Azara Blog: Cambridge will allegedly be gridlocked in 2020

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Date published: 2008/12/17

The BBC says:

Cambridge will be gridlocked in 12 years unless politicians grab £500 million for desperately needed transport work, a development boss has warned.

Alex Plant, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Horizons, will tell politicians in charge of planning transport in the county tomorrow that congestion in Cambridge will reach "unacceptable levels" if left unchecked.

And he will warn that the only way to get the cash needed to tackle the problem is to go ahead with a £500 million bid to the Government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF).

But that is dependent on introducing congestion charging in Cambridge, which Cambridgeshire County Council has put on ice after it failed to earn public support for the scheme. An independent transport commission led by Sir Brian Briscoe will consider such issues and any alternatives to congestion charging, which could see drivers charged £3-£5 for driving in Cambridge between 7.30am and 9.30am Monday to Friday.

This report is bizarre for two reasons. First of all, there is no way central government would come even close to giving Cambridge £500 million pounds for transport (on top of what we already get). There are about 550k people in Cambridgeshire (who are approximately the target market for this transportation). If you scale that up to the entire country then you would be getting well over 50bn pounds in extra expenditure on transport. This is not going to happen.

Now you could claim that perhaps the government is going to throw a huge amount of money at Cambridge as a blatant bribe to get it to introduce this so-called congestion charge (which, as always, is not a congestion charge but an access charge). But it's not plausible that the bribe is going to be anywhere near that big. To claim that it will be one must be either incredibly naive or incredibly disingenuous.

Secondly, people always claim the world is at an end when it comes to traffic, and that "something must be done". In 1970 Nicholas Taylor and Philip Booth wrote (in the 3rd edition of Cambridge New Architecture): "Meanwhile, congestion grows worse in Cambridge and the university and city alike are being strangled by the ever-increasing traffic. ... Unless action is taken quickly, there will be no further reprieve." No doubt people were complaining also in 1950, 1930, 1900, etc., all the way back to Roman times ("too many horses and carts"), and before.

And, funnily enough, the usual car-hating suspects who claim that the world is at an end in and around Cambridge (and elsewhere) are the very same people who have implemented policies (e.g. wacky bus lanes) to make the situation worse, and want more of the same. So most of these people are not the ones you would want to listen to.

It is quite clear that the proposed so-called congestion charge makes little financial sense for Cambridge. Far too much money ends up in the pockets of the people running the scheme, rather than doing any good.

It is also quite clear that central government will introduce a national road-pricing scheme in the not-too-distant future. Cambridge, and all other sane towns, might as well wait until that happens, rather than introduce some crazy and expensive proprietary scheme.

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