Bus services in and around Cambridge have been given a massive £5 million boost after a successful bid for Government funding which will see hundreds of thousands more bus trips.
Cambridgeshire County Council has been told today by Government that a bid £1.7 million bid for the Better Bus Area Fund led by the authority has been successful and unlocks further millions of pounds of funding.
The money will help improve bus journeys, make it easier for passengers to access services and reduce pollution in the historic Cambridge city centre.
Cambridgeshire already bucks the national trend for increasing bus patronage and new measures would see up to 518,000 more passenger journeys over the two years of the bid.
The key element of the Better Bus Areas Fund bid is a package of measures in Cambridge city centre and on four of the key radial routes for bus services in the city (Hills Road, Mill Road, Histon Road and Milton Road).
Various traffic management measures will be introduced to remove or reduce delays to buses to make journey’s more reliable. This includes reallocating road space to buses, prioritising buses through signalised junctions, rerouting buses away from pinch points, reducing conflict with other road users and enforcing parking restrictions on key bus routes.
In addition, bus information screens will be provided in the Grand Arcade and on Petty Cury, and Smartcard machines will be provided in the city centre and at Cambridge Station.
Together, these measures will improve journey times and the reliability of services, and should allow the continuation of the significant growth in bus patronage in the city that has been seen in the past ten years.
A further element of the bid will introduce rural interchange sites in three villages in South Cambridgeshire, Cambourne, Sawston and Linton. These will include a secure parking and cycle parking provision, and will allow people to link with local services provided by taxis, community transport providers, and for drop off trips.
As a partner in the bid, Stagecoach East have committed to replace the oldest buses in their Cambridge fleet (which run on the Citi 2 route) with new buses that meet the Euro V emissions standard for emissions. This major investment will mean that over 90% of bus mileage in the city will be made by buses meeting the Euro IV or Euro V standards. This will significantly improve air quality in the city centre.
Stagecoach has also committed to experiment with extending Busway journeys to new destinations such as Peterborough, Ramsey and Chatteris via St Ives & The Busway.
The bid was a partnership between Cambridgeshire County Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambridge City Council and the two main bus operators Stagecoach East and Whippet Coaches Ltd.
Smart Cards for bus services are great news. They reduce the time busses stand idle at bus stops, often in cycle lanes and usually interrupting the flow of traffic. £1.7 million is serious money, something that could also go a long way for a path for walking and cycling along the railway track from the Cambridge Science Park alongside the railway bridge over the river Cam down to Newmarket Road. This is a key section for the so called Chisholm Trail – http://iitm.be/Chisholmtrail – which would give many people in Cambridge a better alternative to cross the river, avoiding the congested areas of Elizabeth Way bridge and Newmarket Road reducing the number of car journeys on key radial routes (Hills Road, Mill Road, Histon Road, Newmarket Road and Milton Road). But the path would also help more people from the surrounding villages (e.g. Fen Ditton, Teversham, Fulbourn, Bottisham, etc) to reach the Science Park safely and quickly.
Having seen how the St Ivo Cyclebahn and the Great Kneighton Cyclebahn (maintenance track alongside the CGB-way) are used for leisurely as well as commuter walking and cycling (skating etc), bringing people from Cambridge out into the countryside and providing a safe route for people from the villages (e.g. Oakington, Longstanton, Stapleford et al) to reach Cambridge without having to spend on fuel and parking. Unfortunately the “middle bit” is missing and there is no space to make the City’s roads any wider. But the enthusiasm for the Chisholm Trail could turn currently under-used land alongside the railway line and arches under bridges into a quiet, safe and almost uninterrupted route from Trumpington all the way through Cambridge to St. Ives.
I hope you will help to make this new route in Cambridge a reality.