Jeremy Sallis of BBC Radio Cambridgeshire cross-examines senior figures from the Greater Cambridge Partnership

Transport Director Peter Blake and Board Chair Cllr Elissa Meschini (Labour – King’s Hedges, & Deputy Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council) faced nearly an hour of questions submitted by listeners – so many that they have agreed to come back for a second round

In an interview that reflects the importance of BBC local radio, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Jeremy Sallis put question-after-question to the leading transport officer for the Greater Cambridge Partnership, and the Chair of the Board that has to sign off the proposals. You can listen to the programme broadcast on 10 Nov 2022 here. I hope the BBC makes this link permanent because this was an important series of exchanges that deserve a much wider audience. In fact there is a strong public interest that the GCP and its membership organisations share this too. Why? Because there is an ongoing consultation happening that will continue for another six or so weeks, the results of which are very likely to have a significant impact on the day-to-day lives for people living & working in and around Cambridge.

I noted a few things while listening – including people questioning a number of assumptions and also the statements from the modelling that the GCP has to commission for such transport proposals.

The experiences with Stagecoach has destroyed what little confidence there was that bus services will be improved radically to deliver the much-needed traffic congestion. Cllr Elissa Meschini (Labour – King’s Hedges) did not hold back in her criticism of the bus company that has a virtual monopoly on services.

In particular, there are huge questions around the shortage of bus drivers. The Greater Cambridge Partnership needs to publicise its proposals for increasing the pay of bus drivers in response, because that message is not cutting through.

“Contingencies have been built into the financial model for the scheme to allow for uncertainty on revenues (20%), discounts and exemptions (15%) and 10%
contingency applied to operational costs. In line with usual practice, estimates of
penalty charge income and enforcement expenditure are not included. For bus
investment we have factored in a 20% increase in driver wages as a recognition of the challenges of recruitment and retention in this sector.”

GCP Board 28 Sept 2022 Agenda Pack para 11.2

I’ll make that point again.

For bus investment [the Greater Cambridge Partnership has] factored in a 20% increase in driver wages as a recognition of the challenges of recruitment and retention in this sector.

This was all put together before the recent spike in inflation, so one reasonable question is whether 20% will be enough.

“Is the publicity getting through to who it needs to get through to? i.e. its target audiences who are, in principle according to the GCP most likely to benefit from the improved bus services?”


And a number of people are continually questioning the social-media-heavy publicity strategy, as well as things like the lack of posters and the lack of very targeted events at major employment sites such as the Cambridge Biomedical Campus [Have one in the Concourse at Addenbrooke’s damn you!!!] and the Cambridge Science Park. Furthermore, the lack of visual publicity at major bus interchanges remains a significant concern.

Above – Drummer Street – hardly the most welcoming environment for visitors, shoppers and commuters into Cambridge. Passengers deserve much better than this outdated terminus.

“Anything on light rail?”

Cllr Meschini said that the anticipated £50million generated from congestion charging would enable funding for things like light rail.

Which reminds me of this from January 2022.

You can read the light rail strategy from Cambridge Connect here

Anyone interested in a light rail proposal can also come along to the Rail Future East meeting in three weeks on Saturday 3rd December 2022 – Cambridge at 14:00 The Signal Box Community Centre, Glenalmond Avenue, Cambridge CB2 8DB. (It is the recently-built community room in the new flats on the north-western side of Hills Road Bridge behind Unex House and offices).

Light Rail strategy for the UK

The strategy by UK Tram may also be of interest too.

For those of you interested in the historical background, there are hundreds of back issues of Tramways and Urban Transit magazine going back 20 years available to buy second hand online.

Above – alternatively you can order them from the LRTA here.

In the meantime….

Read the consultation documents and respond with your questions, analysis, and opinions. My view remains that in the long term, Cambridge needs a light rail that goes underground under the city centre as a minimum, in order to create a transport option that does not involve 1) getting rained on, 2) being stuck in traffic, and 3) is the sort that is both accessible to those of us on low incomes, and is also one that affluent motorists would choose to use ahead of driving. Because the mindset we have to switch to – and quickly, is one where we won’t be using large, hugely inefficient vehicles to get single persons from A to B. And when you consider how much resources over the decades went in to installing the fossil fuel infrastructure, it makes you think of just how big a lifestyle change this will be when the sales of petrol/diesel-powered vehicles are banned from 2030, and their use prohibited from 2035. That’s under 15 years away.

Food for thought?

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:

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