The satellite town model adopted for Cambridge, England, which aims to maintain a compact urban core with quality green spaces and an effective Green Belt (Cambridge draft Local Plan 2014), desperately needs practical and efficient links into the City and to important centres of employment to meet the travel demand.
There is a need for a step-change in the capacity, speed, reliability and sustainability of transport systems to deliver for the City. This affects everyone: residents, business, educational institutions, visitors – and the environment. At present, the most pressing needs are at peak hours, although most people would confirm that Cambridge transport infrastructure remains busy throughout most of the day.
It is often claimed that Cambridge is a small market town, too small for a Light Rail system. This may have had some validity 10 years ago, although growth in the region has been exceptional. Moreover, we need to recognise that the transport network that we plan and start to deliver now needs to be fit for purpose to meet Cambridge needs not now, but in 10-15 years. Failure to recognise that fact will not only waste huge resources, it may compromise future options by building infrastructure for the short-term which impedes wise and sensible development in the future.
Based on data published by the Greater Cambridge City Deal (see data presented in Table 1 below), it is projected that ~120 000 more people will be resident in Cambridge City and the surrounding South Cambs District by 2031 than in 2011: the equivalent of the population of Cambridge City again. The Cambridgeshire population is projected to be almost 3/4 of a million by 2031. These new residents will also attract more visitors – friends, family, business associates, buskers, punters… In addition, ~5 million tourists visited Cambridge in 2014, and this also seems likely to grow. These pressures need to be planned for, and even without detailed modelling it seems clear that the strain on the transport network will be high unless the right actions are taken at the right time.
Cambridge Connect recognises it will take at least 10-15 years to design and deliver the type of Cambridge Light Rail system proposed, and therefore argues that the population and needs that should be driving decisions are not those of today, but those projected for 10-15, and even 20, years time. The evidence strongly suggests that growth is of such a scale and so fast that it would be unwise to assume that solutions that might be suitable today will be fit for purpose in 10-15 years time. There is a need for radically different innovative thinking, and to focus on those solutions appropriate for Cambridge tomorrow.
Changing points of view is challenging because it requires courage and commitment to invest over longer time-horizons. It will take strong and sustained political will and vision. One should be optimistic, however, because the Cambridge Connect proposals show that full financial commitments need not be made all at once. The phases presented can be undertaken in measured, manageable and affordable stages; the important thing is that a long-term vision is developed and recognised, so that key future elements in the options are not closed off today.
We need to start planning now, and with urgency, and take responsibility to invest wisely in the future of our City. Cambridge Connect believes that the responsible course of action is to examine carefully the potential of Light Rail, including with an underground component, to address the challenges that exist now and most certainly lie in front of us for the future.
Table 1. New housing, residents and jobs projected to be created in Cambridgeshire region through to 2031.
|Development||Houses1||% Houses||Residents2||% Residents||Jobs3||% Jobs||Key Employment Sites|
|Waterbeach Barracks||8500||17||20400||17||5800||14||Cambridge Research Park|
|West Campus / Eddington4||3000||6||7200||6||6800||17||West Campus|
|Cambridge Northern Fringe||2950||6||7080||6||3600||9||Science Park|
|Cambridge East||1700||3||4080||3||1000||2||ARM / Syngenta|
|Cambridge Southern Fringe||4400||9||10560||9||10500||26||Addenbrookes/ Biomedical|
|Hinxton / Babraham / Granta Park||0||0||5200||13||Biosciences|
|St Neots East||3700||7||8880||7|
|Cambridge City Centre||0||0||1800||4|
1. Data from Greater Cambridge City Deal map (retrieved 03 Mar 2016) showing major development sites in Cambridgeshire local region (excludes housing built at other locations within Cambridge City and elsewhere).
2. Calculated on the basis of 2.4 residents per household, the average for the UK in 2014 (Office for National Statistics).
3. Data from Greater Cambridge City Deal map (retrieved 03 Mar 2016) showing number of jobs created by region and major City Deal interventions planned. Elsewhere the City Deal projects 33,500 houses and 44,000 jobs within the Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire region. Differences relate to variations in the statistical units to calculate totals.
4. Excludes ~2000 new student accommodation units – Source University of Cambridge Northwest Development Site retrieved 03 Mar 2016.