Why prospective elected mayors should pause after the Cambridge roadblocks fiasco

It appears that Labour/ Conservative proposals to fine drivers using key roads in and out of Cambridge in peak hours may be for the scrap heap, or at least the City Deal chair, Labour councillor Lewis Herbert, has declared them ‘unviable’.

It’s excellent that the huge volume of objections appears to have forced the Cambridge area’s City Deal Board into a rethink. But such a plan shouldn’t have seen the light of day in the first place, especially without proper exploration of other ways to achieve the very necessary aim of reducing traffic congestion in Cambridge.

The decision two years ago to introduce parking charges at the Cambridge Park & Ride sites resulted in half-empty car parks and a drop of 15% in bus passenger numbers. That clearly needs to be reversed. And we need an open and wide-ranging conversation including all who live or work in Cambridge, or visit the city for whatever purpose, about how to make travelling into the city more sustainable.

But the whole fiasco is also an object lesson in what happens under remote boards like City Deal, consisting of representatives selected by councils to make decisions at an extra remove from the public. And it’s an alarm bell about how decisions on all sorts of matters will be taken by the new ‘powerful Mayor’ of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough and his ‘combined authority’, which will be foisted on us by the Government and by Conservative and Labour councillors from May next year.

City Deal consultation starts today

City DealThe Greater Cambridge City Deal is a partnership between central and local government to deliver new infrastructure in Cambridge and the sub-region.

It is managed by a board comprising leaders of the councils in the area (Lewis Herbert, Steve Count and Frances Burkitt), plus representatives from the universities and business. They have just launched proposals to tackle rush hour congestion and are proposing eight initiatives. Some of the proposals have had a mixed reception, particularly bus lanes at the expenses of trees. One that has generated a lot of controversy in this area has been the congestion checkpoints, which would block major roads at peak times, incuding Hills Road.

The package includes:

  1. Better bus services and expanded use of Park & Ride
  2. Better pedestrian and cycling infrastructure
  3. Improved public space and air quality
  4. Peak-time Congestion Control Points (PCCPs)
  5. A Workplace Parking Levy
  6. On-street parking controls
  7. Smart technology
  8. Travel planning

These proposals aim to transform people’s ability to travel into, out of and around Cambridge by providing more efficient, safe and reliable capacity for travel, without the need to get in a car.

There is more information on the City Deal’s website and at community hubs and employment locations across Cambridge, South Cambridge and beyond. A series of events and exhibitions are being held including three in Queen Edith’s:

Addenbrooke’s Concourse tomorrow, 12th July

Babraham Road Park & Ride site 13th July

St John’s Church, 20th July