“I love a tram. And light rail”

Transport minister Baroness Vere (who contested the Conservative candidacy against Heidi Allen for the Conservative ticket in South Cambridgeshire back in the General Election of 2015) gave evidence to the House of Lords Built Environment Committee.

You can watch the evidence session on trams and light rail here – from 10:36:21 if you get lost on the timeline. If you are interested in buses, you can view the cross-examination of The Minister from the start of the meeting here.

The case for light rail in and around Cambridge has changed dramatically.

The three major factors for me are:

  1. The Census 2021 results for Cambridge that showed an increase of nearly 18% in ten years, a figure of over 145,000 people. For South Cambridgeshire it rose by 8.9% in the same period, though over a larger area (around 148,800 to 162,000.)
  2. The unprecedented Addenbrooke’s housing crisis as reported in May 2022 in the Cambridge Independent – and the Care Quality Commission’s criticism of the A&E Unit shortly after
  3. The proposals for a massive science park from the RAILPEN Pension Fund proposes (and will probably get) for the Beehive Centre retail park – or the graveyard of the once mighty Cambridge & District Co-operative Society. 5,000+ jobs, no housing – the site being allocated in the Greater Cambridge Local Plan as an employment site with no requirement for housing means the developers have no reason to push for it given the massive demand for science and technology laboratory space in and around the city.

Put it this way: Cambridge’s population rose far higher than many expected. Even the Cambridge & Peterborough Independent Economic Review estimated Cambridge’s population in 2016 was only 125,000.

“….the city remains relatively small (though population has grown rapidly, from 108,000 to 125,000 between 1997 and 2016), and is contained within a large green belt.”

CPIER 2018, p22

The above seems a strange estimate given the census of 2011 stated the population of Cambridge was 123,867 – as stated in Cambridgeshire Insight. But then I’m still trying to get my head around why the Office for National Statistics was quoting an estimate of 125,063 for Cambridge’s population given the levels of house building over the past decade.

“Before the population count was published, Cambridge city council and South Cambridgeshire district council launched a joint plan to build 33,500 additional homes by 2031. But the census showed that the 2020 ONS population estimate for Cambridge city of 125,063 was 20,637 people short, suggesting many more homes may now be needed.”

The Guardian, 29 June 2022
The Care Quality Commission criticises Addenbrooke’s A&E – and The Rosie.

You can read the CQC’s report here.

I think the report is unfair on the trust. *(I declare an interest as an unsuccessful patient governor candidate at their governor elections earlier this year – I missed out by just 100 votes. So if you want me to stand again as a patient governor and have ever been treated for anything at Addenbrooke’s ever, you need to join as a member of the trust for free in order to vote – and potentially to stand as a candidate yourself).

The reason being that the CQC’s report does not mention the housing and transport problems that are outside of the competency of the Trust’s directors.

“It is a problem and currently we have no solution to it,”

said the trust’s director of workforce, David Wherrett. He added:

“Particularly for international recruits, we have to provide accommodation and we are having a hard time finding that accommodation in Cambridge.

“The university of course built a whole new community in Cambridge to meet its needs, but we just don’t have that capacity.”

David Wherrett to Gemma Gardner of the Cambridge Independent, 11 May 2022

So I have tabled a public question to the Board of Directors this afternoon for answer at their meeting on 13 July – asking them what conversations they are having with local planning authorities and local transport authorities – as well as how they are promoting Mayor Dr Nik Johnson’s Local Transport & Connectivity Plan consultation with staff and patients.

If you want to table a public question to the Board of Directors at Addenbrooke’s/ Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, see here – and do it before 11 July 2022.

“What would a tram/light rail system do?”

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the Cambridge Connect Light Rail proposals. In particular the direct light rail link from Cambourne (a rapidly-growing new town) to Cambridge City Centre, to Addenbrookes, to Haverhill in Suffolk would make a significant difference according to the staff caring for me during my stay in hospital who commuted in from both towns.

Above – from Cambridge Connect and Rail Future East – the latter of which you can join here.

The question in terms of running a service that crosses county council boundaries is one of democratic accountability. How do you ensure democratic accountability for a transport service that runs across multiple county lines? In this case potentially incorporating Suffok, Essex, and Herfordshire.

Above – from Lichfield 1966, the dotted line of towns that had Cambridge as their main regional economic and retail centre, but acted as their own local centre and for nearby villages (shaded in blue, green, and red.)

I was going to go into more detail but

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have just resigned in the last half hour.

So I’m going to open a bottle of wine that I had been saving for years for something significant. Stuff like this on this scale happens very rarely. The last time a Prime Minister lost two pillars of their Cabinet in the face of an economic and political crisis was Thatcher in 1990 when Lawson and Howe went. The next 24 hours will be a very long time in politics.

If you found this useful and are able to contribute towards my ongoing research into the history, current events, and the future plans for Cambridge, please consider a small donation at https://ko-fi.com/antonycarpen.

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