Azara Blog: Cambridge access charge in the frame

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Date published: 2005/05/31

The Cambridge Evening News says:

A councillor has demanded a full investigation into the possibility of a Cambridge congestion charge after the News revealed plans to freeze the number of cars going in and out of the city.

Cambridgeshire County Council has vowed the number of vehicle movements will stay the same over the next six years, despite thousands of new houses and jobs coming to the area.

The News put in a request to the council under the new Freedom of Information Act for the traffic forecast for Cambridge.

It responded by saying its target was to have 170,000 vehicles going in and out of the city every day in 2011 - almost exactly the same figure as now.

But this will be a tough target to meet, as major developments such as Arbury Camps and Northstowe will soon start being built and more and more people will be travelling to work in the area.

Cambridge City Council's lead member for transport, Jenny Bailey, has reacted by pushing for a major study to be carried out into the possibility of a congestion charge for the city.

The county council plans to use a series of carrots and sticks as its weapons. The carrots include the park and ride system and guided bus - which still has not got the final green light from the Government - and the sticks include limiting the amount of parking spaces in the city.

The city's streets are almost at full capacity and the county council's Cambridge projects manager, Richard Preston, said the target could only be achieved if commuters were persuaded to forsake their cars for public transport.

"With all the developments taking place around Cambridge, we will be seeking funding for sustainable forms of transport - we want to get more people on buses, more people cycling and more people walking," he told the News.

"We have set ourselves the target of trying to hold traffic coming into the city at its current level and only time will tell how successful that target is."

He added: "We are encouraged to set ourselves targets that are achievable but challenging.

"In order to use a car you need space on the highway and somewhere to park - we control those two things and our strategy has to take that on board. There will not be a massive increase in parking spaces in the city, so that will be a deterrent to drivers.

"There are a lot of people who say they don't want to use public transport and the challenge for us is to make public transport more acceptable. We have to make buses reliable and we have to get a higher frequency of services which cover more areas.

"We need to give people good-quality public transport so we are giving people a viable option."

He added that public transport such as the guided bus needed to be in place "from day one" when new residents began to move into areas like Northstowe, to create a public transport culture.

But Coun Bailey said the county council should be aiming to reduce the number of cars coming into the city, not keeping the figure the same.

She said: "It is disappointing they are predicting the same amount of traffic rather than less.

"My portfolio on the council comes down to the most basic thing - making the buses run on time.

"It is a gradual process. We need to start by making the bus services a bit better and we are working with Stagecoach to do that.

"If we put bus priority measures on the roads then we will make it a bit less comfortable for cars.

"People will have the chance to gradually change their lifestyle so they get out of cars and into buses."

She called for the county council to do an in-depth study to find out whether a congestion charge would be viable for the city.

She added: "Congestion charging is a two-edged sword.

"On the plus side it means you have fewer private cars in the city so the roads are clearer and buses run more smoothly. But the downside is some companies might move out of the city and people might choose to shop in Peterborough rather than Cambridge.

"I want a full study into it before we can make any decisions."

Mr Preston added: "The Government policy seems to be moving towards a more favourable view of congestion charging.

"It has worked for London, but Cambridge is not London. We are not saying we are going to do it but we are not ruling it out."

It should not be up to Mr Preston whether or not Cambridge has a so-called congestion charge (which would not be a congestion charge, but an access charge). He is just a jumped up bureaucrat. The decision should be up to the politicians. Unfortunately when you have politicians like Jenny Bailey and the other dreadful Lib Dems who now run town, you are in trouble. At least she seems to recognise that making the city even more anti-car than it already is might encourage shops and offices to move elsewhere. And in fact if the Cambridge ruling elite so hate cars (mostly for the sake of hating cars) then perhaps they should encourage shops and offices to move elsewhere. Perhaps there should be a large commercial and/or shopping centre to the northwest of Cambridge, with decent road connections. Nobody really wants to drive into Cambridge, because drivers know full well that the Cambridge elite would rather they drop dead, and make it as difficult and expensive as possible for them. If the Cambridge ruling elite want to stick two fingers up to everybody who doesn't grovel to obtain permission to enter Cambridge, and crawl to their every command, then the people should stick up two fingers in return and take their business elsewhere. The best thing that could happen to Cambridge is to sack anyone and everyone who has anything to do with transport planning.

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