City vs robe and automotive vs bike: row erupts over Cambridge congestion plan | Transport coverage

In 1381, a mob sacked college buildings and burned books within the city sq., shouting: “Away with the educational of clerks!” Extra just lately, battle strains have been drawn over plans to construct houses on inexperienced belt land and makes an attempt to ban wild swimming within the river Cam.

Now, tensions between city and robe are rising once more in Cambridge. This time, it’s over proposals to introduce a £5 congestion cost on weekday automotive journeys to the town, with a protest march to Parker’s Piece widespread deliberate for 27 November.

Individuals who stay within the metropolis centre and primarily cycle or stroll, comparable to college students and Cambridge dons, stand to learn tremendously from the scheme. Others, comparable to employees and households who must drive on a regular basis, are going through expenses of as much as £1,300 a yr per automotive.

Neil McArthur, vice-chair of Cambridgeshire Residents Group, which opposes the congestion cost, stated the proposal was “driving a wedge between city and robe”. “The city goes to develop into a ghost city and residents are actually involved about that,” he stated. “Whereas the scholar inhabitants and the Cambridge dons gained’t undergo … They most likely stay and work inside the metropolis, they will stroll or cycle wherever they wish to go. The less vehicles within the metropolis for them, the higher.”

visitors charging zone map

Automobile drivers – together with those that stay inside the boundary of the proposed zone, which stretches about three miles from the town centre – must pay £5 when travelling into, out of or inside Cambridge between 7am and 7pm on weekdays, though reductions are proposed for low-income households and blue badge holders.

The physique behind the proposal, the Better Cambridge Partnership (GCP) – made up of native councils, the college and enterprise representatives – hopes the cost will fund “vital” enhancements to native bus providers and biking lanes, growing bike journeys by as much as 60,000 a day.

It believes the measures would scale back congestion and air air pollution. Public well being knowledge discovered that, in 2020 alone, 48 deaths in Cambridge might be attributed to particulate air air pollution.

“We all know we’ve received an air-quality drawback within the centre of the town, and that transport is a serious contributor to native carbon emissions,” stated Peter Blake, GCP transport director.

If all the general public transport, biking and strolling enhancements within the GCP proposal had been applied, together with the congestion cost, it could scale back visitors in Cambridge by 50%, he stated.

Bus journeys into and across the metropolis would additionally develop into less expensive, extra dependable and frequent, Blake stated. “Typically phrases, we all know that, should you’re on a decrease earnings, you’ll be able to’t afford to stay in Cambridge,” he stated. The proposals would carry bus fares within the metropolis right down to £1 per journey. “In the intervening time, some bus providers are very costly – and 30% of the poorest households in our space don’t have entry to a automotive.”

Cyclists line up at traffic lights in Cambridge, ahead of cars and a lorry.
Supporters of the proposals consider they might enhance the town’s poor air high quality, in addition to lowering visitors by 50%. {Photograph}: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

GCP chief govt Rachel Stopard stated: “Cambridge is among the most unequal cities and what we’re attempting to do is make it a extra equal metropolis.”

However McArthur is livid that the college, a non-voting statutory companion of the GCP, sits on the manager board that made the proposals – whereas residents’ teams comparable to his personal don’t. “It’s clearly the robe driving the city, not the opposite approach spherical. It [the university] has a lot affect on what’s proposed and agreed, no matter the wants of the residents.”

A Cambridge College spokesperson stated: “The college understands the necessity for daring motion to make sure that visitors is managed extra successfully in our metropolis area, which has among the many worst congestion within the UK.”

He stated the college was nonetheless contemplating the element of the proposals, nevertheless it was incorrect to recommend the congestion cost wouldn’t have an effect on its workers, as a result of practically 70% of its workforce stay exterior the town and must journey to work day by day.

A examine final yr discovered the price of a house in Cambridge is nearly 12 occasions the common native wage, making it one of many least reasonably priced locations to stay within the UK.

Whereas the town continues to be house to most college college students and lots of well-off Cambridge dons, the lowest-paid employees at many Cambridge schools earn lower than the actual residing wage and a few faculty supervisors are working for near £5 an hour.

Introducing congestion expenses can scale back city automotive visitors by as much as 33%, analysis by Sweden’s Lund College Centre for Sustainability Research reveals, and has been extensively hailed as successful in London, reducing journey occasions, accidents and car emissions.