Agenda item

Cambourne to Cambridge Better Public Transport Project

The appendices to this report will follow.  


The GCP Transport Director gave a short presentation setting the Cambourne to Cambridge proposals in the context of the wider City Access proposals.


Helen Bradbury, Chairman of the Cambourne to Cambridge Local Liaison Forum (LLF) summarised the outcomes of the LLF meeting which had taken place on 14th November 2018:

·         The LLF requested that the Joint Assembly allowed two weeks between the meeting papers being published and the Joint Assembly meeting taking place, to allow more time for input to be provided by the LLF.

·         The LLF noted that the GCP was taking forward a route and alignment that was most opposed in the public consultation and which the LLF had advised against.

·         The LLF supported the principle of tunnels but was concerned about their deliverability.

·         The LLF felt that the GCP’s preferred route did not serve commuters from Cambourne and Bourn and would only benefit a small proportion of people.

·         The preferred off-road route provided poor connectivity; it did not provide effective links to the Biomedical Campus or the Science Park. A northern route would provide better connectivity.

·         The LLF technical group expressed concern that the benefit cost ratio (BCR) was one tenth of what was normally expected of public transport schemes.

·         It was felt that journey times were not significantly better than on-road alternatives.

·         There was concern about Mott MacDonald’s environmental assessment which the LLF felt was based on a poor understanding of the importance of the wider landscape setting of the city and heritage implications within the city. The LLF asked for an independent assessment of each to be completed before the full EIA and HIA at Planning stage.

·         The LLF requested to see the full Arup report that had looked at and dismissed an alternative northern route.

·         The LLF requested that a panel of experts independent from the GCP, assess the economic, environmental and transport implications of the scheme.

·         The LLF had:

1.    Recommended that no decision be taken on a preferred route until greater clarity on the CAM was provided; the proposed network, connectivity and funding. It was felt that the off-road bus route due to its poor connectivity to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC), Science park and the city centre, its poor transport benefits and low BCR, did not stand up to scrutiny.

2.    Noted that there was only one route that was compliant with CAM. It asked that a northern off-road option be developed. It was felt that there could be major advantages to this; it could better connect with the Oxford Cambridge Expressway and developments at the Girton Interchange in the longer term, and could link with the Science Park, CBC and the North West Cambridge site.

3.    Recommended that, given the lengthy timescale involved in building an off-road scheme, an in-bound bus lane be designed on Madingley Road immediately. This would provide significant public transport benefit to the residents west of Cambridge.


Dr Marylin Treacy, Allan Treacy, James Littlewood, Roger Tomlinson, Alistair Burford and Dr Gabriel Fox were invited to ask their public questions. The questions and a summary of the responses are provided at Appendix A of the minutes.


The GCP Transport Director presented the report which provided an update on progress with developing the business case for the A428 Cambourne to Cambridge (C2C) Better Public Transport project. Attention was drawn to the timescale of the project. An Executive Board decision on the outline business case would be sought in Autumn 2019, following a formal public consultation. There was a clear alignment between the preferred scheme and the CAM. It was recognised that an on-road scheme had less impact on the greenbelt than the off-road scheme. It was highlighted that the specific route alignment was still under development.


Councillor Topping queried whether there would be sufficient time for the outline business case for this route, to take account of the Combined Authority’s strategic business case. The route needed to be consistent with the longer term aspiration for the CAM. Given the immediate need, he suggested that an on-road solution would be deliverable more quickly, cost significantly less and would allow more time for a longer term CAM system to be developed. The GCP Transport Director pointed out that the GCP recognised the challenge of delivering very large projects and that the phasing of delivery was important. This would be addressed in the strategic business case. Officers would look at options for potential interim short term solutions and report back on this.


Councillor Sollom raised concerns about the off-road route. He queried:

·         The Red Amber Green [RAG] scoring of the public acceptability in the Mott MacDonald report, which did not reflect that the off-road option was not favoured by the public.

·         The significant difference of the wider economic benefits between the schemes and asked how these calculations had been reached. He suggested that more detail be provided about this.

