On the 28th of January 2015 the Greater Cambridge City Deal Board decided to make spending £23.04m on Milton Road in Cambridge their top priority. The board was taking decisions on how to allocate money the UK nationally is investing in Greater Cambridge through the City Deal.
The leaders of Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council together comprise the voting members of the board.
Before voting to prioritise the spending South Cambridgeshire’s Cllr Ray Manning admitted he had no idea what exactly the scheme on Milton Road would involve, despite it being top of the list.
I used the public speaking slot at the meeting to question what the scope of the proposed scheme could cover. I was told no one has any idea at all how the money might be spent; although the idea of a dual-carriageway, which the Liberal Democrats and MP Julian Huppert have been asking people to sign up to a campaign against was dismissed as “scaremongering”.
On asking how the rather precise looking costing and the academic sounding economic impact assessments had been obtained without any details being known I was told the costing was derived from multiplying a sum which could be spent on a stretch of road by its length and the economic assessments had assessed problems, not schemes.
After the meeting one councillor told me he didn’t believe there really were no more details available on the schemes and another noted the amounts allocated to each road were not proportional to their lengths.
Transcript of My Question
Richard Taylor: I’m Richard Taylor. I’m a resident of Cambridge. I’d like to ask: What is the potential scope of the bus priority scheme for Milton Road?
Now my MP, the MP for the area is currently campaigning urging people to join his campaign against cutting down all the trees and turning Milton Road into a dual carriageway. So I’ve come here and I want to ask you: Is that scaremongering or is that something that could really happen.
Now I think you must have some idea of the potential scope for this scheme. You’ve got a fairly accurate cost which you published for it. You’ve supposedly done an economic impact assessment of it and we haven’t got any published details of what it involves.
Clearly even if the board hasn’t been told what the scheme involved offices somewhere know what they’re thinking of. I think that in order to inform public debate we should have published into the public domain at least the scope of potential options that you are considering.
Could it just be £20m of traffic light tweaks, is that what a bus priority measure could turn out to be? Could it be something that affects the full length of Milton Road? Could the problems on Milton Road be addressed by dealing with problems elsewhere on the road network? Could we see segregated cycling put in down Milton Road under this scheme?
So my question is just where on the spectrum of possibilities do your proposals lie? Where on that spectrum could we be seeing … can you rule out what the Liberal Democrats are campaigning against – the dual carriageway and cutting down all the trees? Could we see a segregated cycleway.
Just can we have some more details?
Cllr Lewis Herbert: Mr Hughes could you start the response.
Officer Graham Hughes: Thank you chairman. Well I think the first thing to say is there is no particular scope for this scheme or this project.
The reason why is the case we made it clear at the assembly meeting is that at the moment it’s a concept that we suggested or did suggest on the 12th of January to the assembly is worth looking at. That is being suggested again to this executive board and clearly the board members will take the decisions on that.
If the view is that is an important scheme what we’ve said is we will go away and look at the potential options and we will come back through the assembly and the processes which have been set down with some future options. And I think we made clear at the last meeting as well is that the process is that should none of the option be seen as worth pursuing then clearly that scheme can drop out of the programme so there are no preconceived ideas. We’ve put some very rough costs simply because to allow some sort of appraisal and build up of the programme you have to have some sort of criteria for costs.
No doubt you’ll be aware that in the dim and distant past there has been a scheme, there was a scheme proposed for Milton Road probably fifteen years ago I think now. We are not looking to resurrect that scheme now. There are certainly no proposals and I think it is scaremongering for anybody to talk about dual carriageways on Milton Road or any of the other roads because we made it very clear that as part of the city deal programme that this is about getting public transport buses principally, effectively and efficiently provided into the city centre. It’s not about dramatically increasing capacity for the car.
Having said that we do, if this board decides that it is a priority we do need to be able to come back with a full range of options now it’s just up to the board to take a view.
