CambridgePPF 2016 Statement on Transport
9th Jun 2016Planning
This document sets out the position of CambridgePPF with regard to the growing problem of sustainable transport and traffic congestion in the Greater Cambridge area. It sets out a number of basic principles that CambridgePPF believes could provide a strategic policy framework for addressing the problem. It is not intended to be a comprehensive strategy with specific recommendations based on traffic modelling with fully costed proposals – that is the responsibility of the County Council. Instead it presents our recommendations on what needs to be done to address the ‘transport problem’. We will use these proposals to urge the local planning authorities, and particularly the City Deal, to re-think their approach to transport planning for the Greater Cambridge area.
A summary of our proposals is presented here:
1. CambridgePPF’s Approach – Providing a Choice
- Our transport system should provide the opportunity for everyone in the Greater Cambridge area to benefit from improved travel options. Instead we seem to be going backwards with cuts to bus services, greater numbers of people commuting into Cambridge, and continuing congestion
- Our transport system must be based on the provision of choice – choice about how to travel, whether to take the bus or cycle, whether to own a car, how the children get to school etc
- With a large rural area like South Cambridgeshire and the mass daily movement into and out of the city, realistically the public transport option will continue to be bus-based
- We need substantial improvements to our bus services to provide a reliable, convenient and efficient attractive alternative to the car
- However with the withdrawal of County Council support, bus services to villages in South Cambridgeshire are being reduced or even terminated, thus eliminating transport choice
- To reverse this situation, we must identify a source of income sustainable over the long-term to fund these public transport improvements
2. Funding of Improvements to Public Transport:
- The only realistic sustainable source of income is some form of fiscal demand management
- Two options – a workplace parking charge or a charge on road users
- Workplace charging does produce a modest but sustainable income but its effectiveness in reducing congestion depends on the charge being passed on to drivers. Experience in places like Nottingham show that this has created problems and the charge is carried by the employer – in effect a local tax on employment which could affect Cambridge’s competitiveness
- A road charge to drive within the city has been calculated to provide a larger sustainable source of income (2009 Cambridge Transport Commission) that can be ring-fenced for transport uses – public transport, road improvements, filling potholes, cycle paths, pedestrian routes etc.
- This would give people, especially those living in South Cambridgeshire, a genuine choice – to pay to use the car or to use an attractive public transport alternative
- CambridgePPF therefore proposes that a road charge should be included as part of comprehensive package alongside infrastructure upgrades and public transport improvements, cycling and walking.
Summary of CambridgePPF’s Transport Package:
(Thanks to Cambridge News for format)
3. A Balanced Package:
- CambridgePPF believes we need to correct the imbalance between the capacity of the road network to accommodate drivers and the demand by drivers to use the road network
- The focus to date has been mainly on increasing capacity by infrastructure engineering such as junction up-grades, enhancements of road intersections, new bus-lanes, and the like. Such capacity improvement have been useful but not enough on their own – typically they have only a short-term benefit because either they shift the congestion elsewhere or they merely encourage additional traffic that overwhelms the improvement
- The core issue is how to change driver behaviour. Trying to frustrate drivers into giving up their cars by the use of bollards, traffic restrictions, removal of on-street car parking, and the like (the Cambridge Core Traffic Scheme) has had some marginal success in stabilising vehicle numbers but basically has just shown how resilient Cambridge drivers are
- It is CambridgePPF’s belief based on experience in other cities that driver behaviour is more likely to respond to a financial disincentive to drive. We need more stick as well as carrot.
4. Components of a Balanced Package:
4.1 A Bus-based Transport Strategy:
- The practical alternative to the private car, particularly in a rural area like South Cambridgeshire, must be a fast and efficient bus service. Clearly, walking and cycling are also essential elements, but the backbone must be bus-based. And the bus network must be made sufficiently attractive to get reluctant users to give up their cars.
