Transport − Project detail

Transport − Project detail

Image:  Highways England

The importance of better Cambridge transport

Cambridge’s ability to continue its strong growth depends on our employers being able to continue to win the global war for talent. And that depends – critically – on the perception of Cambridge as being a great place to live and work. This in turn rests on the effectiveness of our transport systems, and the availability and affordability of high quality housing within striking distance of the main employment hubs. Cambridge Ahead research shows that perceptions of the difficulties of moving around and finding affordable housing pose real threats for the future growth of the city region. In 2014, our Quality of Life survey told us what anyone who tries to drive on Cambridge roads knows: Congestion is a huge problem and also makes the city a less pleasant place to live. 

Tackling congestion via a mixture of interventions

The main aim of the transport group activity is to influence the strategic vision for future transport in Greater Cambridge so that this addresses congestion, supports sustainable economic growth, improves labour market flexibility, reduces environmental impact and maintains the area’s reputation as a great place to live and work. To date our activities have sought to contribute to this broad aim.

Some interventions are short-term, such as our idea for the new shuttle bus linking Trumpington Park & Ride to Cambridge railway station – the new Stagecoach East Route R service takes only 5 minutes. From a standing start, the service has been a huge success, carrying up to 1600 passengers per week (there are some temporary constraints linked to the station development which we are working with all partners to seek to unblock). This is a good example of Cambridge Ahead acting as a catalyst for change.

Other interventions are medium-term projects, like the creation of a new railway station at Addenbrooke’s to serve the growing Biomedical campus. We are continuing discussions with AstraZeneca, the Local Authorities, and John Laing on this.

Yet more involve longer-term strategies to address congestion and deliver new, locally-controlled funding streams to build on the City Deal and provide the basis for future infrastructure solutions.

We have worked closely with the City Deal Board on their proposals for addressing congestion. In our response to the City Deal ‘Call for Evidence’ and subsequent follow-up to the consultation held in September 2016, we set out
compelling arguments as to why the City Deal Board should consider all possible solutions, including congestion charging, to develop a reliable and attractive public transport system that would meet the needs of a rapidly-growing city. We remain clear that what is needed is a credible long term plan, with a mixture of incentives and deterrents, that enables a shift away from reliance on the private car and provides attractive alternatives for public transport and cycling.

Better links

Looking more widely, our work has encompassed assessing how transport interventions can be part of the solution to current labour market constraints. For example, we met all the franchise bidders for the Anglian rail route before the award was made to Abellio in 2016, set out support for improved links to the east on the line to Ipswich, and for the proposed March-Wisbech rail link, which would bring thousands of homes in Fenland within commuting distance of Cambridge. We also played a leading role in supporting the West Anglia Task Force, looking at strengthening the links along the corridor between Cambridge and London. There are under-realised links along this corridor, with the international businesses that dominate it wanting to be able to see it as a broader hi-tech cluster. But this is currently undermined by weak infrastructure connections.

Map of East-West rail link

East-West Rail route.        Image: 5th Studio

Most recently we put forward our case and evidence to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) for sustainable, fast connections between Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford which also offer important linkages between the various towns and villages along the route, and could support high quality growth in the future.

We have also conducted research into the likely future economic functions within Cambridge, how the eastern side of the city can grow in the most sustainable way and how we can better link the biotech and hi-tech clusters in Greater Cambridge with each other.

Building on this, we have now partnered with the University of Cambridge to carry out detailed transport survey work, and assessment of possible rapid transit solutions to complement existing public transport systems. This major piece of work will report during 2017 and we will work closely with our Growth Project team on the longer-term research and modelling options for Cambridge to ensure activities are properly co-ordinated and aligned.