steer.”
Cllr Nethsingha said she still had doubts about the funding of the metro.
“I will be delighted if the mayor has found funding from investors,” said Cllr Nethsingha. “But there is no sign of it yet.”