South East Transport: Parish Councils accuse GCP of maladministration over controversial southern busway

Stapleford and Great Shelford Parish Councils have combined forces to oppose a scheme through the greenbelt of little economic advantage to them that will dissect the fields adjoining Magog Down, a unique and valuable landscape rich in biodiversity.

They are suggesting that the GCP have failed to go through proper public consultation by omitting to include the realistic alternative route of following the railway line in any of their public consultations. Furthermore, no actual evidence has been publicly presented to influence the choice of route, nor to demonstrate that appropriate evidence-based decisions have been made. The general public have therefore not been given the opportunity to consider the options of an off-road route and the process is therefore invalid.

Now, just published in the GCP Joint Assembly papers, is the GCP’s first public statement on the alternative (railway) route; the feasibility study can be found here.

· In it they state that the additional cost would be £29.1m (is this material in the overall context of the scheme and therefore unaffordable?) Where is the environmental and economic cost/benefit argument for this?

· They suggest that there are environmental costs but we how can these be taken into account when they haven’t assessed the environmental costs of their preferred route?

· In terms of overall travel time they state that villagers would walk a kilometre uphill to the busway station rather than the short distance to the existing railway station. Perhaps that could be explained?

· They reject any proposals to make the existing railway station safer, with its current not fit-for-purpose access via the level crossing.

· They want to introduce two additional road crossings for the busway, arguing that the alternative route would create unsafe queuing at the existing level crossing.

· They argue there are pinch-points along the route to navigate due to the risky and unproven bus system being proposed rather than the more compact and high capacity Light Rail System.

The two Councils fundamentally oppose the GCP’s chosen route through the unique and valuable landscape around the Magog Hills and chalk downlands and instead favour the railway alignment through the two villages. Other more detailed reasons include:

· The scheme involves loss of greenbelt and creates a new demarcation line for infill development, effectively creating a developer’s charter. Over time there will be no restraint for development of the green fields between the villages and the busway.

· The scheme fails to take into account the significant opportunities for multi-modal transport offered through other planned infrastructure initiatives such as East West Rail and the opportunity to upgrade Shelford Station and make it accessible. The ambition to meet Cambridge’s 21st century needs is underwhelming.

· The preferred route does not serve Gt Shelford or Stapleford since the proposed stations are remote, a kilometre walk up the hill into the countryside. The scheme misses the opportunity for significant economic benefit and sustainability to our villages.

· The stations positioned as they are in the greenbelt will attract commuting by car and the proposed car parks (albeit limited to disabled parking) intrude into the countryside.

· It compounds congestion by adding two more road crossings to an already congested road system and further adding to pollution.

· Finally, in a post Covid world, what will be the impact on travel and transport? I assume new modelling will be required based on the evidence, with new strategies / modes developed.

The two Councils are calling on the GCP to halt its undemocratic preferred choice of off-road route and to consider the alternative off-road solution of the railway route.