The Greater Cambridge Partnership is proposing to improve journeys between Cambourne and Cambridge using funds from central government.

The main focus of this project is to improve bus journeys in order to encourage more people from Cambourne and those arriving from the west of the City to use the bus rather than their car and thus to reduce traffic congestion.

Their preferred option is to construct a new road for buses through the countryside. It would run alongside St Neots Road, across the side of Madingley hill close to Coton village, through orchards and over the M11 before going through the West Cambridge Campus, across the West Fields and down a farm track past the Cambridge University Rugby Club to reach Grange Road, on the edge of Cambridge.

This scheme would run through the Green Belt and would be very damaging for habitats, landscape, views and local communities and so we have been campaigning for alternative routes that would deliver transport benefits but without the damage.

We estimate that 2km of wildlife habitat would be destroyed, this is not arable farmland but trees, meadows, scrub, orchards and hedges. With the kind help of a volunteer, Tristan Marshall, we have created a video which shows some of the impacts that the preferred route of the busway would have on wildlife habitats:

In February 2020 the government announced that a new railway connecting Cambridge to St Neots and Bedford will be routed via Cambourne. The government's preferred route option for East West Railway includes a new station to the north of Cambourne serving the A428. This will provide the mass transport system for the west of Cambridge which many people have been arguing is needed.

What it should also mean, is that plans by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) to construct a very damaging £200m bus road between Cambourne and Cambridge should now be re-considered. CambridgePPF has commissioned a report that demonstrates that, in conjunction with East West Rail, there are other solutions which deliver similar transport and economic benefits and can be achieved quickly, at significantly less cost, with less impact on the environment, green belt and local communities.

It is also worth noting that:

  • There will be significant cumulative impacts of a new railway, new busway, new cycleway and expressway (A428) on the western approaches to Cambridge.
  • Although a new cycle route is proposed alongside the busway from Coton to Cambourne our view is that there is a much better cycle route based on the bridleway that runs from Coton to Bourn Airfield, as this has less of a climb up the hill and is away from traffic. Part of this route is already proposed through the GCP's Greenways project.
  • A third of the traffic congestion on the A1303 is caused by vehicles wishing to reach the M11 from the A428, due to the absence of an access road at the Girton Interchange. This junction is part of the the main road infrastructure for the government's OxCam Arc growth corridor and will surely eventually be made "4-ways" - and this would reduce congestion on A1303 by 30%.
  • Compared to an in-bound bus lane on the A1303, the proposed busway would only cut a few minutes of journey time into central Cambridge which is unlikely to result in significant modal shift to public transport and therefore the damage and costs of this scheme are not justified.
  • Since autumn 2018 the busway was being proposed as a future metro route with tunnelling under Cambridge - but so far there is no evidence of sufficient funding being available for this and following a change of Mayor the metro idea is said to be abandoned. This means buses will arrive at Grange Road and enter central Cambridge traffic, the same as they would if a bus lane was created instead.
  • Several alternative route options have been proposed as less-damaging alternatives and an Independent Audit in May 2021 confirmed that these were viable. The GCP is unwilling to use one of these options as a comparison with their proposed busway route - and instead are comparing it with doing nothing.

Initial proposals for this scheme included a park and ride on top of Madingley Hill which would have had a significant impact on the landscape and local habitats. We (and others) lobbied strongly against this and the preferred option is now to locate a park and ride at Scotland Farm, which we feel is the better option. 

Madingley Hill is one of the few high points in Cambridge and has locally significant landscape and nature conservation value. Indeed, the founders of our charity purchased land in this area to prevent it being damaged by urban sprawl and to protect the views of Cambridge. We still own land which the bus route would cross and which is covenanted by the National Trust. The GCP has said they would Compulsory Purchase this land in order to build on it.

Today we are continuing our founders’ efforts by opposing this proposal and pressing the GCP to choose one of the many alternative routes proposed, such as an eastbound only bus lane alongside the A1303.

Our trustees, volunteers and staff are working hard on this in dialogue with local communities, protest groups and the National Trust.

Griff-Rhys Jones gives support

In summer 2018, Griff-Rhys Jones visited Cambridge and we took him to see the countryside which would be affected. He said “Having visited the site I hope that decision-makers will work with the local community and avoid damage here. Let’s plan for our great, great grandchildren. Something better and more visionary is needed”. 

What might the busway look like?

So far the GCP has not produced mock-up images showing what the busway might look like on the areas affected (we have asked them if they would). These photos, with super-imposed images of the Cambridge Guided Busway, might give you an idea (although the new busway would look the same as a normal road). Can you see why we are objecting?

Latest Update

In June 2020 GCP Officers recommended that the scheme be taken forward to the next stage (which would be a planning/transport application considered by a government inspector, as well as powers to compulsory purchase the land). The GCP Board (local politicians) had planned to make a decision on 25 June 2020. In response to this we organised a campaign to encourage people to email the GCP Board to let them know their views during Covid-19 lockdown. Faced with significant opposition from all-quarters the GCP Board decided to do further work before deciding on the fate of this scheme.

In December 2020 the GCP agreed to commission an independent review of the project, in light of the fact that it was several years since it started and things had changed during that time, such as East-West Rail. The independent review is underway and will report to the GCP Board on 1 July 2021 and they will make a decision to proceed with the bus road through the countryside.

Throughout this process we have been frustrated that the GCP would not produce a plan for the best scheme that could be delivered using the existing highway corridor, compared with their preferred off-road scheme. Thus allowing direct comparison of the two options. So, at the start of 2021 CambridgePPF commissioned a report to look at such a scheme that we feel the GCP should have done. You can read our report which shows that such a scheme is possible and can be delivered more quickly, cheaply and without the damage to landscape, ecology and local community. We have shown that, in conjunction with East West Rail, there is a better way for public transport between Cambourne and Cambridge and we are asking the GCP Board to consider this option as an alternative to the off-road scheme when making a final decision.

We are encouraging people to write to the GCP Board (local politicians representing the councils of Cambridge, South Cambs and Cambridgeshire) and ask them to carry out work to seriously look at the less damaging alternatives. Here are their email details:

[email protected] (Cllr Neil Gough, South Cambs District Council, Lib Dems)

[email protected] (Cllr Lewis Herbert, Cambridge City Council, Labour)

[email protected] (Cllr Elisa Meschini, Cambs County Council, Labour)

Please make your views known and take action now! If you are not sure what to say, then something along the lines of: The Cambourne-Cambridge Independent Audit and CambridgePPF's report shows that there are viable and less damaging alternatives to the scheme you are pursuing. Please instruct your officers to carry out work to properly assess these alternatives and compare them to the scheme you are proposing.

Please also sign a petition asking the GCP to re-consider its approach to public transport for this project and others planned around the city. Click here.

Details of the scheme being proposed by the Greater Cambridge Partnership can be found on their website.

You can also read our blog about this scheme click here