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Cambs busway decision axed, as company for CAM mooted


Andrew Forster
26 June 2020

The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) has shelved making a decision about the route of a controversial busway to the delight of James Palmer, the elected mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. 

The GCP and the mayor have been at loggerheads for months over the proposed busway route between Cambridge and the market town of Cambourne, to the west. The route would form the first part of combined authority’s Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) project.

In May, Palmer threatened to take legal action against the GCP if it pushed ahead with its proposed route, which he said did not support his vision for CAM (LTT 29 May & 12 Jun). The route was also opposed by many local people.

Earlier this month the GCP’s assembly considered an officer report recommending a preferred route. The item was supposed to be presented to the GCP’s executive board, the partnership’s decision-making body, this week but was withdrawn.

In a statement, the GCP said: “The board is committed to developing a public transport route connecting residents in the west to their daily destinations in and around Cambridge. However, the detailed route proposals have faced opposition.

“The combined authority previously agreed the route in 2018 and signed it off again as part of its local transport plan in January. However, the board now understands that the strategic transport authority has indicated it has an alternative route alignment, and the board feels it must allow a short amount of time for that to be assessed before considering its current plans.

“Taking a decision to move to the next stage without considering the transport authority’s alternative proposal risks future challenge and wasting public money.

“The GCP remains committed to work in partnership with the combined authority on infrastructure solutions for the area.”

It said the decision meant the 2024 date for the   busway to open was now “unlikely to be achieved”.

James Palmer welcomed the GCP’s decision. “Every time I have intervened on this issue, I have been publicly criticised by the GCP, but my interventions have both highlighted major problems and brought about significant changes.”

The GCP’s route was “not compatible” with his vision for the CAM, he said. 

“I am glad the GCP has now acknowledged the continued significant community opposition to its proposals and has agreed to work with the combined authority to ensure the route will provide a transport network for the future that benefits our whole area.”

Palmer said the dispute between the bodies showed that arrangements for transport decision-making in Cambridgeshire were unsatisfactory.

“I have regularly made the point that the joint working mechanisms we currently have are inadequate; I and the combined authority board have never officially been asked our view on projects key to the local transport plan, and officers have only been consulted on minor technical issues [of the Cambourne to Cambridge busway], not the route itself. 

“The combined authority has never approved the detailed Cambourne to Cambridge route and I have always been clear that their preferred route does not accord with our plan for a rapid 24-hour metro system.

“I hope we can now end this series of public statements, and that the GCP will work with the combined authority as the transport authority and determiner of the local transport plan to make our shared aspirations for CAM  a reality.”

Further details of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s plan for CAM will emerge this summer.  

The CA’s board will receive a report on 5 August about the formation of an “innovation/

promoter company” for the CAM project.

The proposed CAM network will radiate out from Cambridge, with the system operating in tunnels through the city centre. The combined authority is leading on the city centre tunnel plan and the outer parts of the network, while the GCP has been responsible for developing the inner parts of the network. 

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority has asked LTT to make two changes to last issue’s story about the CAM plans headlined ‘Will Cambridgeshire’s transport power struggle end up in court?’ 

In the article, we cited a report from the GCP stating that the combined authority’s interim monitoring officer had “confirmed that decisions on the [Cambridge to Cambourne] route rightly sit with the GCP board as the delivery body”. 

The combined authority says this statement is incorrect and it has asked the GCP to correct its report. 

We also stated that the CA’s interim monitoring officer had said that, if the GCP proceeded with its proposed Cambourne to Cambridge route, this “would” be in conflict with the combined authority’s new CAM sub-strategy to the local transport plan. 

The combined authority says  the monitoring officer did not say this, and has accepted our change in the wording of the online version of our story from “would” to “could”.

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