Consultation was re-invented as farce by Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) at their latest Town Hall-style “workshops” on Tuesday 27 February and Thursday 1 March 2018. Despite the freezing weather, a large number of people from invited community groups crowded four tables to discuss the routes proposed by GCP for Cambourne to Cambridge Better Bus Journeys.
These “workshops” are so representatives of invited organisations can “help” in the planning and design of the unwanted Cambourne to Cambridge Better Bus Journeys schemes. The On-Road option was discussed on 27 February and the Off-Road options on 1 March 2018.
Of course this follows on from a massive expensive consultation exercise conducted since November 2017, with an exhibition bus, lavish brochures with typos and missing information, consultation meetings, etc. Given the supposed intensity of their consultation, focus group and telephone research, completed at the end of January 2018, it is odd that they can’t provide any quantitative input from the results to feed into these “workshops”, the results now promised for 23 March.
Tired campaigners since this all started in 2015 are never surprised at the ingenuity of the County Transport Officers, their research team and their tame consultants to slant any scheme or detail to suit their preferred Off-Road guided busway option. So on Tuesday evening everyone was watching and waiting, and their ingenuity was breathtaking.
From the beginning, the reason for the GCP Off-Road proposal has been the inbound queues on Madingley Hill/Road, fundamentally caused by the M11 Jct 13 traffic lights, now made worse by the Eddington traffic lights. So the proposal has always been at least an inbound bus lane from Madingley Mulch, which the current road corridor can accommodate. GCP had previously tried to say the M11 bridge could not accommodate four lanes, but had to reveal they had a feasibility study which confirmed it could. Now, lo and behold, they use the extra lane NOT for an inbound bus lane, but an outbound only lane! Even Stagecoach was shocked.
Why you may ask? Well obviously any plan to speed journey times along Madingley Road damages the GCP case for an Off-Road guided busway through the Green Belt and West Fields. So leaving some delays in any Madingley Road solution is good! Could they do more to make the journey times even longer? Yes: add more traffic lights: a new set is proposed for the Madingley Mulch roundabout where there is almost no crossing traffic from Madingley village to St Neots old road. Unnecessary.
And Hardwick, Comberton and Coton residents wonder why the scheme has to fit in extra wide cycle lanes too, when other consultants recommended the planned Greenway link Hardwick and Comberton to the Wimpole Way and the Footpath through Coton, offering a less steep and sheltered route away from traffic noise and pollution.
Of course, arguing about an incompetently designed On-Road option on Tuesday was nothing compared to considering the unwanted Off-Road options. Amongst people who fundamentally object to the vandalising of the Green Belt and proposed routes through the Coton Corridor and West Fields (according to the High Court to be held inviolable), it was never going to be smooth, but it started with a near shouting match when officers and their tame consultants provided no input on their justification for going through the Green Belt. Indeed their only argument was that the law was on their side and they could use it to push their scheme through wherever they chose.
The round table discussions descended quite quickly into farce. You have to credit the moderators who remorselessly repeated that everything should be written down on Post-It Notes so we could have our say and it be recorded. The only agreement seemed to be that these were the wrong routes in the wrong place. And why were’t the right solutions being considered, such as along the A428 and an all-ways Girton Interchange? How did this fit with the Mayor’s proposed Metro? If there were to be tunnels, where did these connect? What kind of vehicles were being proposed for these routes? No answers.
There wasn’t much actual NIMBYism evident, though some Newnham residents simply wanted to stop a busway or bus lanes near their house by advocating for other routes – not exactly in the public interest. This rather ignored the fundamental flaws in the route proposals. That even started at Madingley Mulch with no clarity of where buses might have come from west of there – the assumption GCP had made was that they did not come from the A428; Hardwick residents not best pleased. Routes closest to Coton village, especially the primary school, and to the houses on Cambridge Road, were explained as so as not to be visible on the hillside from a distance, and to minimise disruption to the Coton Orchard, but right next to houses. No recognition that these are running through historically protected fields.
Choosing routes in relation to the West Cambridge site was pointed out as premature, given the University is still negotiating outline planning permission, and the University apparently likes the Greenway cycle route proposal to link westwards along Wimpole Way through Coton to Comberton and Hardwick. And there is still no decision on where any bus interchange might be, especially to link with the vision of Western Orbital provision, though that seems to be turning into a cloud.
You could see the disappointment on the Transport Officers faces as the participants criticised their proposals, reminded them that the solution was an all-ways Girton Interchange with a Park+Ride located there. And the questions kept coming as to where all these buses were to go, and where the tunnel mouths would be, that the Mayor and GCP are apparently getting on with planning?
If you wanted to despair at the abuse of the public, wasting two hours and more of their valuable time getting there each evening, in a fruitless exercise, now’s the time. Clearly, the only real routes to object to this are the ballot box in the May council elections, and through our MP Heidi Allen.
2 March 2018