New plans for off-road busway route from Cambourne to Cambridge revealed

A new "preferred indicative route" for a proposed transport link between Cambourne and Cambridge has been released by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. The Greater Cambridge Partnership has already proposed a route for a GBP160 million busway connecting the two areas, but following public criticism from the Combined Authority and its leader, the mayor James Palmer, those plans were put on pause earlier this year. The purpose-built off-road busway route would also act as part of the first phase of the Combined Authority's Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro plan, should the metro go ahead.

As a consequence, the Greater Cambridge Partnership's (GCP) project has to be compatible with the Combined Authority's future plans. In the summer the mayor said he was "concerned that they [the GCP] are going to spend an awful lot of money creating something that I am going to have to dig up in about three years' time and redirect".

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"Route will require considerable further exploratory work"

The GCP, which is legally obliged to comply with Combined Authority transport policies, paused its plans, which it said would make the expected 2024 completion date "unlikely to be achieved", and said it would wait for the Combined Authority's "alternative route alignment". The Combined Authority has now for the first time revealed a potential alternative route, which will be discussed at its transport committee on November 4.

A map released by the authority shows "indicative northern route corridor options". The map of the indicative route shows it running north of the A428 instead of south.

Indicative northern route corridor options for Cambourne to Cambridge

The GCP's route comes into west Cambridge between Coton and the A1303. Whereas, The Combined Authority's proposal appears to offer two potential options for entering the city.

Option one is following the A428 further east than the GCP proposed to do, and then turning south, passing north of the American Military Cemetery. The other possible approach to the west of Cambridge appears to be an underground option. Proximity to Coton and the subsequent opposition by residents has been a prominent issue for the GCP's scheme, something the Combined Authority's proposal appears to avoid.

The GCP's proposal is considerably further along in terms of planning than the Combined Authority's. The GCP has completed a public consultation, narrowed down different options and put forward a preferred route. At this stage, the Combined Authority's proposal is only indicative, meaning no exact or specific route has been proposed.

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A Combined Authority report says: "This is a proposal for an alternative route which will require considerable further exploratory work and consultation with the public before the route can be approved.

It is provided to give some transparency on the discussions between the CPCA and the GCP." The report also says the GCP has "raised some initial concerns and asked for further investigations on the additional cost of a northern alignment, an assessment of the impact on the environment and the potential construction complexity and risk associated with the preferred corridor". In response to the GCP's concerns, the Combined Authority said it "will continue to explore other potential options to the north of the A428 in seeking to overcome the initial concerns raised by the GCP officers".

Mr Palmer said presenting indicative options is the first stage in a longer process of deciding on the best route, and stressed these are "potential routes" and "no decisions have been taken".

"We have put forward potential routes for the alignment of the northern route to west Cambridge, but we are not at the decision-making position yet, and we will make sure that at all times we consult with local stakeholders," he said.

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