The London Stansted Cambridge Corridor Bid And The Reality of Rail

geometry08:20 Tuesday 11th June 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: A new group launches today, aimed at improving links between Cambridge, London and Stansted Airport. It’s called the London Stansted Cambridge Corridor Consortium, or for short LSCCC. Business leaders and MPs are meeting in London today for the official launch. Steven King is the Deputy Director of the LSCCC. He says better transport links are one of their main aims. (TAPE)
STEVEN KING: One of our first dividends already is the railway line. It’s ridiculous that it takes so long to get from Cambridge to Liverpool Street, and also it’s absolutely ridiculous that there’s only one train an hour between Cambridge and Stansted Airport. So we’ve already extracted from the Mayor of London about £27 miilion to upgrade that line. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: But of course transport doesn’t just mean trains. The group is also looking to improve how Stansted serves the area, meaning possibly introducing more long-haul flight. Jeanette Walker is from the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. She says that would be a big help for many hi-tech companies in the city and beyond. (TAPE)
JEANETTE WALKER: They may be based in Cambridge, but it’s likely that their customers, their investors, perhaps the scientific advisers and collaboraters, will be located overseas. And that’s why having quick and easy access to international airports is crucial. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well listening to all that is George Freeman, MP for Mid-Norfolk. He recently called for Cambridge to receive a £1 billion Government investment now, to ensure its continued growth. George, morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Why so much money for Cambridge?
GEORGE FREEMAN: Well my argument is that if the Government’s really serious as we are about unlocking regional growth and winning the global race, and unlocking the power of our cities and our regional economies, you need to look no further than Cambridge. It’s a world class city cluster of growth, recognised across the world from Shanghai to San Diego. And of course the Northern cities need help, and Lord Heseltine, who’s been charged by the Prime Minister with pulling together a £60 billion fund to drive urban growth in a generation, is focusing on the North. But I went to see him to say, listen, the biggest growth urban cluster in Britain is the Cambridge cluster, and if we’re not careful, with a lack of infrastructure, really serious infrastructure, rail, roads, bus, bike, the whole integrated transport package, we’ll simply grind to a halt. I used to live in Cambridge, lived in Shelford, and have seen the commutes in the morning, the whole place gridlocked. My constituency is now down the road in Norfolk. We’re very dependent on fast rail links through from Norfolk to Cambridge. I’d like to see an Oxford-Cambridge-Norwich rail way link, linking three of our great life science clusters. And this is a really important subject for Britain, as well as for our region, as well as for the local area of Cambridge. And I would simply put it on the map that this is a world class city, a world class region, but we need world class infrastructure.
PAUL STAINTON: An expansion of Stansted would be crucial to that, and could be beneficial to the whole region really.
GEORGE FREEMAN: That’s right. I was in a fifteen year business career in and around Cambridge, starting companies. Now I’m Member of Parliament for mid-Norfolk, and it sits half way between Cambridge and Norwich. And it’s a rural, something of a back water, rural area. It’s got very little infrastructure. Norfolk the last county that’s not connected to the dual carriageway system. A railway line link which was closed for years, only reinstated nine years ago. It’s gone from 300,000 to 1,000,000 passenger journeys a year. My argument in London is with a bit of investment in infrastructure, we can unlock not just growth, but a much more sustainable model of growth. People out in areas in Norfolk, in rural Cambridgeshire, working from home, working closer to their home, converted farm units, people running small global businesses out in a rural economy with good bus bike rail and plane links, thinking global and acting local. It’s a different model, instead of piling everybody into trains that commute down to London to work.
PAUL STAINTON: So a billion pounds for Cambridge, a consortium for Cambridge, what about Peterborough in all of this? Stewart Jackson is the city’s MP. Morning Stewart.
STEWART JACKSON: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Well, look like the poor relations, won’t you, if this all takes off?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I am disappointed at the over-focus I think on Cambridge, and on Stansted. I understand where George Freeman is coming from. He’s a great guy, and he’s done an awful lot for raising the profile of life sciences and bio-technology. And that’s excellent. But let’s be honest. Cambridge will always scrub its face. It’s a world city with a world renowned university. I think my disappointment is that when we started looking at regeneration in the East of England, it was as I understood, the Stansted-Cambridge-Peterborough growth corridor. So it was going to take in growth in Huntingdonshire and Peterborough as well. And I sense there’s a feeling that the hi-tech high skilled high waged economy is OK for Cambridge, but Peterborough has got to be landed with logistics, transport, agriculture, food processing. And I just think that’s very simplistic.
PAUL STAINTON: Is that true George?
GEORGE FREEMEN: No, I couldn’t agree with Stewart more. This is about actually not just infrastructure for Cambridge. The middle of Cambridge is fine. This is about spreading the growth out. And Stewart’s right. I used to sit on the board of the Greater Cambridge Partnership, and the question one has to ask is why is Cambridge on fire, but you’ve got around East Anglia, in Peterborough, in Kings Lynn, in Cromer, in Yarmouth, in Lowestoft, some very serious pockets of deprivation?
PAUL STAINTON: Well what’s the answer?
GEORGE FREEMAN: Well the answer is much better communication links across the region. And Stewart’s right. Peterborough has huge skills in all sorts of areas, particularly engineering, some of the key skills that if Cambridge is to turn the intellectual property into products, devices, diagnostics, all sorts of products to keep the value in our supply chain, then we need much greater links between centres like Peterborough and Cambridge.
PAUL STAINTON: The trouble is we don’t get the jobs in Peterborough that they get in Cambridge. We don’t get the high skill high wage jobs, do we? We get the lower end jobs Stewart at the moment, don’t we.
STEWART JACKSON: Well we are making good progress. The quality of our housing is improving. We’re getting new educational facilities like free schools and brand new academies. We’re driving up educational standards. But what you get in terms of housing for instance, the quality of life, parks and green spaces, regional shopping centre, Peterborough is a great place. And of course it’s 47 minutes from London. So it’s great for commuting too. I think you’re right. We will never possibly compete with Cambridge as a world city with an academic tradition. But I do think we’re in the position where for instance if we develop a university technical college, we can train our young people in technical and vocational skills, and concentrate as George says on our strong areas, which are things like .. engineering, construction, as well as food processing and logistics. So Peterborough’s got a really great potential, but I’m just a little concerned we’re being left out of the party, and that people are overlooking Peterborough, when we’ve got so many advantages, not least as a regional transport hub.
PAUL STAINTON: And very very quickly Stewart, on another matter, you met with Jeremy Hunt the Health Secretary, regarding Peterborough City Hospital yesterday. Anything promised? Anything achieved?
STEWART JACKSON: Well the number one issue was that Peterborough’s future is safe as an acute district local hospital. We have got some tough choices to make in the reconfiguration of services. But my number one priority is protecting clinical services at the hospital, getting a stable financial solution, and making sure jobs and services for local people are protected. So he reassured me of that, and I’m happy to say that although things are going to be tough, I think the future of our hospital is safe.