Policy priority 1: A quick win

Fund improvements to public transport in underserved areas and tackle traffic problems by introducing a congestion charge in Cambridge

  • Ease growing traffic pressures in Cambridge by introducing a congestion charge
  • Commit to investing revenues from the scheme to enable radical improvements to public transport
  • Use new mayoral powers offered to mayors to reregulate bus services, better linking people living near Cambridge and Peterborough to job opportunities in and around the cities

Ease growing traffic pressures in Cambridge by introducing a congestion charge

Congestion has long been an issue in Cambridge at morning and evening peak times. This is likely to become an ever bigger problem as the city’s economy continues to expand, with particular pressure on key employment hubs such as the Science Park and the Biomedical Campus. Radical improvements to public transport will be critical, but the challenge is that these will need to be funded.

This has been a heated topic of local debate in recent years, particularly over the idea of introducing a congestion charge, and the Greater Cambridge City Deal programme team has been working on a range of possible solutions. Concerns about growing traffic, the impact on businesses and associated pollution sit alongside worries that a congestion tax could hit hardest lower paid workers who have no alternative but to drive to work. However, it is hard to envision a solution that does not involve road use charging in some form – and this is exactly this kind of issue that the new metro mayor must take the lead on.

By placing a cost on the use of road space for every journey taken, road use charging alters the balance of costs and benefits of private car travel against public transport or cycling. To tackle Cambridge’s congestion challenges the new metro mayor should introduce a charge during peak hours in Cambridge at the beginning of his or her mayoralty and reinvest all of that money into radical improvements in public transport, to offer local workers genuine alternatives to the car. Transport improvements form the basis of the second two actions.

Use new mayoral powers offered to mayors to reregulate bus services, better linking people living near Cambridge and Peterborough to job opportunities in and around the cities

To complement the investment of revenues raised from a congestion charge, additional powers being devolved through the Bus Services Bill will allow the metro mayor to make further improvements. He or she will also take control of strategic transport powers including over the key route network, franchising bus routes and smart ticketing, which can be used to make travelling across the city region easier. There are two ways the metro mayor can make the most of these powers.

Firstly the metro mayor (and combined authority) should use the new regulatory powers to simplify the service across the area. By coordinating routes, the timetables and ticketing services that are currently run by different operators should complement each other rather than compete. The exact powers that the Buses Services Bill will give the mayor are still to be finalised, but reregulation should allow users to benefit from a simplified, coherent timetable and ticketing system. It would also allow the mayor to better link surrounding settlements to the job opportunities available in Cambridge and Peterborough.
 
Secondly the metro mayor should introduce a smart ticketing system. This would enable users to use a single ticket across the city region, make the system run more efficiently and allow data to be collected on journeys to help guide future investment decisions.

A well-functioning bus service is vital for any economy as it provides a flexible and affordable way of getting around the area. The metro mayor’s vision should be to simplify the experience of using a bus, and to better connect more communities with the jobs and services on offer across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.