·         Why the northern route had been rejected when the Arup report suggested that it had been competitive. He felt this route had greater potential to link to the wider network, fit better with wider project objectives, had far greater local support and should therefore be looked at again.

·         He asked about national strategic infrastructure projects, including East/West Rail.

Councillor Sollom requested:

·         Further consideration and detail of the wider heritage aspects across the whole of the off-road option, not just focussing on the SSSI.

·         That extensive landscaping be included in the mitigations.

·         An explanation of why the on-road route did not open up the sites in the Local Plan to the same extent as the off-road route.

·         That two CAM compliant schemes be compared.

·         An interim on-road solution be worked on.

Councillor Sollom commented that residents in the area understood the need for a segregated route and to develop a scheme that connected communities such as Cambourne and Bourn, with employment centres in the city. However they did not think the solution presented was the best option and there was no evidence of other options being presented. He felt that trust had broken down between the GCP and stakeholders.


Councillor Bick expressed support for the proposals and hoped the Executive Board would move forward with them. He stressed the importance of the GCP providing a first class public transport system to enable residents of existing and future new developments outside the city, to access Cambridge city. The recommended route was not predicated on the CAM and it was likely the GCP would still be looking at this option without this.


Andy Williams commented that travel routes that were reliable, regular and offered a journey time of 30 minutes or less from Cambourne to Cambridge city centre, CBC and the Science Park, was the step change businesses were seeking. The current public transport journey time of 90 minutes from Cambourne to CBC, was not acceptable to businesses or employees. The GCP needed to aim for an aspirational scheme. He commented that the 30 minute journey times outlined in the report via the preferred route, were not reliant on the CAM or tunnelling. He suggested that the aspirations of each scheme needed to be made clear in future reports.


Heather Richards suggested Madingley Road cycling improvements could be a quick win and should be focussed on.


Councillor Baigent supported the proposals. He pointed out that the arguments for a northern route had already been listened to, the route had been discounted and he felt that this should not be revisited. Madingley Road could not be expanded to the extent that was needed to accommodate the commuting traffic from existing and future new developments outside the city.


Jo Sainsbury suggested a need for transparency and summary of the discussions that had already taken place on this scheme. Access to past reports should be ensured. Old ground should not be revisited. She commented that from a business perspective, journey time was paramount to transport solutions and reducing these was the only way to get people out of their cars. The GCP had a unique opportunity to do something different in the longer term; an on-road solution was short term and a long term ambitious solution was needed.


The GCP Transport Director, Arup and Mott MacDonald representatives responded to the points raised:

·         Arup had been providing technical advice to the Combined Authority around the buildability and technical aspects of the CAM. The Joint Assembly was informed that an underground system could be built.

·         The strategic outline business case would follow the Green Book Treasury principles and would be available in the public domain in January/February 2019.

·         Officers would look at an interim on-road solution and would inform members of a timescale for this work.

·         The evidence around the northern route would be pulled together into a single document.

·         Work was ongoing on the East/West rail and a consultation was expected in early 2019. The GCP was in regular discussions with constituent authorities.

·         There was much more work to be done on mitigation and nothing had been ruled out.

·         The off-road option had performed significantly better than the on-road scheme at public consultation.

·         Assurance was provided that the heritage and environmental aspects along the route had been considered. More detailed surveys had been undertaken and local wildlife sites had been included in this. The two most significant sites in terms of heritage and the environment at a national level, were along the on-road route. Further surveys were ongoing.

·         The assessment of patronage was based on work that had been carried out on the benefit cost ratio and was based on committed development. Wider economic benefit considered the potential development that could result if the scheme was in place. A fully segregated scheme that was future proofed and could operate without congestion in the long term, would enable development more successfully than an on-road alternative that would eventually fail at key points along the route, due to congestion.

·         Officers clarified that not all focus was on journey time.

The GCP Transport Portfolio Holder offered to meet with Joint Assembly members to discuss this scheme and the issues raised at the meeting, before or after the December Executive Board meeting. The LLF Chairman was also welcome to attend this meeting.


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