[A]NDIE HARPER: Nick Clegg the Deputy Prime Minister is visiting Cambridge today, and he’s expected to announce that the Government is to make more money available to be spent on roads in the county. This is in addition to spending on the A14. So what can we expect? Well joining me is Tim Bick. Tim is the Liberal Democrat Leader of Cambridge City Council. Tim, good morning to you. Thanks for coming in.
TIM BICK: Good morning Andie.
ANDIE HARPER: So what is this money all about? We’ve been talking about the A14 money for some time, and obviously other main roads need work on, but this specific announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister, how much and where is it to be used?
TIM BICK: He’s going to be announcing an investment of £6 million, which is intended to enable the new railway station, the new Science Park railway station in the North of Cambridge, to be properly connected in to its immediate vicinity. So connected to the Busway, connected to the roads system, connected to cycleways, and for pedestrians too. So the fact that there’s going to be a new station doesn’t make it a given that all of those interconnecting links are going to be there, and this is going to enable that to happen.
ANDIE HARPER: So the station could have been built, but the roads serving it and the services around it wouldn’t necessarily have been included. This will enable this to happen.
TIM BICK: That’s right.
ANDIE HARPER: Now the thought that always crosses people’s minds is it’s all very well making the roads in the Science Park area and this new station much much better, more than adequate, but of course we always have the issues of the roads servicing them, don’t we? The A14 is an isolated case, but the A10 is going to be a real problem, isn’t it, between here and Ely? is something going to be done about that, or otherwise, you get to the Milton Road roundabout and then it all starts.
TIM BICK: Well yes, and there we come to the other reason that Nick Clegg is coming today, and that is to sign a memorandum of understanding with ourselves and the County Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council for the City Deal. Now the City Deal is going to be a huge potential investment fund for the whole area, up to a billion pounds, to improve the links around and within Cambridge. We’ve got such a powerful economy here that the frail infrastructure that we have is really holding it back. We have ambitious plans for housing, but not necessarily all of the connecting roads and transport systems that are going to enable people to get to those houses from their jobs and vice versa.
ANDIE HARPER: Now I know it’s very early days, and you are talking about a billion pounds, but what is in your mind? What is in the minds of your colleagues as to how to spend this? Where do you think the priorities lie? The centre of Cambridge once again, or, as I say, some of the roads that get you into the city?
TIM BICK: It will be both, because the centre of Cambridge is so congested that it can’t really cope. So it has to involve some investment which takes away some of that congestion. So we would be expecting to see some sort of improvement in the ability to circumnavigate Cambridge without going through the city centre. And we would be expecting to see, just like your example on the A10, some improvements which help people make that journey in from the North, but also in from what is expected to be new housing in Waterbeach.
ANDIE HARPER: When you say you’re going to come up with some way of circumnavigating Cambridge without going into the city, you can already do it if you want to take your life in your hands and do the A14 and the M11 round from where we are here, and maybe the other way towards Stow-cum-Quay. Are you thinking about an inner ring road? Because very often when we have problems on the A14, I am forced to drive into town and then get to round by Newnham and The Backs. And it’s chaos. Is that something you’re thinking about? Or are you wanting to keep cars out of the city completely?
TIM BICK: Yes, I think when it comes to the more city based aspects of this investment we’re much more likely to be looking at improved flow of buses, improved flow of public transport, which at the moment ought to be the sensible alternative, because more people are travelling in fewer vehicles. But of course they can’t get through. And so I think we’re going to be looking at methods of buses and public transport happening more fluidly round the city, so people can depend on them.
ANDIE HARPER: Because there are people who use buses all the time now, and we’re constantly hearing from listeners who say our bus service has been reduced, we’re standing at bus stops and the buses don’t come. People telling us even this week that the Guided Bus is chocablock from way out, before it gets to Longstanton and way out. So all of these things need to be looked at. But the thing is the bus services, the public transport, are privately operated. So how are you going to get them involved?
TIM BICK: Well of course they’re privately operated, but they’re reliant on the infrastructure that we give them, as government, local and national. And so from the perspective of local councils, our desire is to enable them to have methods of moving around in public transport which work, which don’t involve those delays. I know people who do give up sometimes on public transport, because as you say, they wait for a bus that never arrives. If the bus can flow more fluidly around the road system, then I think that would be different.
ANDIE HARPER: So you think that if things were to improve on the roads, that that would facilitate more buses, that people would be inclined to use public transport, rather than those that just have to use public transport?
TIM BICK: Well I think in Cambridge, where the roads system is really constrained anyway, more priority for public transport may result in private transport having to give way more. And so the balance of power will change between the two, so that public transport would become the better option.
ANDIE HARPER: There are people who are suspicious of you and your party, and say that you are anti-motorist. Are you?
TIM BICK: There’s a mixture of requirements for getting around. We have to recognise in Cambridge that we have more people going to work every day on bikes. And it’s a city you can walk as well. So are we anti-car? No. But are we recognising that there needs to be a mixture in which everyone has their place? I think we are, and I think we’re not so pro-car we don’t see the case for those other methods of getting around.
ANDIE HARPER: Now this is all about Cambridge city. But there are of course local authorities that surround the city, particularly South Cambridgeshire. And there is a feeling that everything is geared to Cambridge. People have to drive though South Cambridgeshire, through Harlston or wherever, to get to Cambridge. But then that’s where the effort is concentrated, in the city itself. Would you be working closely with other councils as you do this, or is this going to be Cambridge saying, we’ve got all this money, this is what you’re going to do, you can drive through South Cambridgeshire and clog up the streets of Harlston etcetera, but then when you get to the city, this is what we’ve got planned for you?
TIM BICK: No. I think your fears are ill-founded, because the premise, the whole premise of this City Deal, this massive investment possibility, is that we work together with South Cambridgeshire and the County Council as three local authorities within a board. And so we will agree common priorities which we will work on along with our two other partners, which are the Local Enterprise Partnership representing husiness, and the University of Cambridge. So there is no possibility any more, if we get this deal, of one local authority going off and doing its own thing in relation to transport strategy. This will be an integrated affair, and I’m delighted to say that one of the big success stories, even though we haven’t got there entirely yet, is the working together. And it’s really been an eye-opener to me, that with the possibility of this carrot of the City Deal, this huge carrot, that it has brought those councils together. And they are committed to work together in what the Government will create as a sort of combined authority. So we’ll have a legal framework whereby we have to work together.
ANDIE HARPER: Just finally, why did we get this money? Where’s it come from, and why?
TIM BICK: We got this money because Cambridge is a national brand. It is one of the few internationally recognised industrial areas if you want to call it that in the UK, which competes with Boston, Bangalore, Los Angeles, San Francisco. And growth, economic growth, is really constrained by our frail infrastructure. Where does the money come from? The money comes from, and this has been the ingenuity I think of our negotiation with Government, we are asking them for them to share back with the area the proceeds of increased taxation that comes from the growth in our area. It’s a unique deal, which enables us to help grow the local economy, but in return take a slice back again to make that happen, in a way that is consistent with the character, the history, the beauty of the area.
ANDIE HARPER: Tim, it’s been really good to see you. Have a good day. And I hope that the meeting goes well.
TIM BICK: Thank you very much.