The Cambridge Coach Station is co-located in the heart of the City near the Drummer Street Bus Station and Parker’s Piece. Delivering passengers to the heart of the City is important for the convenience and needs of passengers, although the coaches add to congestion already present in this area from local bus services. Additional traffic in the form of taxis and private cars to pick up passengers is generated, and needs to access the same restricted space. Even at present, this arrangement is often severely congested, inefficient and inconvenient. Coupled with the space constraints of the central City bus / coach station, the routes providing coaches with access into the City centre are also often congested, which leads to delays and impacts the punctuality of coach services. The delays and uncertainties over punctuality act to further discourage people from taking public transport.
Cambridge Connect suggests that Cambridge Coach Station could be relocated from the City centre to the periphery should it be coupled with a connecting point on the rapid Cambridge Light Rail system. Coach passengers would switch onto Light Rail at the terminus, and the journey into the City from there would be only 10-12 mins. The option to take the light rail could be included in the ticket at the time of purchase. Alternatively, coach passengers could take local bus public transport from the hub to local towns and villages, or they could be met by friends, family or a taxi should it be more convenient. Late at night, when Light Rail services may not be operating as fully, it would be practical for coaches to continue to access the inner city, although clearly at a time when few people are about and congestion is not an issue.
This approach offers benefits to passengers by enabling more reliable and more punctual journeys to the Coach Station, and rapid access from there to the City centre without the delays that can arise from inner city congestion. It is acknowledged that a change in mode of transport represents some inconvenience for coach passengers. However, there is a substantial benefit because passengers can then choose any of the other destination stops on the Cambridge Light Rail network (this would be at least 36 stops on the Isaac Newton Line and Extensions A-C, widespread around the city). This revolutionises passenger options, so they can easily get from the Cambridge Coach Station to stops close to their destination of choice. This in turn reduces, and spreads, the demand for taxis and private vehicles to pick up coach passengers, again substantially reducing pressures in the City centre, improving efficiency by eliminating and/or shortening pick-up journeys, and through this significantly reducing the carbon footprint and other environmental impacts. This represents a more sustainable approach to transport in the City.
The large number of tourist coaches entering the historic City core poses a considerable management problem. There is a need to deliver tourists close to sites of greatest interest, and yet these very sites are where space is at the highest premium. Needs for delivery close to sites of interest is even greater for the elderly or disabled. Presently, these large coaches all need to travel into the City on busy arterial routes, then many will exit the City on these same routes to park up during the day and returning again later to pick up the their clients. This seems an incredibly inefficient an difficult way in which to meet the needs of tourists arriving by coach. Enabling tourist coaches to drop passengers to the termini of the Light Rail network seems a potential solution to this problem.
Coach station locations
The Hauxton (J11) and Girton Interchange junctions are two possible candidate sites at which to relocate the Cambridge Coach Station, being situated as they are on the M11. The Girton Interchange offers some advantages because of its strategic position on the A14 and with potential linkage with the A428 west to Bedford and Oxford (once the current lack of connection is addressed). Travel time by Light Rail into Market Square from either terminus is similar, calculated as 9.5 mins from Girton Interchange and 8.9 mins from the Hauxton (J11) terminus.