Cambridge City Deal – plans agreed to tackle congested routes

cambridge_traffic17:09 Thursday 28th January 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Around £180 million worth of transport improvements in and around Cambridge were prioritised at a meeting in the city this afternoon. The Greater Cambridge City Deal Executive Board decided which projects are likely to be the first to be funded with money from the Government, made available to ensure the future prosperity of the city. But first, workers at the Cambridge Science Park told us earlier what they’d like to see the money spent on.
ONE: Cycle paths. They’re not too bad, but some of the connectibilities like Dry Drayton to Histon should have cycle paths.
TWO: It’s still too dangerous to cycle in Cambridge I think, and it should be encouraged. I don’t think the buses run often enough. But it’s getting better with the electronic bus stops, more practical for people to use, that sort of thing. And obviously the new train station, that should boost this side of Cambridge.
THREE: I would like the cycle path along the river to be redone. all the way, because I’m from the Fen Ditton area, so that when I cycle from town it’s nice and smooth half way, but then it ends and it’s bumpy and not really nice for a ride.
FOUR: Cycleways, better parking. Don’t really use public transport, because it’s not easy to use. If it was more regular .. And I think the Park and Ride, now that they’re charging people, that’s caused a problem.
FIVE: Every time I try to get out of the Science Park in a car I have to sit in a traffic jam. Now it’s probably because there’s too much traffic on the roads. I have no idea how to reduce that. But something needs to be done about that. You can’t just keep adding more and more and expect nothing to .. something will give.
SIX: Quite new to Cambridge. Been here for about six months. But the roads are pretty bad. (Would like to see) free flowing traffic to be honest with you. Because sometimes it can take about an hour just to do two miles to get into town.
CHRIS MANN: So where is the money likely to be spent? Well joining me is our reporter Tom Horn, who was at the meeting for us. Tom.
TOM HORN: Yes, evening Chris. Well as you mentioned, this meeting was to agree on which works should be prioritised, and I will come on to that in a minute. But first, a brief update on what the City Deal actually is. And it’s basically a test of local power to generate economic growth. Now this starts with about £100 million from the Government, with funding expected from April this year. If councils and partners prove that their use of that £100 million has driven economic growth, a further £400 million will be released in the years that follow. Now this afternoon the City Deal Board at Shire Hall heard one of the biggest obstacles to growth is, no prizes, congestion. So those schemes that will be prioritised at this stage are bus lanes on Milton Road, Histon Road and Madingley Road, a segregated bus route from the A428 to the M11, there’ll be improvements to cycle paths across Cambridge city centre, and also on Hills Road, a new Park and Ride site out on the A1307, and the so-called Chisholm Trail. That’s the cycle trail from Cambridge railway station to the Science Park. In total, this is more than £180 million worth of work. And after this afternoon’s meeting, I spoke to Cambridge City Council Leader and the Chair of the Greater Cambridge City Deal Board, Lewis Herbert. He gave me more details about what they hope to do.

LEWIS HERBERT: We won’t have a liveable city, we won’t have a pollution-free city, we won’t have a city that works for business and we can build more housing in, if we don’t have roads that work much better. And to do that, we’ve got no choice. We cannot cope with more cars. We have to effectively give people a real alternative to the cars, enable buses to flow, and what we’re doing is we’re tackling the main roads. And you’ll have seen from the meeting the priority is tackling just the big blockages in the city that make life a misery for a lot of people. First of all we’ve got a bunch of radial routes that link inwards to the city. So for instance the Guided Bus does very well down its concrete channel, and then hits major blockages when it hits Histon Road and Milton Road. So those two roads are in as priorities. There’s also a big issue about priority of transport for people getting in from the west. Anybody who lives on the A428, lives out Cambourne way, or people coming in from St Neots and beyond, hit a real thirty minute delay. So there’s a significant large sum of money identified to give greater bus priority, move the Park and Ride further out to tackle the west, and then we’ve also included the A1307 which is the road coming up from the south up past Addenbrookes, and the road that eventually goes out towards Haverhill. So essentially we’re tackling each of the radials Tom as they come in. And there’s a large chunk of funding targeting the city centre, because whilst we won’t necessarily do as much in terms of changing the landscape, if we don’t link those radials together by tackling the city centre, we’re not going to deliver a scheme. And we cannot cope with more and more cars coming into the city. So that’s at the core. And I’m glad to see that the Chisholm Trail and cycling schemes , both in the city centre and having a bridge across the Cam, are also in there. So I may have talked a bit there Tom, but that’s the list. And added to that we’ve got plans then to bring forward more schemes in the second five years. We’ve only .. I say we’ve only .. it is £100 million, and that’s a really valuable sum of money, but unless we deliver this scheme largely to plan by 2019/2020, the Government will hold back another £200 or £400 million. We desperately need to get that. So these have to be schemes that we can deliver.
CHRIS MANN: Lewis Herbert, Leader of the City Council, at today’s meeting. And Tom, a timetable going forward?
TOM HORN: Yes well as Lewis Herbert alluded to there, it’s quite a tight timetable. They need to hit a certain number of dates to make sure that they do get this funding. So the next meeting is in March. Before then Council officers are going to go away and they’ll draw up more detailed plans and report back at that meeting in March. So the next update we’re expecting will be in a few weeks time. Then after March Chris there’ll be a meeting every month or so to really follow this up and keep pushing this through Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Tom Horn, thank you.