Published: Thursday, September 7, 2017
People from across South Cambridgeshire and the city came together at a key event to hear more about and ‘brain-storm’ ideas for a potential new network of rural travel hubs.
The hubs would give residents in rural areas better access to public transport services within the district and to and from Cambridge.
The hubs could provide mini park & ride or park & cycle facilities at convenient village locations or be used as a base for council-led, on-demand community transport services.
The concept is part of a wider strategy by the Greater Cambridge Partnership to get more people out of cars and onto public transport, cycling and walking, to tackle congestion and air pollution as the area continues to grow.
An inaugural event held at South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) at Cambourne on Wednesday drew people including county, district and parish councillors to hear more about the proposed hubs and to brain-storm ideas.
South Cambridgeshire District Cllr Francis Burkitt, Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership said: “I’m absolutely delighted by the progress that has been made so far, and was really pleased by the interest and ideas generated at last night’s meeting.
“I’ve been backing the concept for rural travel hubs from the outset, but I’ve always been keen that – if we proceed with them – they should be a grassroots and community-led idea, wanted and welcomed by local residents. I am full of gratitude and praise for all the project team working on this who have worked hard with Parish Councillors over the summer.”
Parish Councils have previously suggested six possible sites for investigation at Oakington, Swavesey, Foxton, Whittlesford, Shepreth and Meldreth. Meetings have either already or are set to take place with representatives of these local councils but the project is district-wide and as full a district-wide review as possible will be conducted.
To date, the project team, which comprises an officer each from SCDC and Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) and external engineering consultants Skanska, working under the direction of Mike Hill (Director of Health and Environmental Services at SCDC) has been carrying out early project work including collating background data, drawing up criteria and exploring potential costings and land ownership issues.
The starting point is to determine what rural travel hubs seek to achieve, noting that there will be different needs in different locations. Early ideas for how hubs could be used include for:
The team is also exploring whether the hubs could be used as a central point for council-run, on-demand community transport services and whether shuttle buses could collect passengers from nearby villages to access other services at the hub.
Delegates at the event backed the principle of local solutions for local problems and discussed how rural travel hubs would support improve rural bus services, including inter-village as well as city connections.
Cllr Peter Topping, leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council said he was struck by the support and enthusiasm for the idea.
“We must be innovative and make sure that our villages get the transport links that they deserve. We have championed rural travel hubs and need to make sure that they meet the needs of local people. I have seen at first hand the interest and enthusiasm our parish councils and villages are showing to secure local solutions.
“This is transport infrastructure design with a real village hall input, and that is at the heart of the District Council’s relationship with its residents. When Cllr Burkitt wrote to Parish Councils last year we had a positive response and our officers at the District Council have been talking to those people more over recent weeks to see how this initiative could address the travel needs of their residents.”
The Executive Board, acting on the recommendation of the Joint Assembly, agreed in March this year to allocate £100,000 of funding to investigate the creation of a rural travel hub network in South Cambridgeshire, to improve local transport networks, improve connectivity, and provide more sustainable travel options between key residential and employment areas.
This is viewed as a long-term project, undertaken in a number of stages, and the project team will bring its report, assessment and conclusions to the January and February 2018 meetings respectively, of the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Assembly and Board meetings, together with a recommendation about which should be the first two rural travel hubs to be taken forward to detailed design, local consultation and planning permission, and (if approved) construction, including a request for the necessary funding.
It is likely that this process would take a year or more. After these first two have been opened and their success can be evaluated, further sites would then be brought forward. Alternatively, the Assembly and Board, after studying the report, may wish to accelerate the process.
There will be ongoing opportunities for community engagement with residents, commuters and users of the transport network throughout the duration of the project and anyone can offer their opinion by contacting Project Manager Kirsty Human (SCDC) or James Blacow (CCC) at firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information, please visit www.greatercambridge.org.uk/ruraltransporthubs