New Year, new proposals add confusion

We can all be forgiven for being confused. The more we are told, the less clear things are.  Articles started appearing in the press before Christmas (Dec 2017) about a high-speed bus rapid-transit scheme with tunnels under Cambridge. And the maps had a metro stop for Coton! But we could not read the report this was being leaked from, and it is not yet published.  Yet the consultants engaged by the Greater Cambridge Partnership gave a detailed presentation of the proposals for a recommended version of a Cambridge Area Metro to the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Joint Assembly.  To everyone’s surprise, this is based on using guided busways and not a light rail, tram or genuine metro type solution.

This looks horribly like pre-determination of the decisions facing Cambridge.  Yet the busway consultation grinds on:

When the Cambourne to Cambridge Better Bus Journeys: Phase One. consultation document started thumping through doors on 13 November 2017 some spectacular typos, erros and omissions were spotted. The on-road scheme, put forward by the Local Liaison Forum (LLF), previously Option 6, appeared to have been emasculated into something described as “Route B”.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) halted distribution, re-printed, but also issued some with error slips, then a letter drawing attention to more errors and omissions. What was the correct version to respond to?

More confusion followed when people visited the “exhibition” double-decker bus and at Coton Primary School. We got arguments from GCP officers and their consultants advocating the Waterworks Park + Ride site and off-road Route C through the Coton Corridor, with spurious claims made to try and back-up their preference. This was when we first heard this could also be the route for high speed mass rapid transit instead of buses! We came out none the wiser.

The LLF met in the Village Hall on 5th December 2017, despite GCP not wanting them to, but then Chris Tunstall and Rachel Stopard of GCP agreed to attend. The LLF members trounced the whole flawed consultation to date, and passed a series of critical resolutions. But then Chris Tunstall surprised everyone by saying the consultation was “informal” and he promised that the LLF’s Option 6 would be worked up as a proper alternative, in time for the “Statutory Consultation” required if the busway is approved. Yet more reasons for confusion.

The Parish Council in Coton has constantly tried to make the case, and supported all the efforts of CBAG (Coton Busway Action Group), but felt their legal representations to GCP made no impact. They therefore issued a Letter Before Action to GCP proposing a judicial review. The response to date has been a ‘mediation’ on the consultation, with GCP continuing on regardless, deadline now extended to Midnight 30th January 2018.

Our new Mayor James Palmer of the Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority, himself a long opponent of the concrete guided busway, has lambasted GCP in the press for continuing, rightly arguing that this cut across the new study to seek an over-arching transport vision for Greater Cambridge.  This is the report we have not yet seen, but consultants can make presentations about and journalists can write stories on, and officers and councillors can make comments about.

What about the public?  Yet more confirmation of the democratic deficit here.  But we can still answer the original consultation questionnaire, though it now seems increasingly out-of-date and even more misinformed!


Roger Tomlinson

Coton Parish Councillor, January 25th 2018

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