TL: DR – if you want light rail, you will have to go through your MP and ministers instead.
That was the message from officers from Cambridgeshire County Council and the Greater Cambridge Partnership at what I thought was a very well-run online meeting of the Cambridge East Community Forum – where lots of homes are being built.
Of course I strongly disagree with the policy, but also acknowledge the direction Mayor Dr Nik Johnson wants to go down – prioritising buses from the current very low level. At the moment there’s little activists in Cambridge can do at a grassroots level. For those outside of Cambridge, such as people in Haverhill, they have the option of going to their local MPs to put pressure on ministers – the former Health Secretary Matt Hancock being one of the supporters of a rail or light rail link from Cambridge-Haverhill.
Earlier this year Rail Future East made the case for Light Rail over busways in the Cambridge Independent. Those of you interested can join Rail Future here.
For the councils, I think they need to digitise and publicise the Cambridge Futures2 proposal from 2003 to explain to the public their vision for the busways, and the changes made from this to what has become a network of overground guided busways and segregated bus corridors.
Above – from What transport for Cambridge? / Marcial Echenique, Tony Hargreaves (2003) in the Cambridgeshire Collection – you can find the online catalogue here. There is a clear link between this, the existing guided busway, and the proposals that the Greater Cambridge Partnership have taken forward.
“Hang on – at no time did any politician step forward and state in their manifestos that Cambridge & District was going to get a network of guided busways!”
Alternatively, the politicians you elected in our flawed democracy only owe you their judgement and explanation for why they support this scheme. Ministers invented the Greater Cambridge Partnership and the Combined Authority as alternatives to wholesale local government reform. Our councillors signed up to it with the concessions they negotiated – especially on housing in Cambridge. It’s up to you to hold them accountable by contacting them to discuss the issues. Democracy at a local level isn’t just an annual trip to the polling station.
I’ll still keep the Cambridge Connect FB Page going. Such is the pace of change happening in politics that it could come full circle again.
Above – note the proposed timeline from Cambridge City Council – there are two more consultations to come on the housing & development Greater Cambridge Local Plan to come before submission to the Secretary of State in 2024. Only then will the examination in public meetings (same as those I filmed for Cambridge residents’ associations in 2016-18) happen. I’ve lost count of the number of local transport plans Cambridgeshire has had since 2010. I think this one will be the fourth. So for those of you supporting light rail as a concept, this isn’t the complete end. It is now the responsibility of officers to come up with proposals to deal with the issues that people are highlighting already in the consultation processes – of which there are many. (That’s why we have consultations – and a sound consultation process will identify and respond to the issues, not ignore them).
I also picked this up from Tansy Kelly Robson at the end of the online meeting (even though I felt – and still feel gutted at for now having lost the cause) :Cambridge doesn’t have many hills, but I’ve identified five things I’d die on a hill for. One of them once had a castle on it.
The transport consultations are at:
- Combined Authority Transport Plan https://yourltcp.co.uk/
- GCP – Making Connections – https://consultcambs.uk.engagementhq.com/making-connections-2021
- GCP – Newmarket Road Improvements (i.e. Phase 1 only) https://consultcambs.uk.engagementhq.com/cea-newmarket-rd-improvements
- Cambridge / South Cambs Greater Cambridge Local Plan consultation https://www.greatercambridgeplanning.org/localplan
And if you have issues with how consultations generally are done, see my previous blogpost.
If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to: