Thursday 9 March 2023

Cambridge (UK) announced plans for a congestion charge - and it is not going well

The Greater Cambridge Partnership has announced plans to introduce a congestion charge for the city of Cambridge. This has been mulled for some years, and of course the record of UK cities introducing congestion pricing, beyond London and Durham has been a failure - primarily because the public has been opposed, so it will be interesting to see how and whether this actually gets implemented.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership is a public sector body set up between five local authorities and the UK Government to implement a City Deal - which is a partnership for funding infrastructure and development for the city using a mix of local and central government tax income.

It would be fair to say that the proposal has been highly controversial, and with good reason. 

The congestion charge zone has been labelled the Sustainable Travel Zone. I'd question whether rebranding something achieves much, as the public's scepticism can only be enhanced when a euphemism is used to describe what it actually is - it's an area which will have road pricing. 

What's the objective?

The objective expressed first in the consultation document is to raise money to spend on subsidising a significant improvement in bus services. The second objective is to lower the level of traffic.  The implication is that there would be reductions in congestion, but it would be wrong to infer this is about improving travel times for those who drive.

Where's the money going?

The proposed improvement in bus services includes simpler fares, more routes and more services, with 10 minute headways, more evening services and more services to rural areas. It certainly looks like a huge uplift in service, but of course someone has to pay, and the Greater Cambridge Partnership wants motorists to. £50 million a year is proposed to be spent, and the congestion charge is not to be introduced until most of the bus service improvement have been implemented. 

A big uplift in cycling infrastructure and improvements to encourage more walking, including secure cycle parking.

What are the details?

Proposed Cambridge congestion charging zone