On the 28th of January 2015 the Greater Cambridge City Deal Board set their initial priorities for allocating money the UK nationally is investing in Greater Cambridge through the City Deal.
The meeting started by ruling two projects completely out of receiving City Deal funding:
- Foxton level crossing elimination – on the grounds this is one for Network Rail to fund.
- A busway connecting Cambourne to a new development proposed on Bourn airfield – on the grounds if this was to go-ahead it ought be funded by developers.
The prioritised schemes in order of priority were:
|1||Milton Road bus priority||£23.04m|
|2||Madingley Road bus priority||£34.56m|
|3||Histon Road bus priority||£4.28m|
|4||A428 to M11 segregated bus route / A428 corridor Park & Ride||£24.48m|
|5||City centre capacity improvements / Cross-city cycle improvements||£22.66m|
|6||A1307 bus priority / A1307 additional Park & Ride||£39m|
|Year 1 to 5 reserve scheme development||£10.6m|
|Year 6 to 10 programme development||£9m|
|Programme management and early scheme development||£4.5m|
|9||Chisholm Trail cycle links / Chisholm Trail bridge||£8.4m|
Projects which were not prioritised included cycleways outside of the city, and a busway from Newmarket Road to the new Science Park Station.
I am quite surprised about the amount allocated for administration. I am concerned this is councillors using the cash to prop up their institutions. Millions of pounds of “programme development” just means armies of council officers sitting in offices and not really contributing to society or the economy.
With the exception of the Chisholm Trail the “schemes” are so vague that the word “scheme” probably ought not be applied to them. “Rough area of possible focus” might be better. The figures for costs are similarly meaningless, with board member Cllr Count admitting: “these figures have come from knowing how long pieces of roads are and knowing what sort of things you can do over that sort of length of road”.
Buses in the City Centre
The question of what happens to buses when they reach the city centre is not addressed. Already we have many roads in the city centre constantly full of buses such as Hills Road, Regent Street, Bridge Street, Emmanuel Street. Too many buses, especially when they’re not well driven, makes the city centre feel like a more dangerous place for cyclists and pedestrians.
In a number of places, particularly by the Round Church, and at the Sidney Street, Jesus Lane corner the streets are just not big enough for buses and they have to swing over the pavements.
How can we get people, and their shopping or other cargo, who can’t or don’t cycle (which can be any of us when we’re ill or injured) around the core of the city without resorting to buses driving right through the centre? The small size of the core is positive so we could bring in technology and ideas from airports and theme parks (without of course turning Cambridge into a theme park).
I would have liked to have seen imaginative ideas. I would have liked to see the board invite pitches from those interested in tunnelling; those interested in places to develop driverless pod, or driverless car technology, from tram companies. We could have marketed the opportunity to develop technologies in Cambridge widely and sought innovative ideas.
More prosaically if buses really are the future then how about considering how we can safely implement tidal flow bus lanes; or ration the number of cars we allow into the city while letting buses in?
People from across the spectrum of wealth use taxis; but they are a way the rich can benefit from bus lanes, and taxi only routes to get around the city faster than everyone else.
Perhaps buses be higher on the public transport hierarchy than taxis?
I think there’s loads more potential to make cycling more attractive in Cambridge and for those travelling in from quite some distance outside. I received an assurance at the meeting that even though schemes for many roads have “bus priority” in their title that the City Deal board would: “effectively mainstream, cycling into all of our schemes, so whether it is segregated, whether it is other forms of provision, we don’t design these sorts of schemes just for one mode of transport.” I think this is positive.
When there are tens of millions, perhaps even a billion, to invest we must not forget the simple, and cheap, things. The difference even a smooth roadway / path makes to the ease and attractiveness of cycling is huge; reducing the number of times cyclists have to stop, by changing priorities at junctions can help too.
Junctions can be made to work more smoothly by smarter traffic lights; or by not letting buses stop on the road where the traffic behind them clogs up junctions.
Signage, and active traffic control when there are problems on the road network would surely help too. We’ve got road signs in Cambridge which haven’t been updated to take account of the building of the A14 / Northern by-pass yet.
Then there’s the whole series of things which lead to people not travelling in cars on the roads; more people working from home; schools within walking and cycling distance of home; people living where they can walk and cycle to where they’re going to work or study.
Freedom and Flexibility
I think it’s really important to keep options open for when people really need to use them. I think Cambridge has excellently deterred the use of cars in the core of the city by making it for example, a very long way round, when driving, from the front of the Guildhall to the back (something the vast majority can’t do at all for a few hours each day). That kind of thing works well as it retains the possibility, if required, of driving into those locations on a rare occasion (for example moving in or out of a place to live; or when you’ve bought something very bulky from a shop).
I’d like the focus to always be on deterrence, not banning, and to attempt not to create a system which works best for the most wealthy in our society. I think it’s really important we have an egalitarian city.
I have written a separate article: Milton Road Made Top Priority for Greater Cambridge City Deal Spending.