Chisholm Trail showing signs of progress

road_bikes07:46 Friday 5th February 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Over the next five years £100 million is going to be spent making Cambridge an easier place to get around. It’s hoped that the money coming from the City Deal will improve roads, cycle paths and public transport. There has been criticism that these schemes aren’t happening quickly enough. One of those which has been long hoped for is the £8.4 million Chisholm Trail, the cycle and walking route that would link North and South Cambridge. Our reporter Sara Varey is on the proposed route this morning. Hi Sara.
SARA VAREY: Hello there from Budster Bicycles. I’m down by the Leper Chapel, just off Newmarket Road, which a lot of people will scoot past as they’re going towards Fen Ditton probably, just on the left-hand side. An ancient chapel right next to the railway line, and every now and again there’s likely to be a train zooming past, full of commuters I’m sure. A peaceful spot, it’s part of the Chisholm Trail as you said. This trail is going to go across Ditton Meadows by the Chapel, Coldhams Common, Mill Road bridge through the blocked arches. It’ll run alongside the railway line to Cambridge Station. There’ll be an underpass under Newmarket Road. There’s also some short sections which will be on the road, including York Street, Ainsworth Street and Brampton Road, which of course are all off Mill Road. And the green spaces that will be linked up by this include Gonville and Caius, Ditton Meadows, Cambridge Past and Present, the Leper Chapel Meadows, the Barnwell Lake area and Coldham’s Common and Stourbridge Common. So it crosses some of the most beautiful places in Cambridge actually. And the idea is keep travelling off the road. keep the cyclists off the road. Give them a safe and attractive way to actually travel to work or for pleasure. But as you say, there has been some controversy about this. Not everybody’s pleased with the progress of this. All these projects under the City Deal were supposed to have been completed within five years. This is likely to be the first one to be completed, and so far we don ‘t actually have a date, although the consultation period has just ended.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Yes. Sara. Thank you very much for that, on the route of the proposed Chisholm Trail. There was a survey carried out last year which showed that nearly 90% of people who responded said they would be in favour of the Chisholm Trail. Joining me now Lewis Herbert, who’s the Labour Leader of Cambridge City council. Morning Lewis.
LEWIS HERBERT: Morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Now Jim Chisholm, who was the man who had this idea for the cycle route linking North and South Cambridge, he says he first came up with it in 1998. It’s clearly now very popular. Why do these things take so long to come to fruition?
LEWIS HERBERT: Well money. There’s already been £4.5 million agreed for the bridge which is essential to take the trail across to the planned new railway station at Cambridge North. But this is another £8.4 million, so it really hasn’t been the case that the councils have had that £13 million. But it’s a really great move to be able to spend that money, and as your reporter has said open up a whole bit of Cambridge that people don’t really see enough of, The Leper Chapel, Ditton Meadows, as well as providing a safe route to work and to the new station and for people to school.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Now many of the schemes that have been discussed by the City Deal Board have actually been quite controversial. people are at loggerheads on certain of the schemes surrounding public transport for example, park and ride, all that kind of thing. Do you feel that for the Chisholm Trail, there is a broad consensus that this would be a good idea?
LEWIS HERBERT: Well you’ve got that figure of nearly 90%, and it wasn’t just a small number of responses. It’s 1500. So yes, as Chair of the City Deal Board we’re bound to take some flak. It’s a crowded city. We’ve got a real challenge on transport. But when we come forward with other schemes, the majority of people in Cambridge will see that we’re making a real difference. So the important thing is that cycling as well as providing better routes for buses, providing easier transport for everybody including car drivers out of the congested period, will really significantly transform Cambridge, and make our whole city a better place to live.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And even now the Chisholm Trail isn’t a completely done deal. What stage are we at now?
LEWIS HERBERT: Well this is that we’ve now agreed the scheme, or we will, subject to any input from our assembly and the board meeting next month. Then .. we’re not going to be able to build it all in one go. We’ve got an interesting discussion with Network Rail. They’re a slightly distant organisation. We’ve got quite ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: Does distant mean they’re not very good at answering the phone?
LEWIS HERBERT: Well they can be good, but they make their own decisions. So quite a lot of the routes Dotty are along edge of old railway. And we do that to minimise its environmental impact. We do it because it’s straight. It’s a real tribute to Jim and the cycling campaign, this whole plan. So we’ve got a plan. We will do it in parts. We do need to do these consultations properly. There is private property affected along the range of this route. That is why consultation does genuinely take eighteen months.
DOTTY MCLEOD: If I were to ask you when you think the Chisholm Trail might actually exist in its entirety, what kind of ball park year are we looking at?
LEWIS HERBERT: Good question, including as a resident who sits on Hills Road, which is taking fifteen months for a cycleway. I think we will start to see some works of significance starting next year, 2017. And I expect that people will be cycling large sections of this in 2018. There is still some work to do, but we will start to see these improvements 2017, next year, and then we’ll start to have most of the route in place 2018. And there’ll be other schemes, other cycling. We’ve got about another £5 million of known cycling scheme, and another £20 million within the various improvements for Histon Road, Milton Road, other parts of the city. So ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK Lewis. Thank you so much for your time this morning. Lewis Herbert there, who is the Labour Leader of Cambridge City Council, talking about the Chisholm Trail, a scheme dreamed up nearly 20 years ago.