A third-party review claimed that a proposed bus route between Cambourne and Cambridge is not compatible with plans for the CAM subway, it was claimed.
The combined authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough says that an “independent” review of the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) Cambourne to Cambridge (C2C) program shows that it does not comply with its planned subway transportation policies.
The two authorities clashed over the transportation system and the combined authority leader, Mayor James Palmer, voiced strong public criticism of the GCP and told him to stop his work on the route.
The dispute revolves around the plan of the combined authority to convert the GCP bus lines into a metropolitan system, which would require the GCP to build the routes to be compatible with the conversion.
The GCP sought to allow its voting council to vote on a “preferred route” to begin more detailed design work on an off-road transport route linking Cambourne to Cambridge (C2C), including a path for walking, cycling and ride horse.
The combined authority establishes strategic transportation policies for the county. The GCP stated that its plans are compatible with the combined authority’s transport policies, which by extension should make them compatible with any future subway.
In June the GCP had publicly stated that it intended to proceed with its plans, despite opposition from the mayor, claiming that they were compatible, but has since put them on hold again, claiming that the Combined Authority indicated that it has a alternative way.
The GCP said it was making progress without considering the alternative path of the combined authority “risks future challenges and wastes public money”.
The line indicates that the scheduled opening date for the new 2024 transport link is now “unlikely to be reached”.
The combined authority Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has now released the results of what it claims is an independent review of the compatibility of the GCP route with its own transport policies in the local transport plan and subway sub-strategy policy documents.
The review raises further questions about the timing of C2C
According to a report from the Combined Authority that goes to its transport committee on July 8: “It has been concluded that the current C2C regime does not meet the requirements of the [Local Transport Plan]”.
The review raises further questions and the prospect of further delays as some of the compatibility issues raised – such as vehicle technology and alignment with East West Rail and subway tunnels – may not be solvable in the short term.
The GCP said it was committed to using electric vehicles, but said it was awaiting confirmation from the combined authority as to which vehicles would circulate on the metro. A precise location has not yet been decided for Cambourne’s East West Rail station, nor have precise locations been proposed for the planned subway tunnels or other parts of the subway network.
Technical Advisor Jacobs conducted the review. Jacobs is also working with the combined authority on the corporate case for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM). But the Combined Authority said Jacobs was instructed to adopt an “independent view of the C2C scheme and its ability to meet the CAM sub-strategy”.
In a statement, the combined authority said: “The review revealed the need for changes to the current C2C proposals to align properly with the CAM”
The Jacobs report states: “It can be concluded that C2C currently does not fully satisfy 12 of the CAM sub-objectives and, in turn, does not support the four main objectives.”
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Three main issues raised
According to the Jacobs report, there are three main reasons why the GCP system does not align with the policies of the combined authority.
The reasons are: “There is no commitment in the exclusive use of electric / zero-emission vehicles and it is not future-proof for the vehicles that should pass through the tunnels of the city CAM.
“It currently does not connect to Cambourne’s East Cam Rail and the route through Cambourne is not segregated.
“Its potential environmental impact around Coton and Westfields.”
The report states: “In order for C2C to achieve its goals, it should commit to electric / zero-emission vehicles, connect to the East West train station, preferably through a separate route around Cambourne, to be future-proof for central tunnel vehicles CAM , provide Metro-style service and minimize potential environmental impacts, particularly around Coton and Westfields. “
The combined authority report states: “Note that some of these potential amendments have already been identified in the latest C2C proposals.”
The combined authority has not yet made public the details of an alternative C2C route.
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A GCP spokesman said he saw the Jacobs report and the combined authority documents, but did not comment on whether or not he refuted the results.
A GCP spokesman said: “Clearly we need to look at the details and consider any consequences for the program, but we welcome any progress to meet the urgent need for reliable and effective transport links between Cambourne and Cambridge.”
A GCP spokesman confirmed the commitment to use electric vehicles, although not necessarily exclusively.
They said: “We are committed to using zero-emission electric vehicles and our proposed schemes are able to adapt with the progress of technology.”
Commitment on electric vehicles
The Jacobs report uses a traffic light classification system to compare the compatibility of the GCP project with the policies of the combined authority. The only point to draw a red is the issue of commitment to electric vehicles.
It raises the question of how the other planned GCP bus lines would go into a similar assessment, since they all seem to be operating using the same technology.
Neither the Combined Authority nor the mayor intervened when the preferred route for the southeast lanes was approved by the GCP board last month.
The GCP website has long claimed that its routes, including Cambourne to Cambridge, are “intended to be served by modern electric public transport”.
In an open letter to the mayor, the GCP said on June 3: “Those routes will be ready to take vehicles similar to modern, electric and autonomous trams as soon as Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority are ready to deliver them.”
The combined authority is continuing to progress with its metropolitan plan, with a declared ambition to dig a tunnel under Cambridge and provide routes across the county. But the precise details of the planned subway, including the type of vehicles, the exact locations of the route and the design of the underground sections have yet to be determined.
Commenting on Jacobs’s review, the mayor said: “This problem of the non-CAM-compliant C2C scheme in its current form is exactly why we cannot rely on a fragmented approach to delivering what will be a public transportation network to the public. avant-garde and world-class.
“CAM will function as a system when it is complete and therefore our approach to its delivery should be no different. We must go beyond the old thinking about fragmentation, attaching plaster updates to infrastructure and providing a transportation network that truly reflects the broader ambitions of our economy and its people.
“Taking a One CAM approach will help us overcome current problems and move forward with real purpose and commitment.”
The mayor told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the GCP did not approach him with details on the types of vehicles for the southeast bus route, which he claimed was further evidence of the need for a more united approach.
On 8 July, the combined authority’s transport committee will be asked to send the Jacobs report to the GCP for consideration