First class bus service, cycling and traffic reduction at the heart of Lib Dems’ transport vision for the City Deal
Lib Dem leaders across Greater Cambridge have published the transport goals they say are lacking or invisible under Labour and Conservative City Deal leadership.
“No-one could be more excited than us by this once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a great transport system in Greater Cambridge,” says Cllr Tim Bick, who as leader of the City Council led the successful negotiations with Government to win the £500m City Deal. “But it’s very disappointing that the City Deal has failed to set out a coherent, long term transport strategy and has instead simply put forward piecemeal plans for several large infrastructure schemes”.
In their document, the Lib Dems put the building of “a great bus service” at the centre of their transport strategy for Greater Cambridge. “We need to see a shift from cars to public transport and, to achieve that, buses must become a mainstream choice throughout the urban and rural area,” says Cllr Maurice Leeke, the Lib Dems’ Deputy Leader on the County Council. “For us that means efficient, affordable, run on clean energy and connecting communities with regular services that are dependable. But the City Deal must face the reality that everywhere in the world high quality public transport requires partial public funding and our approach is framed around means of providing this”.
They also call for active measures to reduce peak hour car traffic in order to cut congestion, commuter parking and air pollution. This includes investigating the option of a peak hour Congestion Charge, which has the potential both to discourage car usage and to provide income to support a first class bus service. “So far, the City Deal has not addressed the linked challenges of reducing congestion and providing drivers with a good alternative way to travel”, says Cllr Bridget Smith, Lib Dem leader on South Cambridgeshire District Council. “It is widely recognised that this carrot and stick approach is vital. The Lib Dems want to see broad public consultation on the range of measures which could achieve this – and we include Congestion Charging in that list because we think it is potentially the most effective solution.”
Among other options to reduce peak hour car traffic, the Lib Dems believe that additional residents’ parking schemes may make only a localised contribution and they should not be imposed where residents don’t want or need them. They are sceptical about large scale road closures around the inner ring road, which would displace traffic to suburban neighbourhoods. And they disagree with ‘Gating’ the city for a quota of cars at its boundaries as ineffective, impractical and unfair. They leave the door open on a Workplace Parking Levy, which they say evidence shows can generate income but would have a limited impact on congestion.
The Lib Dems aim to minimise new infrastructure schemes in improving the transport system. “In our view, City Deal leaders have so far been too preoccupied with large infrastructure schemes,” says Cllr Leeke. “And residents of the affected areas are not surprisingly worried that these schemes will be overdone and will cause severe damage to the local environment and quality of life. We won’t be supporting these proposals until they can be looked at in the context of measures to reduce car traffic, which may well reduce their scale.” The Lib Dems want to ensure that infrastructure schemes are held up to the best environmental standards by a design guide which they have persuaded the City Deal to take on board.
The Lib Dems’ transport goals also encompass the importance of investing in more safe cycle routes. Cllr Smith says: “Approval for the Chisholm Trail is to be celebrated and we are pleased that, with our support, the early reluctance to embrace more rural cycle routes seems to have eased. We must remember that people cycle for recreation as well to commute and the health benefits of cycling are well-known.
In other proposals, the Lib Dems are promoting better local rail links, including a station at Addenbrooke’s. They want innovative solutions such as tidal flow bus lanes and tunnelling to be evaluated. They are also seeking to exploit new technologies and innovation in the transport system, including an acceleration of conversion to electric and hybrid vehicles and smart traffic management and transport information fully exploited.
Cllr Bick comments: “What is special about this vision is that the Liberal Democrats are working together to present a vision that serves both the urban and rural areas of Greater Cambridge. We work together, we see these areas as interdependent and we want the benefits to be shared by everyone.”
Cllr Tim Bick – 07720 413173
Cllr Bridget Smith – 07729 836449
Cllr Maurice Leeke – 07900 005939