The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is proposing to improve journeys into south east Cambridge from the A11 and A1307, using funds from central government.

The main focus of this project is to encourage commuters to use a large new Park & Ride car park close to the A11 and then use the bus for their journey into Cambridge. The project aims to reduce travel times and cut peak-hour traffic congestion on the A1307 into Cambridge.

Their preferred option is to build a new bus road from Babraham to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. A new Park & Ride site would be built between Babraham village and the A11. From the Biomedical Campus, the buses would join the existing guided busway route to Cambridge Rail Station and then from the station the buses would travel on roads to the Drummer Street bus station.

The bus road would run through the Green Belt and would be very damaging to the landscape and views and so we are campaigning for less-damaging alternatives.

This video shows some of the landscape that would be impacted:

The route alignment is shown below:

Possible design of Park & Ride site:

The busway would be tarmac and look like a road. Two new bridges would be needed to cross the River Granta twice. New bus stops will also be built in the countryside, introducing urban features such as traffic lights, signs, lighting and disabled/drop-off parking. See images below:

 

The impact of this scheme will be especially damaging where it runs along the lower slopes of the Gog Magog Hills, between Nine-Wells Nature Reserve and the east of Stapleford village. It will be visible from Magog Down, a popular countryside attraction which people visit for the wonderful views.

As well as the impact of this new road through the countryside, it will sever farmland on the edge of villages, which will put this land at much greater risk of future housing development, which will degrade the Green Belt countryside further. Already developers have put forward proposals to build on this land in anticipation of the bus road.

The GCP has a website with full details of the scheme, click here.

There are less-damaging alternatives:

Alternative 1. Sections of new bus lane on the A1307 from Babraham to Hinton Way with a final bus road section from Hinton Way to reach the Biomedical Campus.

Traffic congestion is mainly concentrated at the Cambridge end of the A1307, in particular between the Hinton Way roundabout and the city centre. So, there is a strong case for building a bus road from the Hinton Way roundabout to the Biomedical Campus and onto the Guided Busway. This would also serve a future expansion of the Campus which is proposed in the next Local Plan. From the A11 to Hinton Way, congestion is limited to certain sections and where that is the case, a bus lanes can be provided next to the road so that buses can avoid getting delayed in traffic.

This scheme would deliver most of the benefits of the GCPs proposed scheme but with much less harm to the green belt countryside, at a much lower cost and could be deliver more quickly, thus helping to solve traffic problems sooner. It would also serve more of the Biomedical Campus, including the new children's hospital.

So, why hasn't the GCP considered this? The GCP has not developed a scheme along these lines, in part because the previous Cambridgeshire Mayor required a bus road that was fully segregated from traffic to form part of a future Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro. There has been a change of Mayor and Metro is no longer being progressed. Time for a rethink?

Alternative 2. Re-open a Haverhill to Cambridge railway

This option was considered at an early stage but discounted due to having a low cost to benefit ratio. However, as it turns out, the GCPs scheme also has a similarly low cost to benefit ratio!

Re-opening a railway is supported by local MPs and RailFutures but was opposed by the former Cambridgeshire Mayor as he felt it would compete with his plans for a Metro. There has been a change of Mayor and Metro is no longer being progressed. Time for a rethink?

Re-opening the railway is a genuine alternative but it would take much longer to achieve and so we feel that a combination of Alternative 1 (above) with the railway in the longer-term would best meet transport needs in the short, medium and long-term.

Alternative 3. Re-use parts of the old Cambridge-Haverhill railway line

This would be a version of the GCPs scheme which would avoid one of the crossings of the River Granta and damaging the lower slopes of the Gog Magog Hills - by using the old railway line as a bus road through Stapleford and Shelford. It would also better serve those communities. This option has been explored and we raised funds for an independent consultant to review it. It is possible, but there would be difficulties to overcome in terms of being alongside the railway and the impacts that it would have on properties close to the route. Nevertheless the public has never been given a say on this option and how much they might value their countryside.

What do people think?

The GCP has carried out a series of consultations as the project has progressed. The GCP is not under any obligation to act upon the feedback they receive. There has and continues to be public opposition to their preferred scheme. In early 2022 Anthony Browne MP carried out a survey to try and guage local opinion on the GCP's preferred scheme and some of the alternatives. You can read the results by clicking here. The majority of the 1,958 respondents do not support the GCP scheme and there is much stronger support for alternatives.

Watch this video of local MP Anthony Browne talking about the busway in April 2022.

Latest Update

In January 2022 a Planning Inspector granted permission for a new retirement village and country park on the proposed route of the busway, near Stapleford. This means the route of the busway has to be revised and the impacts of the busway re-evaluated. This has caused a delay to the project. The revised scheme will be discussed by the GCP Executive Board in June 2022 and we are asking them to rethink the route.

The GCP will need to submit an application to the government for permission to build their bus road through the countryside. This will be an application for a Transport & Works Act Order (TWAO) which will give them planning permission and compulsory purchase powers. A public inquiry will be held and a government inspector will consider the application as well as any objections and alternatives. The inspector will then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport to either approve or reject the application. This process can take around 18 months. We expect the GCP to submit their application in late 2022 and we will need to submit our evidence shortly after.

A number of local community groups, parish councils and politicians have come together to lobby for the alternatives set out above and to try and convince either the GCP or the government inspector to choose the less damaging options. This umbrella group is called Better Ways Than Busway.

We are raising funds to pay for professional representation to help us present our case, including at the public inquiry.

Please help support this fighting fund if you can, every little helps, please click here or use the link at the bottom of this page.

Who do I give my views to?

If you would like to make your views known, then you can write to the voting members of 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 Bridget Smith, South Cambs District Council, Lib Dems)

[email protected] (Cllr Dave Baigent, Cambridge City Council, Labour)

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

You might also like to contact the non-voting members of the Board:

[email protected] (Andy Williams, AstraZenaca, Business representative)

[email protected] (Prof Andy Neely, University of Cambridge)

[email protected] (Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough) 

Previous Updates

In June 2020 the GCP Board (local politicians) voted to progress the bus road to the next stage.

In October 2020 the GCP has published its latest set of plans for public consultation, these showed the precise alignment of the route and some of the infrastructure that would be build as part of the scheme. Click here to read our response.

In November 2020 the GCP applied to the Department for Transport for a scoping opinion for an Environmental Impact Assessment for its scheme. This was approved. Click here to read our response.

We have not given up hope of persuading the GCP to choose a less-damaging alternative for this scheme. Working with the local community we have helped raise funds to commission an independent expert to review the evidence for using the old Haverhill rail route. They have produced a report which demonstrates that this alternative route is feasible and should have been considered as part of the route selection process. Click here to read about the report and what it says.

March 2021, the independent report was submitted to the GCP asking them to reconsider and re-evaluate the old Haverhill rail route. In June 2021 they have responded to say that because it would be more expensive and difficult to deliver they won't consider it as an option and instead wish to proceed with their preferred scheme through the countryside.

July 2021 The GCP Board agree that the bus road should be submit it to the Department for Transport for approval, even though an Environmental Impact Assessment has not been completed.