I think just one other point I would make and I think this was a question that was asked of me at the assembly around cycling and these schemes and I think I made the point very clearly there that where we were in terms of design and principles fifteen years ago when this issue was last looked at compared to where we are now is a very very different place, so we seek to, I don’t like the term, 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. We seek to build in good quality cycling infrastructure into all of these schemes. I think that is a principle that whatever we as officers come forward to the assembly and board with we would be building into the proposals.
Cllr Lewis Herbert: Do you want to come back?
Richard Taylor: Is there any other response?
Cllr Lewis Herbert: I’ll respond to your response.
Richard Taylor: Well I think I’ve gained something there haven’t I. The officer’s first response was that there is no definition behind these words and there is no scope and then we got to hear that the dual carriageway is ruled out and confirmation that talking about a dual carriageway is scaremongering so I’ve achieved something here in narrowing it down but I still find it difficult to believe that there is genuinely no more detail there given that you’ve put a figure on its cost and assessed its economic impact.
Cllr Lewis Herbert: Well as you’ll see from the papers that went to the assembly and the discussions along with the presentations on each of the schemes these are concepts and as we’ll discuss depending on what the board decides there is a linkage between the schemes. There is a logic in looking to tie these schemes together but I don’t think that Mr Hughes was saying that this isn’t anywhere like necessarily the final amount it is just a concept and we could well consult on something which was quite different to it as we, I, advised you elsewhere members of the board and assembly have not been given any more detail than has been published but I can assure you that before there is any scheme proper there will be full consultation and full openness about what’s being proposed.
Cllr Steve Count: I’d like to re-emphasise what what Lewis Herbert was saying there. The way I see it at the moment is that what we’ve been told and the assembly has been told there is bottlenecks or perhaps capacity issues or maybe if we can improve an area it will have a knock-on effect there so it’s very easy to identify that there are certain areas that we would be better off spending our time working on than others so that Milton Road would be an example where you know it’s worth considering but to pre-design a scheme and actually cost it up would be a very long wrench for us at this stage the agenda to go and do that. So the assembly were told very clearly and I was part of listening to that discussion that 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. So the concepts are we need to look at those areas but we’ve got to redefine the scheme and that’s where I’ve always been understanding.
But I’m also been of an understanding that when we deliver a shorter list today that will really focus their work and in the papers today you’ll see against everything there are deliverability criteria you know not not criteria deliverability assessments where for example if we know a cycle path is going from A to B it will be a cycle path going from A to B we know there’s not likely to be any objections there it’s very easy to say we can deliver that but where we have a concept that’s got a myriad of different possibilities and we’re not exactly sure how that will work out that might have a high degree of uncertainty about deliverability and that’s where we’re coming and trying to decipher all this when we’ve got the longer list down to a shorter list officers will go away and do their work. They’ll come back to us, and the public, with the various concepts and then we’ll see what is plausible and what is possible and in some cases somebody might feel something really needs to be delivered and its too difficult to achieve we might have to move from that area into a different area so that we can achieve the early return and someone-else can receive the raw return and again this is very early stages so I think we’ve got as accurate a picture as possible at the moment.
Richard Taylor: Thank you.
This is certainly one to watch.
If Milton Rd is to be transformed via Cambridge City Deal cash I want to see trees retained; and safety for cyclists improved. @CamCycle
— Richard Taylor (@RTaylorUK) December 10, 2014
I wonder if MP Julian Huppert’s view of a dual carriageway would include, like Newmarket Road one general traffic lane and one bus lane in each direction. I think that gives the road the character of a dual carriageway and I certainly think of that arrangement as a dual-carriageway.
My view is an outgoing busway isn’t necessary and any rare problems with outgoing traffic can be significantly addressed by the proposed direct slip-road from the A14 to the Science Park and consequential traffic light changes to let traffic flow more freely out of the city.
Hopefully the widening of the A14 will give that road more flexibility to cope with problems and there will be fewer days when A14 traffic ends up entering Cambridge. Dealing with those occurrences better, and keeping through traffic on main roads and out of the city is something I’d like to see more effort put into.