To tackle the current and forecast increase in traffic, congestion and pollution in and around Cambridge city centre, the GCP’s City Access project is working to improve public transport and offer people better choices for their journeys.
Greater Cambridge is a national economic success story. The area is host to some of the most productive and innovative parts of the UK economy. Reflecting this productivity, the population is expected to grow 28% by 2031 with 33,500 new homes and 44,000 additional jobs to be provided in the area.
If sustainable travel options are not provided, continued growth and associated increase in journeys made to and from the city, will put increasing pressure on the road network, leading to more congestion and lengthier driving times.
We need to double public transport capacity to reduce what is forecast to be an additional 26,000 more daily car journeys made by 2031, based on current trends.
Traffic levels and congestion
Cambridge is currently the 16th most congested city in the country. During 2019, people spent an average of 71 hrs driving time in congestion.
Over the last ten years, traffic levels have increased by 10% and Cambridge’s peak AM and PM periods, when the city experiences highest traffic volumes and worst congestion, have lengthened by up to 2.5 hours.
Air pollution and climate change
The increase in traffic and congestion also presents a significant challenge to long term compliance with air quality limits.
106 deaths per year in Greater Cambridge can be attributed to air pollution. Without some form of intervention, the continued growth in traffic in the Greater Cambridge area would result in a worsening of air quality over the next 10 years. (GCP Clean Air Zone Feasibility Study, 2018)
The UK has a target to bring all greenhouse gas emission to net zero by 2050.
Transport is the largest single contributor to carbon emissions in our area, accounting for 45% of carbon emissions across Cambridgeshire.
High levels of car use, reflecting the increasing number of journeys and the length of these journeys, compounded by a lack of alternatives, mean transport emissions per capita in Cambridgeshire are around 150% of the national average.
Much of the congestion in Cambridge can be attributed to heavy reliance on private vehicles – even with the increase in electric vehicles – this is predicted to still be the case in 2050.
Public transport offers the most competitive alternative to car journeys within Cambridge and along the Cambridge Guided Busway. But, outside the city, the network has poor public transport competitiveness for services to all key employment centres.
In some places, people are cut off from the opportunities that the rest of the city has to offer, limiting access to jobs, education and training, because of poor public transport, cycling and walking options.
Future Transport Network
The Greater Cambridge City Deal gives the opportunity to tackle current and future transport problems by offering people better ways to travel by public transport, cycling and walking. Making public transport more competitive compared to the car requires:
- Investment in infrastructure to improve services to communities around Cambridge.
- Improvements to increase frequency, speed and reliability and possibly cost
- Measures to reduce reliance on car travel and free up road space to run improved services
Work is well underway
Investment in infrastructure is already well underway to improve access to better services in areas surrounding the city including the GCP’s new, segregated public transport routes, park and ride facilities and a network of walking and cycling Greenways along radial corridors providing essential access to the city centre and key employment sites.
But, our streets are in high demand, with limited capacity. High levels of traffic and worsening congestion restricts and delays the public transport services running through it and means there is not enough road space to facilitate a reliable, world-class public transport system.
The GCP’s City Access project is working towards putting forward a package of measures to improve public transport, create more cycling and walking options and offer people better choices for their journeys.
Improvements to services
Proposals are being developed to make major improvements to the bus network, enhancing current services, improving operating hours and creating additional core and rural routes and services.
A number of further potential methods are being explored in order to develop a full package of measures that works best for Cambridge - to help to reduce traffic and make more space for reliable, high quality public transport services.
This could include: physical measures such as road closures to restrict access; pricing measures such as parking levies; or, congestion and pollution charges to deter car users and generate revenue to reinvest in better public services.
Supporting measures can also influence travel choices, such as car sharing, optimising traffic signals and travel planning.
City Access Principles
In June 2019, the GCP Board adopted a set of principles to frame and proposals brought forward by the City Access project. Proposals should -
- Tackle both congestion and air pollution now and in the future, with benefits sustained over the long term, and supporting a reduction in carbon emissions locally
- Encourage behaviour change to reduce car journeys and emissions, in particular for people to make more journeys using public transport, cycling and walking
- Significantly improve access for people travelling into and around Greater Cambridge for regular journeys, supporting the economy and creating better journeys for our communities
- Be fair and equitable to both those travelling to Greater Cambridge from further away, as well as to those residing within the City and South Cambridgeshire
Public engagement is a key part of the process to develop proposals.
Choices for Better Journeys public engagement
Between Monday 25 February and Sunday 31st March 2019, the GCP ran the Choices for Better Journeys public engagement exercise, asking people for feedback on proposals for a future public transport network and ways to reduce congestion. More than 5,000 residents and travellers completed the survey for Choices for Better Journeys – thanks to everyone for their feedback.
- 81% of respondents chose a traffic-reducing measure as their first choice for both funding public transport and reducing congestion.
- 44% of respondents chose pollution charge as their first or second choice option for funding public transport and cutting congestion, followed by a flexible charge to drive at the busiest times (36%).
Find more information here https://consultcambs.uk.engagementhq.com/choices-for-better-journeys
A Citizen’s Assembly
Across two weekends during September and October 2019, the Greater Cambridge Citizens’ Assembly on congestion, air quality and public transport brought together 53 randomly selected residents from Greater Cambridge and the wider travel to work area.
The Citizens’ Assembly was delivered as part of the Government’s Innovation in Democracy Programme and was run independently of the GCP – it was designed and facilitated by Involve, and the recruitment of Assembly participants was undertaken by the Sortition Foundation.
The citizens’ assembly was set the task to develop recommendations to the GCP in response to the question: How to we reduce congestion, improve air quality and provide better public transport in Greater Cambridge?
The Assembly voted on a series of measures to reduce congestion, improve air quality and public transport. Of the measures they considered, Assembly members voted most strongly in favour of road closures, followed by a series of road charging options (clean air zone, pollution charge and flexible charge). The full report of the Citizens’ Assembly was written by Involve and was published by them in November 2019. You can view the Assembly’s headline recommendations at the Involve website.
At the GCP’s February 2020 Executive Board, it was agreed to bring forward a detailed response to the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly and to conduct regular reviews of progress in the longer-term. Board papers can be viewed on the South Cambridgeshire District Council website.
Informed by public engagement and ongoing technical work, proposals continue to be developed for a package of measures to be presented to the GCP Board for consideration in the summer 2020.
The Board also agreed to the continued development of short term ‘quick-wins’, to support the adoption of more sustainable travel options, with proposals including bus fleet investments, fare incentives and more park and ride capacity.
GCP has already provided around £400,000 in partnership with Stagecoach, to introduce the first electric buses into service in Greater Cambridge.