- The bus strategy must incorporate an upgraded Park & Ride system. The success of the P&R has been undermined by the recent introduction of a parking charge, resulting in P&R use falling back to 2008 levels. The parking element should be made free and the bus cost substantially subsidised using the income from the congestion charge. A reliable, frequent, and convenient service, even including a skeletal night service, could boost the level of take-up.
- The network of P&R sites should be expanded to cover all main arterial roads coming into Cambridge. A dual cordon of P&R sites is proposed with the outer ring several miles out from the city and the inner on the city fringe just before the beginning of the congestion charge zone.
- P&R sites should serve as transport hubs for onward connection to major destinations around the city. Rather than travel into the centre to pick up a bus to Addenbrookes, the station, or the Science Park, the inter-change should be made at the P&R. This will be facilitated by the creation of the proposed Orbital Busway linking the P&R sites with the main destinations around the city fringe.
- The Guided-busway connecting Huntingdon and St Ives with Cambridge has undoubtedly been a success. Its performance, despite teething problems, has earned it a place in planning a future transport strategy. It could well provide an answer to the public transport links to some of the new satellite settlements proposed in the South Cambridgeshire 2014 Local Plan.
- CambridgePPF also supports the creation of high speed bus-lanes along all the major arterial roads into Cambridge, as proposed in the Transport Strategy for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire (TSCSC). However, their construction must be done in a socially and environmentally sensitive way if they are to gain public support. If the other measures to reduce congestion in the CambridgePPF package were introduced, it is probable that heavy engineering of new bus-lanes would not be necessary. Improving the transport links with the nearby market towns like Ely, Newmarket, Haverhill, Royston, St Neots, and Huntingdon will encourage the wider spread of investment across the region. This will require cooperation across boundaries between Local Planning Authorities.
4.2 A Charge for Road Use:
- The term ‘congestion charge’ is deliberately avoided as it carries connotations of the London congestion charge. A Road Charge for Cambridge would be fundamentally different. Instead of an entry charge to a central zone covering less than 1% of the city area, a Cambridge charge would be for anyone driving within the whole city
- Any charging system must be fair and transparent.
- Fair – it should not discriminate against people driving into the city. Instead everyone should pay to drive within the city irrespective whether their journey started in a village outside the city or within the city boundary. This in turn would mean not just a charge cordon around the city but a network of sensors across the city at main traffic intersections to pick up all car users.
- Transparent – the income generated from the charge, which was estimated at around £X million by the 2009 Cambridge Transport Commission, should be ring-fenced for investment in transport across the Greater Cambridge area. This could include both public transport and improvements to the road system. The benefit should be spread across the whole area, especially where bus services are in decline, and not just allocated to free P&R.
- How much the charge should be, the hours it should apply, who should have exemptions, and the other details that people tend to focus on are the responsibility of the County Council, and are clearly dependent on robust traffic modelling. The actual amount of the charge is less important than the differential between the cost of using the public transport alternative and the cost of using the car, including the charge. The 2009 Transport Commission examined a model for a charge of £X that was forecast to produce a traffic reduction of Y% and an annual gross income of £Z million
- CambridgePPF urges the City Deal to undertake the necessary modelling and then to present a scheme to the general public for consultation
4.3 The Potential of Rail Transport:
- Cambridge is well served by its rail links – two lines to the South as well as a line to the North and East. However, until now the potential for rail travel to relieve congestion has not been adequately developed. New residential development should be focused in the transport corridors provided by these rail links.
- One of the main strengths of the TSCSC is its recognition of the rail potential. CambridgePPF endorse the ambitious plans for the up-grade of the service from Cambridge to Ely and of the line to Newmarket. Both these lines could open up corridors for residential development in addition to Waterbeach Barracks with a high quality sustainable transport system in place.
- CambridgePPF also strongly supports the development of the Cambridge North station that will boost the development of the Northern Fringe (East) site. A Cambridge South station to serve the Addenbrooke’s Biomedical Campus, that will eventually employ some 17,000 people, should also be developed.
