Comparison of the City Deal’s preferred option and a credible scheme

City Deal Option 3/3A LLF plan Option 6
Description Off-road busway through fields. Park+Ride on Madingley Hill at the Waterworks site On-road tidal bus lane as far as High Cross junction. Park+Ride at Scotland Farm
First phase capital cost £58.2 Million (excludes land acquisition costs. £100M+ more likely) £18 Million
Total “Present Value Cost” at 2010 prices £207.8 Million £42.5 Million
Benefits to Cost Ratio (BCR)* 0.2 at least 1.0
2015 Consultation responses Route rejected by large majority: 65% opposed Route welcomed by large majority: 67% support
Route destination flexibility Crosses M11 on new dedicated bridge to reach Grange Road. To reach Biomedical Campus buses will have to go through town Buses can turn on to M11 at J13 and so access the proposed Western Orbital route on the (upgraded) M11 and easily reach the Biomedical Campus
Park+Ride driver accessibility Driver access from west only on A428 Direct access from east and west along A428. Additional easy road access via Hardwick and Dry Drayton
Park+Ride flexibility Will serve a single route for buses along busway into West Cambridge Can act as a hub serving West Cambridge via A1303 bus lane or North Cambridge via A428. Buses could also link to Northern Guided Busway at Orchard Park
Journey Time
(Cambourne to Queen’s Road, add 10 minutes to City Centre)
Claimed 14 minutes, one way Estimated 16 minutes with more stops
Running costs (bus services are not projected to be economically viable) Estimated £66M for maintenance and £13M for subsidies Greater distance of Scotland Farm from Cambridge may increase P+R running costs, but flexibility of destinations and stops could reduce subsidy
Flexibility To achieve speed, very few bus stops, fewer passengers Slightly slower, but with flexibility of destinations and more stops, more passengers. Potential to run both express and frequent-stop services
Environmental Conservation Breaches Green Belt and covenanted land of National Trust and Cambridge Past Present and Future; detrimental to wildlife Better as busway is constructed on existing infrastructure corridors
Flooding Acres of tarmac on Madingley Hill likely to cause flooding in Coton valley where the drainage system is already at capacity The Scotland Farm site should pose less flooding risk.  This needs assessment.
Landscape Impact The P+R on top of Madingley Hill will be visible from across Cambridge; busway will be a scar across current green fields The Scotland Farm site will have a smaller impact on the landscape as it is situated in a localised low point; on-road routes use existing corridor
Air Pollution Reduction in air quality, increase in NOx emissions, close to homes and primary school in Coton Any reduction in air quality is within existing road corridor
CO2 Emissions Significant increase in CO2 emissions compared to a “Do Minimum” scenario No increase
Land use Busway crosses green fields on entirely new land take; expensive new bridge across M11 Uses existing road corridor; doesn’t need new M11 bridge
Timescale 2024/25 Long delay in gaining approval; public inquiry anticipated… 2017? Could start virtually straight away
*A minimum BCR of 2.0 is usually needed under Government guidelines for infrastructure projects to go ahead. However, this rule can be broken if there is a strong enough case for the project.

The current “preferred option” does not fit the jigsaw. It will not fit with a long-term plan to deliver a high quality sustainable transport system to Cambridgeshire. It is not possible to spend over £207.8 million (at 2010 prices, so already much more) on this busway and have sufficient funds left to support an integrated city-wide sustainable transport strategy for Cambridge, such as Cambridge-Connect.

So why are the City Deal board currently favouring Option 3/3A (now Route C)?

This is down to “strategic fit”. Put simplistically, there is an economic projection that links journey time to economic growth via the creation of jobs and the construction of new houses. However, the economic consultants to the City Deal seriously caveat their own projections: “identifying the extent of causality and assessing against conventional metrics (creation of new jobs and the construction of new houses) is very difficult and uncertain. This is the case in Cambridge“.  They also make clear that in fact modest numbers of people are involved: “The options are forecast to grow annual public transport demand by between 25,000 to 250,000 trips per annum … This equates to approximately 30 to 250 unique individuals availing themselves of the service each day for commuting to work”.  The detailed analysis of Smarter Cambridge Transport on the case for Option 3/3A suggest the figures are extremely unreliable: Busway response October 2016. And Option 3/3A is estimated by the City Deal to have only 4% impact on City Centre traffic.

The premise for choosing the most expensive and officially the least cost-effective option is that any reduction in journey time increases the number of houses built and the number of jobs created -essential in the Local Plan – because it makes it more attractive for people to buy houses and businesses to locate there.  This is the very premise that the consultants cannot identify causality for.  For example, the City Deal team estimate that shaving a few minutes off the journey time creates an extra 180 jobs, but has no explanation for calculating this.

An eye to the future

Traffic approaching Cambridge on the A428 from the west, from St Neots, Papworth, Cambourne, cannot continue to the Girton Interchange with the M11 because the current junction from the A428 does not permit traffic joining the motorway in either direction, north or south.  Regardless of whether it is heading to the City Centre or south along the M11 to the Addenbrooke’s Biomedical Campus, traffic leaves the A428 at the Madingley Mulch junction and heads down Madingley Rise/Road to Junction 13 of the M11, a traffic-light controlled restricted junction, without access to the north, and a right-turn lane to the south. This the the major problem.  Fundamentally, the current Girton Interchange is causing the major problem and needs turning into an All-Ways junction.

Smarter Cambridge Transport have proposed that a Park+Ride site should be located within an all-ways Girton Interchange. This is also proposed as the start of the Cambridge-Connect rapid transit solution.

With devolution and additional funds available from central government, there is a significant possibility that the necessary Girton Interchange work will happen. Additional connectivity at the Girton Interchange significantly weakens the business case for any West Cambridge busway or extra Park+Ride sites. Therefore we ask, if the busway is only a short-term solution, why spend £207 million when you could spend £42million? Clearly bus lanes are needed on Madingley Rise/Road instead of any segregated off-road solution, and this is definitely the most cost-effective and immediate solution. Despite proposing a Scotland Farm Park+Ride site, we acknowledge that this would be redundant if the Girton Interchange Park+Ride site is provided.

Environmentally unfriendly

The environmental objections to the City Deal Option 3/3A scheme are considerable.  It breaches Green Belt and National Trust and Cambridge Past, Present and Future covenanted land along its route, goes through the 100 year old Coton Orchard, essentially de-spoiling the Coton Corridor and the West Fields.

The segregated off-road busway has the highest forecast increases in CO2 and NOx emissions and will run close to housing and a primary school. The hill-top Park+Ride will create light pollution, and will be visible for miles around.  With a large area of hard standing it will increase the risk of flooding where drainage in the Bin Brook valley already struggles in heavy rain.  And any solution that relies entirely on buses for the whole journey will create traffic jams in Cambridge City Centre – hundreds of buses are estimated to arrive from all directions in the rush hour – and increase already poisonous air pollution.

Cambridge needs realistic solutions to meet long term congestion challenges. Plans that only meet short-term needs are not what is needed.  Poured concrete cannot be unpoured.