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Mayor orders halt to Cambridgeshire Park & Ride, busway and pricing work


Andrew Forster
08 June 2018

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority mayor James Palmer has ordered a halt to all development work on new busways, park-and-ride, and road charging, until a review determines whether the projects are consistent with his transport objectives. 

Palmer’s instruction is a direct challenge to the transport plans of the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP), a joint committee set up to deliver the Greater Cambridge City Deal. The GCP comprises Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, and the University of Cambridge.

The City Deal included up to £500m of Government funding for transport improvements – £100m is committed in the first five years to 2019/20. The remaining £400m over the following 10-15 years is dependent on performance. Bus priority,  busways, park-and-ride and demand management measures are all part of the transport strategy.

Palmer has been critical of the transport schemes being pursued by the GCP. In his election campaign last year he said the City Deal was “not solving the traffic problems in Cambridge”. 

Since its formation---last spring, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CA has been the local transport authority for the area, a function that was previously the responsibility of Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council. They remain the highway authorities. 

In a paper to last week’s combined authority board meeting, CA chief executive Martin Whiteley explained that transport policy was currently set out in an interim local transport plan (LTP), which was an amalgamation of the LTPs prepared by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. 

The CA is now preparing a new LTP,  due for completion next spring.  

“The transition from the interim LTP to the future LTP creates a challenge for transport schemes that are currently being promoted and/or developed by other organisations in the region,” said Whiteley. “Whilst such schemes may well align with the interim LTP, there is a risk that these may diverge from the future LTP, resulting in abortive costs or schemes that ultimately undermine the aspirations of the combined authority.”

An interim mayoral transport statement, approved by the CA board last month, says the CA will focus on projects in four corridors/areas:

• Metro (Cambridge autonomous metro – a bus-based system (LTT 2 Feb))

• North-South: A10 upgrade; M11 northern extension; Ely rail improvements; Soham station; Cambridge rail capacity study; and Huntingdon third river crossing

• East-West North: A47 dualling Peterborough to Wisbech; Wisbech rail re-opening; Wisbech access improvements; and Wisbech Garden Town plans

• East-West South: Oxford to Cambridge expressway (A428); Cambridge South railway station; A505 corridor improvements; and the East-West Rail project.

The mayor’s statement says: “In the interim, all current busway and park-and-ride plans must be paused until the combined authority is confident there is full alignment with its plans. After the discussions during June and July, a decision will be made about the future of those plans, including those in the Greater Cambridge area.”

On park-and-ride, the statement says: “An excellent public transport system will provide the opportunity to travel without the car. Infrastructure such as park-and-ride schemes commits people to their cars. A review of new park-and-ride schemes will be undertaken by the combined authority in June to assess their place in the short- and long-term. 

“As the Metro enters a more detailed phase of development and design, proposals for new guided busway schemes, off-road bus schemes and busways will also be reviewed by the combined authority.” 

The Greater Cambridge Partnership recently published a discussion paper on traffic demand management, including road pricing (LTT 16 Mar). Palmer wants the work abandoned. His statement says:  “Charging will not be introduced at a time when we are still working to improve the public transport system. It would not be appropriate to start to develop proposals in this respect until there is a greater understanding about the future transport solutions and when they will become operational.”

Edward Leigh of campaign group Smarter Cambridge Transport said the GCP originally planned to deliver the first phase of the Cambourne to Cambridge busway by 2019 but that this had slipped to 2024 “before this latest setback”. Transport delivery was failing to keep pace with population growth, he added.

Greater Cambridge Partnership tells Palmer: We'll co-operate... for now

Councillor Lewis Herbert, interim chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) and leader of Cambridge City Council, this week replied to CA mayor James Palmer’s transport statement. 

Herbert’s letter begins by saying that, in response to the mayor’s paper, the GCP has withdrawn decision papers on key public transport corridors from meetings planned for this month and July. But Herbert adds: “Whilst we are agreeing to your request to pause, we have a number of reservations.”

These are listed as:

“Pressing need for delivery – for the Cambridge region the evidence shows that congestion and poor connectivity will start to impact on growth predictions in the short-term if we do not take action now. A particular pressure faces Cambridge Biomedical Campus including Royal Papworth Hospital, with 4,000 additional people travelling there daily in the next 18 months... In addition, our communities expect that plans underway for new and expanded communities of over 15,000 homes need to be brought forward with the accompanying short- and medium-term delivery of effective public transport routes to provide connectivity and link these settlements to new and existing jobs.

“Alignment – both GCP and the CA are working together to achieve the same outcomes in terms of reducing congestion and supporting the economic growth of the Greater Cambridge area (in addition to your far wider geography). The GCP believes there is strong alignment with the CA’s emerging strategy.... We have had many meetings between officers and direct meetings between you and GCP board members, where alignment with the CA plan has been demonstrated. We will make full use of the meetings you have requested and ask that this period of pause cannot continue without full agreement on specific evidenced aspects. To achieve that, we will work positively with you and your team to reiterate and further evidence why planned GCP interventions are critical and how they align with your evolving transport strategy.

“Evidence-based decisions – we are concerned that the mayor’s interim transport statement has been developed without engagement or consultation with partners and does not at this stage provide the sufficiently strong evidence base that is essential for the CA board, GCP, local planning authorities or other partners... We specifically request a clear analysis on the timescales, funding and delivery mechanisms for the intended CAM Metro routes, as there is no case yet made to change GCP work on public transport corridors, work which the GCP has altered to ensure its consistency with CAM Metro both before and after the recent decisions by the CA board.

“Delivering the intent of the devolution deal – the devolution deal all leaders signed clearly states that: ‘The local authorities of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough recognise and have agreed that the principle of subsidiarity should apply to the discharge of functions by the mayor and combined authority and governance of this devolution deal. This includes the delegation of responsibility from the combined authority to individual councils or appropriate bodies, such as City Deal mechanisms, for delivery.’ That is what all leaders promised Government and what they will hold the CA accountable for delivering on. Indeed, principles underpinning transport governance adopted by the CA in December 2017 reiterated this commitment...”

Ending his letter, Herbert tells Palmer: “It is essential that the GCP is able to make timely progress working in tandem with the CA and not risk impacts on future investment at the gateway review [of the City Deal] with Government next year.”

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