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Technology and rapid mass transit could solve congestion issues

Published: Thursday, December 7, 2017

Technology and rapid mass transit – including the potential of tunnelling under the city – could provide a solution to Greater Cambridge’s growing congestion issues in the future.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Chief Executive Rachel Stopard was among the experts and speakers at the Cambridge Network’s Future of Transport conference last week.

She explained how the GCP is working with the Mayor and the Combined Authority to understand what could be the right form of rapid mass transit system, underpinned by smart technology, to provide a “seamless journey” across the city in the future.

Rachel Stopard said: “The biggest challenge we face is congestion and the fact everyone is reliant on their car, so our objective is to reduce congestion and move people on to public transport.

“Cars take up more room and you can get a lot more people on one vehicle – so public transport is more sustainable, we can make it faster and cheaper but the challenge is to deliver a public transport system that is attractive enough to persuade people to get out of their car.

“Through technology and investment, we think we will be able to help people to make that modal shift from private car to public transport to reduce the congestion on our roads.”

A recent report by Steer Davies Gleave, commissioned by the National Infrastructure Commission, praised the GCP’s current strategy to address ‘first-last mile’ journeys in the city area and its “bold” vision for future transport solutions as a means of unlocking further and wider growth.

The strategy proposes developing a world-class public transport and active travel network, encouraging people to shift from private vehicle to sustainable modes of transport by introducing “carrots” ahead of “sticks”.

Demand management options could include physical measures to prioritise sustainable travel journeys within limited city space, or fiscal measures – such as pollution charging, a workplace parking levy or responsive “intelligent” road charging – which would also raise revenue to continuously improve the city’s public transport system into the future.

Tests on a ground-breaking new autonomous vehicle system, which could provide up to 100 additional journeys between Cambridge Station and Trumpington Park and Ride outside of core hours every day, have already begun on the Guided Busway.

The autonomous bus system, which is funded by Innovate UK and is being delivered in partnership with Connecting Cambridgeshire and the Smart Cambridge Programme, could be up and running in five years.

Over the past two months, the Partnership has been testing its proposals to improve journeys in and around the city, as well as tackling growing congestion and deteriorating air quality, as part of its Big Conversation public awareness campaign.

The Future of Transport summit marked the Partnership’s final public event as part of the Big Conversation campaign, which began in September. The public response to that will be published in January to help inform the Partnership’s decisions on its future investment strategy.

The event also featured a presentation by Professor Lord Robert Mair, Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of Research at Cambridge University, who told the audience “Cambridge is ideal for tunnelling”.

Other speakers included Charlene Rohr of RAND Europe and AstraZeneca’s VP of Strategy and Operations, Andy Williams. Exhibitors included Tesla, RealVNC, Cordic, Cambridge Connect, Cambridge Cycling, Cambridge Electric Transport and Hubl.

The GCP's presentation at the event on the Partnership's future transport strategy is below.