The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) undertook the first public consultation on their proposals for a new public transport route between the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC) and Granta Park in early 2018; a map of the proposed routes can be found here. This consultation presented options for one of the following:

  1. An off-road busway route;
  2. An inbound bus lane on the A1307 to the Babraham Park and Ride with a busway link into the Cambridge Biomedical Campus;
  3. An inbound bus lane on the A1307 all the way to Addenbrookes.

However:

  • The option of an alternative off-road busway route following the former railway line through the villages of Great Shelford and Stapleford was not included in the consultation. This option was screened out at an early stage on the basis that it was not feasible.
  • The report on the first consultation concluded that an almost equal number of respondents felt that the strategy would not encourage modal shift as supported the chosen route.

The GCP undertook a second public consultation on the proposals towards the end of 2019. However, this consultation was limited to the location of the Park and Ride near Granta Park and associated access-ways. As such, the GCP has not yet undertaken any public consultation on the option of an alternative off-road busway route following the former railway line through the villages of Great Shelford and Stapleford.

Errors / Omissions in Officer’s reports

Repeated representations over an extended period have been made to the GCP by Great Shelford and Stapleford Parish Councils expressing concerns about the lack of public consultation on the option of an alternative off-road route following the former railway line. These representations were summarised in the LLF report presented to the Joint Assembly on 03 June 2020: ‘the major part of the discussion was about the alternative railway alignment route…there had been no opportunity for any public consultation… challenged a number of the statements and argued that calculations were open to interpretation’.

Despite our representations, GCP officers reported to the Joint Assembly on 03 June 2020 that there were no outstanding consultation issues. This is factually incorrect, and may have unduly influenced the Joint Assembly in reaching their recommendations. We consider full public consultation to be of critical importance to the process, and because key aspects of the scheme have never been included for public consultation, we consider the Joint Assembly recommendations that relate to the route have not been made with full and proper access to the facts.

The alternative former railway route

Further to questions being raised by the public about the alternative route via the former railway line, the GCP commissioned consultants Mott MacDonald to make a more detailed assessment of the former railway route than had previously been undertaken at screening stage. Mott Macdonald issued the report ‘CSET Phase 2 Shelford Railway Alignment: Design Development & Feasibility Assessment’ in May 2020, two years after the first consultation. This report appeared only days before the LLF meeting of 03 June 2020, allowing little time for detailed examination.

The Mott Macdonald report concluded that the former railway alignment option is technically feasible, although this option would incur additional costs and potential loss of several additional structures along the route.  In addition, the report based its conclusions on an option that designated a short section of Chaston Road as road space to be shared with local traffic, preventing the route from being fully segregated and therefore influencing the final scores attributed in their analysis.

Moreover, the report made no analysis of:

  • The value of lost landscape and amenity, and how these costs compare against the identified additional construction costs;
  • Economic benefits to the villages of Great Shelford and Stapleford, including additional employment benefits, by connecting the villages more directly into the public transport network;
  • Amenity benefits to local residents through more effective connections to local and regional community assets, services and employment sites along the former railway alignment route, including the important health care facilities at Addenbrookes;
  • Full segregation for the short section of Chaston Road that was designated for shared road use, although this was identified as feasible.

Accuracy in statistical reporting

  • The analysis of data put forward in the Mott MacDonald report depends on the underlying assumptions made and their interpretation. There are small differences in the demand estimates well within a margin of error.
  • The chosen route score is 50% more in terms of transport benefits but with a different assessment based on CAM compliance the rankings are likely to change materially.

Environmental impacts

  • Whilst the Macdonald Report (May 2020) gives a detailed assessment of the railway route, the environmental impact report for the chosen route has yet to be commissioned.
  • The busway is a 14 metre wide strip of tarmacadam skirting the Magog downland. The impact will result in the loss of unique chalk downland landscape, irreparable damage to the open countryside and loss of biodiversity. Most significantly, there will be harm to important views and the landscape setting of Cambridge.
  • The statement in support reads: ‘We would ensure it is integrated into the existing landscape as much as possible’; this is an inadequate response, and there is an acknowledgement that the planned busway stops will make a significant intrusion on the landscape.
  • It is recognised that open countryside is important to mental health as this location is key to accessibility for the general public.

Loss of greenbelt

  • The proposed route will destroy greenbelt which is designated to protect the rural setting and landscapes of the villages in South Cambridgeshire.
  • Despite assurances to the contrary the proposed busway will inevitably redefine the curtilage of these villages with potentially irresistible pressure from speculative housing developers to develop the enclosed fields in a new Local Plan.

Induced congestion

  • The scheme adds two new road crossings for the busway with resultant traffic congestion and extra pollution in the village. The proposed stations will attract intrusive and antisocial commuter parking on unsuitable country roads.

 Integrated transport plan

  • The scheme as currently conceived does not provide a transformational multi-modal transport system for the region.
  • The scheme fails to integrate with the opportunity for a grade-separated junction as envisaged by East West Rail and in the wider context to take into account a rapid transport link to Haverhill.
  • The scheme is designed for buses to run on from Cambridge Biomedical Campus into the city centre on the existing busway. Any introduction of trams at a future date would require construction of the CAM tunnels.

 Economic context

  • The scheme fails to link the commercial heart of Great Shelford and neither links Sawston and the several campus developments along the A1301 and A1307 such as Huawei, Babraham and Genome. It misses the opportunity for significant economic benefit and sustainability to our villages.
  • The stations are uphill a kilometre out of the village. Given the literally handful of houses in proximity, the claim that significant populations will make use of the route appear difficult to justify unless many houses are built, which appears to be the implication from the projections.
  • Furthermore with buses full of commuters generated by over 2,000 cars at the Park and Ride it is doubtful there will be the capacity at peak times to carry them.