Cambridge Past, Present & Future and other community groups have been campaigning for several years for public transport improvements between Cambourne and Cambridge that will vastly improve travel and respect the sensitive environment and local communities. We have just published a report demonstrating that this is possible, and we are urging the authorities to get on with it, instead of pursuing a very environmentally damaging scheme which has little public support.

Over 10,000 houses are being constructed 7 miles west of Cambridge. This is being done in stages; Cambourne has been built and is being followed by West Cambourne and Bourn Airfield. There were some fundamental flaws in planning these settlements:

  • the failure to link it to an upgrade to the Girton Interchange to allow easy access between the A428 and the M11;
  • the lack of any public transport infrastructure to get people from the new housing to Cambridge, given that a sensitive and historic landscape and several villages lies in between.

As a consequence, there is a significant queue of traffic on Madingley Road heading into Cambridge during morning rush hour, 30% of which is trying to get onto the M11. Buses get stuck in that traffic and so there is little incentive for people to use public transport, which starts a negative cycle of car use and congestion. This situation has been exacerbated by new developments around St Neots which is putting additional traffic onto the road.

Having made the decision to build these settlements, there is clearly a need to upgrade the Girton Interchange and to provide a public transport system that can bypass the morning rush hour traffic on Madingley Road.

Most people, including CambridgePPF, had assumed that this would involve creating an in-bound bus lane and bus-priority measures next to the road. Instead, what has been proposed is the construction of a bus-only road through the sensitive and historic landscape (following the award of £500m government money for transport schemes and the creation of a Greater Cambridge Partnership). This would be very damaging and has been met with significant opposition.

The proponents of this “Cambourne to Cambridge busway” have made many arguments as to why a busway is better than doing something next to the road but we have been frustrated that the Greater Cambridge Partnership has dismissed the latter without adequately setting out what the best scheme next to the road could achieve. Their main argument is that a system is needed that can transport larger numbers of people quickly. Last year, the government provided that solution by announcing that the new East-West Railway would have a station at Cambourne, which will be operational by the early 2030s. So, surely the questions now are: what is the best solution in the meantime? and what will be needed once the railway is operational?

Is it a £157m piece of infrastructure with a 60-year lifetime which will permanently damage the landscape, ecology and villages? Or is it an in-bound bus lane and bus-priority measures next to the road which enables bus users to avoid congestion?

We have commissioned Edward Leigh, a qualified transport economist who chairs Smarter Cambridge Transport, to try and answer that question for us. He has, and the answer is that new bus services, an in-bound bus lane and bus-priority measures next to the road, along with a new cycle route through the villages can achieve similar benefits, for a fraction of the cost and can be delivered more quickly. It would also be significantly less damaging to the landscape, ecology and local communities. Please read the report by clicking here.

We will be using this report to try and persuade your elected politicians that there is a high quality alternative to the busway whilst longer term mass-transport schemes such as East-West Rail and Cambridge Metro are developed and the Girton Interchange is upgraded.

We welcome feedback on the proposals in this report to [email protected] 

Published Feb 2021