4.4 Cycling and walking:
- Unlike most of the rest of the UK, cycling in Cambridge is not just a leisure activity but a mainstream means of commuting. Cambridge leads the UK in cycle use with some 30% of commuter journeys by bike, so further investment to increase up-take could have a significant effect on traffic congestion. This can be delivered only if cycling in made more attractive and safe, and this means routes segregated from other vehicles with pedestrian and cyclist-friendly road junctions.
- A network of high quality cycle and pedestrian routes, commencing with the Chisholm Trail, must be created linking all the major new developments with centres of employment, transport, and retail. This network should comprise not just cycle routes radiating out from the centre but also orbital linkages between main centres, and should extend out to the villages of South Cambridgeshire, including the proposed new settlements.
- The cost/benefit ration for investment is substantially greater than for any other form of transport. CambridgePPF urges that a higher priority is given by the City Deal to investment in cycling and walking in view of the health and wellbeing, as well as the congestion, benefits it can bring.
- Footfall in the city centre is declining with a direct impact on retail businesses. The experience of the city centre must be improved both for visitors and residents if the decline is to be reversed. Pedestrianisation with trade vehicles restricted to set times in the early morning and late afternoon would greatly enhance the public enjoyment of the city centre. Large polluting buses belching out exhaust fumes are inappropriate in the centre. Experience in other cities shows that it is practical for pedestrians, cycles, and electric shuttle buses to share the same common space without separate roads and pavements.
4.5 Other Measures to Reduce Congestion:
- On-street Parking:
- The availability of free on-street parking in residential areas should progressively be reduced and replaced by residents-only parking
- Some parts of the city suburbs are blighted by unrestricted street parking that can become a serious problem for residents who cannot park their own vehicle close to their house. The change from unrestricted to residents only should be done on an area-by-area basis with the full integration of City Council and County Council parking management
- School Buses:
- Driving experience shows that traffic flows more smoothly during school holidays. The main generators of congestion are the private schools and sixth-form colleges with pupils arriving by car from out of the area.
- These schools should be encouraged to set up bus services linking with the P&R sites where special school drop-off areas should be created specifically for parents to pick up children outside the congestion zone.
- Inter-City and Airport Coaches:
- The terminus for long-distance coaches should be either the Milton Road P&R for coaches coming from the East or the Trumpington P&R for coaches from elsewhere, including airports. Special facilities should be provided including ticket office, waiting room, sale of snacks etc. Connection into and out of the city would be by the upgraded P&R service, including night-time buses.
- It is appreciated that coach operators will object that forcing their passengers to change buses, especially with luggage, will impact their competitiveness. Equally passengers can pick up buses, or taxis, to parts of the city other than the centre, including Addenbrooke’s and the train station for onward travel. Travel within Cambridge has now reached the level that changing between modes should be the norm. Smart contactless through ticketing would ease the problems of changing buses
- Excluding the inter-city coaches from the city centre would have a significant benefit on congestion. Consideration could also be given to closing Drummer Street Coach Station and re-developing the site.
- The idea of tunnelling has always been dismissed as being too expensive and grandiose for a city the size of Cambridge. Cambridge clay is reported to be the ideal material for tunnelling, and the construction costs for tunnels are competitive compared with new surface roads when the land supply is so restricted.
- CambridgePPF believes that tunnels could play a role for specific local purposes – for example, for the East side of the proposed Orbital Route to avoid crossing Coldham’s Common and Ditton Meadows, or as a public transport link between the railway stations with the city centre and Addenbrooke’s. In our opinion, it warrants more detailed examination of its feasibility.
5. Urban Air Quality:
- Cambridge’s air quality breaches both national and EU quality standards, particularly for concentrations of nitrogen oxides. Air pollution is both highly damaging to human health and to the fabric of historic buildings.
