Road pricing could have cash benefits

EAST Cambridgeshire could benefit from a £500million investment in keeping traffic moving in the city of Cambridge. Plans to introduce congestion charges are in the early stages, but it looks like anyone driving into the city in the morning peak period c

EAST Cambridgeshire could benefit from a £500million investment in keeping traffic moving in the city of Cambridge.

Plans to introduce congestion charges are in the early stages, but it looks like anyone driving into the city in the morning peak period could face a charge of between £3 and £5 a day.

County council figures show that around 11,500 people from East Cambridgeshire drive into Cambridge in the morning peak time each day.

The £30million-a-year proceeds of the congestion charge - which will be ring-fenced for transport improvements, could help fund schemes such as Ely's southern bypass and encourage more businesses to the area.

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The county council has spent more than two years working out how to reduce traffic and cut pollution, and to ensure the roads are not completely unusable in 15 years.

"Doing nothing is simply not an option, given the growth that is taking place in the area," said Shona Johnstone, Cambridgeshire County Council's new leader.

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"But whatever we do must offer people real choice and it must be fair to everyone. That's why it's so important to have most of the improvements in place before we start charging drivers."

Cllr Johnstone stressed that the council recognised that a huge package of investment to provide real alternatives to car journeys must be in place before motorists have to start paying.

That means more and better public transport, possibly offering subsidies to bus-users, improved opportunities to walk or cycle to work, and a regeneration of market towns, like Ely.

There could be more or expanded park-and-ride schemes - Cambridge's five schemes are already used by 1.6million people a year, and usage is growing steadily as more people realise the service is cheaper and more convenient than trying to find and fund expensive city centre parking - and a new guided bus-linked railway station at Chesterton.

Cllr Johnstone said: "Many people have not used buses for years. They would be surprised how much better most of them are than the ones that used to take them to school."

Road charging could be introduced as early as 2011.

Here are some of the views of our readers:

# Angela Miller, 38, from Soham: "I think it is absolutely diabolical. Many people can't afford to live in Cambridge but all the business activity in the area is there, so the people that have to work there are being charged for going to work, which is outrageous.

"I'm all for looking after the environment and cutting carbon emissions and this will make people think more about car sharing. But my working hours are so inflexible that that's just not practical and I wouldn't be able to use public transport. Sometimes I don't leave work until after 10pm and as a woman on my own, I wouldn't feel safe on public transport at that time."

# Danielle Butcher, 21, from Littleport: "It's completely unfair. There must be better ways of dealing with the problems. I work in the congestion zone, but not in the centre of the city, so if I pay for public transport I'm probably going to have to pay extra money for a taxi. It will also add a lot of time to my days."

# Clive Diver, 49, from Iseleham: "It will drive people away from Cambridge and places like Ely simply don't have the infrastructure to cope with that. If that is put in place then the city could benefit greatly.

"I travel to Cambridge four days a week, so it would cost me something like £80 a month. Will the employers put the wages up to London rates?

"I have a very inflexible structure to my day and I get called away to meetings, so using public transport is just not flexible."

# David Mankellow, 21, from Ely: "I can see why the county council is bringing in congestion charges as the traffic is already gridlocked at times. But I think it's a bit drastic for a city the size of Cambridge. More people will have to start using public transport because they'll be so out of pocket."

# Stuart Barbour, 23, from Ely: "It's just ridiculous. I come into Cambridge every day and would end up paying a huge amount of money. Improvements have already been to transport; I travel at peak time and it takes me about 40 minutes to get to work.

"I like having the freedom and my own space and don't want to use public transport. Some days I might not leave work until gone 7pm and I wouldn't get home until 9pm on public transport.

"The good thing is that an influx of business will come to Ely over the next few years and hopefully, infrastructure would be in place to support that.

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