Pausing a major transport project that aims to improve access and journey times to jobs in the south east of Cambridge could make the current travel situation worse, a councillor has said. The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is considering pausing the second phase of the Cambridge South East Transport (CSET) project due to it not having enough money to fund all of its schemes.
The project aims to offer better public transport and active travel options for the A1307 and A1301 area, with the hope of improving journey times and linking people to jobs in the south east of the city, including the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. The GCP said recent inflation and the impact this has had on the cost of construction meant its forecast expenditure on approved projects increased by over £200million.
While the GCP’s expected income has also increased, the gap between its forecast income and its estimated expenditure is £278million. The GCP is therefore considering pausing the CSET scheme, as well as the proposed Foxton Travel Hub. At a meeting of the GCP’s joint assembly this week (September 7), Peter Blake, transport director, said he would ordinarily be proposing for the organisation to submit the Transport Works Act Order to get permission to build the CSET scheme.
However, he said the increased costs the GCP was facing meant he was proposing for the project to be paused until more funding for it could be found. Councillor Katie Thornburrow said the impact pausing the project could have on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus needed to be considered.
She said there were “known transport and movement issues” at the biomedical campus that needed to be resolved. She also highlighted that the new Cambridge South Station was being built in the campus. Cllr Thornburrow said: “If there is a delay to CSET that needs to be taken into account, so that as the biomedical campus builds out it is in the best possible place for moving around the campus and taking into account the number of people coming by the train.”
Later in the meeting, Councillor Sam Davies said pausing the scheme could cause Cambridge South Station to make the situation at the biomedical campus “worse”. She said without CSET anyone who wanted to use Cambridge South Station as an outbound station would have to drive or find another means of accessing the site.
Mr Blake said: “The delay of CSET does not impact [Cambridge South Station] because CSET was always coming after the station, but there are conversations going on as to how we deal with Cambridge South. We are in conversation with county colleagues and Combined Authority colleagues as to what that looks like.”
Suggestions were also raised at the meeting about whether the GCP should consider bringing forward smaller projects if the CSET plans could not be delivered, in order to still see some of the hoped for improvements. Mr Blake said he saw the “attraction” of wanting to see smaller projects if the main project was paused, however he highlighted these smaller projects would still have to go through the various stages required when putting together a scheme.
He also said the growth at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus showed that “significant intervention” was needed, and that the CSET project was itself needed. Mr Blake said a pause would give time for the GCP to try and find and secure other funding for the project. Rachel Stopard, the chief executive of the GCP, highlighted the government’s ‘Cambridge 2040’ plans, which aim to see new homes and extra lab space built in and around the city.
She said there could be a chance for additional government funding for CSET, as the project supported growth of life sciences in the area. A final decision on whether to pause the two projects is expected to be made by the GCP board at a meeting later this month on September 28).