One part of the City Deal structure is a Local Liaison Forum, to bring together the Parish Councils and local residents and similar groups affected by the City Deal schemes, to engage with the City Deal team to discuss the details and potentially influence the decisions and designs. The one for the Cambourne to Cambridge Better Bus Journeys scheme is chaired by Helen Bradbury of Coton Parish Council.
The Local Liaison Forum has been very concerned about how the City Deal team works in terms of making decisions and ensuring it has fully reviewed the options. On 1st December 2016 Helen reported to the City Deal Joint Assembly held at Cambridge Guildhall on concerns to date about the chosen Busway option 3/3A:
The Cambourne to Cambridge Busway
Recommendation: The LLF would like the hybrid scheme it proposed to the Joint Assembly in September, that makes better use of existing infrastructure, to be fully assessed as an alternative to option 3/3A
- A valid segregated, or partially segregated, option that makes better use of existing infrastructure, has never been assessed.
- An option that that does this, and does not require a new bridge, could cost £100+ million less.
- Key information on potential alternatives was misrepresented or not disclosed.
- New information on the Jn 13 M11 bridge, had it been known earlier, could well have had a material effect on the options that were chosen for assessment.
- Using current infrastructure would allow for more logical interconnection with the Western Orbital scheme.
Option 3a was selected by way of the Multi-Criteria Assessment Framework and estimates of “Wider Economic Benefit”, and concluded to be the ‘Best Strategic Fit’. But what was its on-road comparator?
No valid two-way comparison that uses existing infrastructure was ever made.
The only option assessed that uses existing infrastructure – option 1 – did not fit the basic criteria of the scheme. This option envisaged no bus priority west of Madingley Mulch Roundabout and then a single in-bound bus lane only. This does not even pass the scheme’s fundamental ‘Best Strategic Fit’ requirement that the busway be segregated, or partially segregated, from Cambourne to Cambridge. It was not a valid option at all.
Comparative Journey times were misleading
Option 1 return journey time is cited as 64 minutes as against the 28 minutes cited for Option 3a. This figure is derived from the current timetable of the Citi4 bus. However the first 26 minutes of its journey time involves the bus circling around Cambourne making various stops before finally setting off for Cambridge. This is seriously misleading as a comparison with the Option 3a bus that sets off immediately.
More importantly though, there are on-road and hybrid options that do compare well against option 3/3A, but were not included among the 5 options assessed.
What was the reason for this?
Did misinformation regarding the capacity of the Jn 13 M11 bridge, and then non-disclosure of contrary information, influence the options assessed and the decision taken?
Was it the belief, repeatedly stated by the Senior Officer both in public meetings and by email, that it was not possible to get additional bus lanes over Madingley Road bridge; that it did not have the capacity to take the weight, and so would have to be demolished with serious cost and disruption implications? As recently as September, the Executive Board, the Joint Assembly and many other stakeholders, were told by Bob Menzies that Atkins had done a survey 15 years ago that showed this to be the case, and that the situation would only have deteriorated since.
A report produced by Atkins in May this year (2016), that was not made publicly accessible, states precisely the opposite. The bridge does have the capacity to take four lanes; could potentially take the weight; could be widened to the north or to the south, or could be supplemented with a bus-only or cycle-only bridge directly alongside. All options have been costed and the most straightforward one – reducing the south-side pavement – costs just £600,000. That’s a tiny fraction of the cost of the complete new bridge advocated by the transport officers..
Misleading information on the bridge could well have had a material effect on the options that were chosen for assessment, and on the whole decision-making process. This must therefore call into question the Preferred Option recommendation.
The Joint Assembly was asked to agree the Preferred Option 3a on the following basis:
- without a valid two-way comparison that uses existing infrastructure
- with highly misleading journey time information
- with false advice that the buses could not be accommodated on ‘bottleneck bridge’
- without a feasibility study having been done of existing infrastructure
- with an unsupported claim that the off-road option was somehow going to generate £680m in wider economic benefit, some £500m more than options that use existing infrastructure. This is simply not credible.
Summary of the Local Liaison Forum’s recommendations:
- Given the new information on the Jn 13 M11 bridge, recommend a full appraisal of the hybrid solution proposed by the LLF, including transparent evaluation of strategic fit, benefit-cost ratio and wider economic benefits.
- Note that key information was misrepresented or not disclosed that was relevant to the feasibility of solutions which make use of existing road infrastructure.
- Pause all further work on Preferred Option 3a until this is completed.
- In light of the results, reconsider whether the Preferred Option 3a is indeed the Best Strategic Fit, or indeed the most sensible solution.
Speech text by Helen Bradbury