- The primary source of this pollution is vehicle emissions, especially old diesel buses. We would urge that the Air Quality Management Area be extended to cover the entire city centre. We also propose that the AQMA be managed as a Low Emission Zone, along the same lines as the Zone in London. It would be possible to combine the Congestion Charge with an Emission Charge such that larger more polluting vehicles paid a higher amount. This could also contribute towards a more socially equitable way of introducing the charge.
- One of the principle sources of emissions is the older diesel buses. These buses should be progressively phased out so that over an agreed timescale so that all buses coming into the city centre meet the low-emission Euro 5 or 6 standard. To minimise the financial impact of this, commercial operators should be encouraged to take advantage of Government initiatives such as the Green Bus Scheme, which subsidises ultra-low emission vehicles for use in cities like Cambridge with serious atmospheric pollution problems. The County Council needs to work closely with the bus operators to assist in upgrading their fleets, including obtaining the necessary finance.
- Higher emission buses can continue operating but should terminate at a P&R from where a shuttle bus service would take passengers to a number of different destinations. The shuttle buses servicing the P&Rs should be electric or hybrid vehicles. A local Bye-Law should be introduced to prevent buses and lorries standing idle with their engines running for more than a few minutes.
6. Experience from Cites with Congestion Charge:
- Wide range of types of schemes ranging from small restriction zones with an entry charge to toll roads so direct comparisons impossible
- Traffic volumes typically reduced by some 20-30% and these reduced volumes are maintained over several years as people adjust their mode of travel
- Journey times within congestion zone initially improve proportionately but local authorities typically then close roads to private cars, or give road priority given to buses, or pedestrianise city centres so journey times creep back up again
- Significant improvements to urban air quality have consistently been shown
- Public attitude typically is initially hostile even with public demonstrations against but opinion becomes more supportive once quality of life benefits materialise
- Substantial income generated: 10-years London scheme, gross £2.6b with £1.6b invested in public transport
7. So Would it Work in Cambridge?
- Evidence shows that a financial disincentive is effective in persuading drivers out of their cars
- Road charging alone unlikely to be effective: it needs to be part of a bigger comprehensive package of measures including infrastructure improvements and other demand management measures
- Evidence suggests it would generate a significant long-term source of income sufficient to provide major enhancements to our transport system
- Public likely to be initially sceptical but experience shows people quickly adapt and then become supportive
- The public opinion poll for the 2009 Transport Commission showed that 59% of people would support provided the income was used to finance an attractive alternative
- There is every reason to expect that a road charge would make a significant contribution to alleviating the city’s congestion, and that the funding it generated could provide a real choice for how people wished to travel.
i. So long as the focus of transport planning remains centred on increasing capacity through infrastructure improvements, the Cambridge ‘traffic problem’ will persist – and this could become a serious impediment to the continued prosperity of the city. A more radical strategy is need that balances capacity with demand from road users.
ii. A Road Charge paid by drivers to drive within the city would both reduce congestion and generate a sustainable source of income to improve our transport system. This would provide choice for how people wish to travel – to drive and pay or to use an attractive alternative public transport option
iii. The County Council and the City Deal should explore now how a congestion charging scheme can best be implemented in Cambridge. The income from the charge should be ring-fenced to subsidise the cost of the transport enhancements, including an much improved P&R system. This alternative should be in place at the time the charge is introduced.
iv. Road pricing should be part of a balanced package that includes a range of both bus and rail improvements to improve traffic flow and enhance public transport. We call on the City Deal to allocate a relatively modest sum for a comprehensive assessment of the feasibility of introducing a Cambridge road pricing scheme which should then be the subject of a public consultation exercise.
v.Facilities, including segregated and off-road routes, to encourage cycling and walking must be a core part of any transport strategy. Such enhancements could be financed at least in part through the road charge income.
vi. Unless the local planning authorities and the City Deal are willing to show the leadership needed to introduce a comprehensive new package of measures along the lines outlined above, CambridgePPF fears that the city’s continued economic and social prosperity will become progressively compromised. This must not be allowed to happen.