The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) has answered some of the key questions raised by the public about a proposed congestion charge for Cambridge. 

It comes as more than 12,000 people have already responded to its 10-week consultation, with just over four more weeks to go until the deadline on December 23. 

The GCP is proposing a once-in-a-generation package to transform the region’s bus network with cheap buses operating longer hours to more locations, including more villages, alongside significant investment to improve walking and cycling routes. 

The upgrades would be paid upfront by the GCP and phased in over four years ahead of the proposed introduction of a sustainable travel zone with a road user charge to cut congestion – freeing up space for more buses and people – and fund the transport network in the future. 

Ely Standard: The proposed transformation of the bus network would provide more routes, for longer hours and higher frequencies for lower fares across the whole region. The proposed transformation of the bus network would provide more routes, for longer hours and higher frequencies for lower fares across the whole region. (Image: Greater Cambridge Partnership)

Chair of the GCP’s executive board, Cllr Elisa Meschini, said: “Thank you to everyone who has shared their views with us so far. 

“I’ve been to many events so far and heard that people want better buses and walking and cycling links – the challenge is how we fund it.” 

She added: “Cambridge is currently one of the most congested cities in the country with a bus service that is unreliable. 

“With thousands of new homes and jobs being created, and private bus operators cutting services, people are going to find it increasingly difficult to travel around the region if we do not take action now. 

“Together we can create a London-style bus service with cheap buses operating longer hours to more locations, alongside better walking and cycling links, and less congested road which will improve our environment.” 

Here are the answers to some of the key questions raised by the public: 

Q. Cambridge doesn’t have a problem with congestion, it’s a city like any other. 

A. A pre-pandemic study of 18 cities reported that drivers in Cambridge spent the equivalent of 23 days a year sitting in rush hour traffic, double the average.  

The region is growing and with thousands of new homes and jobs planned over the next decade, congestion will only get worse without action. 

Q. GCP has pledged cheap single bus fares of £1 inside the Sustainable Travel Zone and £2 from the wider travel to work area, but what if you need to change and take more than one bus? 

A. People would pay no more than £1 in the city and £2 from the travel to work area per journey, even if you need to change buses as part of your commute.  

A daily cap and tap on, tap off technology – like that used in London – would be in place to make sure that traveling by public transport would always be cheaper than driving within the zone. 

Q. We’ve seen bus operators struggling to find drivers so how will you recruit enough drivers to run double the number of buses? 

A. We acknowledge the current challenges bus operators face, that’s why we have factored the cost of training and recruitment into the cost of our proposals to attract more drivers. 

We will be building up the additional services over four to five years – in advance of any charge being introduced. 

Q. I can’t afford to pay the road charge driving my car or work van several times a day. 

A. There would be a single daily charge for driving within the proposed zone – you would not be charged per journey.  

We are proposing a £5 daily charge for cars, but this would be more for larger vehicles. For example, a van would be charged £10 per day but it could make numerous trips within the zone on that day and still only be charged once.  

Furthermore, driving conditions will be better for those who still choose or need to drive, with less time spent in congestion and more reliable journey times. 

Q. Why is Addenbrooke’s and Royal Papworth Hospital in the zone? 

A. Congestion, prohibitive parking charges and a lack of public transport to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus are already barriers to healthcare and staff retention for the hospitals. 

 Our proposal would provide much better, cheaper buses running from 5am to 1am to ensure everyone – including patients, people who don’t have access to a car and staff working shifts – have access to healthcare, with exemptions and discounts for those who have no alternative but to drive. 

Dr Mike More, Chair of the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundations Trust, has said that driving to the campus is “not an option for the majority of staff” and patients often get stuck in traffic, making them late to appointments or missing them entirely, which can cause delays in patient treatment. 

Q. Are the Park and Ride sites inside or outside of the proposed Sustainable Travel Zone? 

A. All of the Park and Ride sites are outside of the proposed zone so people can park their cars for free and switch to cheap, reliable and more frequent bus services. 

The GCP is also expanding Park and Rides across the region to create 10,000 additional parking spaces, as well as better cycle parking and links to walking and cycling routes to provide better active travel journeys. 

Q. Why are you bringing the road charge in during a cost-of-living crisis? Won’t this affect people on lower incomes the most? 

The proposed all-day charge would not come in before 2027/28 and not before there are significant improvements in bus services and walking and cycling links.   

Transport poverty is a real problem for many people who are unable to access opportunities as they do not have access to a car, while many bus services are unavailable or unreliable. At the heart of our proposals are cheaper, more reliable bus services to more places to give people a real alternative to the car.  

This is about creating a better transport network for everyone. We know some people are struggling with the cost of running car and research shows people on low incomes are less likely to own a car.  

Cheaper, better public transport is designed to help everyone access opportunities and services. We are also proposing a comprehensive list of discounts, exemptions and reimbursements for people on lower incomes, blue badge holders, NHS patients and NHS staff on call. 

To help further explain the potential changes, the GCP has published a video and an interactive tool so people can see how their daily journeys would be transformed. 

To view the proposals, a list of public events and to have your say visit the Consult Cambs webpage. 

The 10-week consultation closes at midday on December 23.