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CAST.IRON's Opening Statement
The following is the text of CAST.IRON's opening statement to the Cambridgeshire Guided Bus Inquiry.
CAST.IRON will be presenting a range of objections to the proposed Cambridgeshire Guided Busway.
We will present evidence that shows that the busway would not achieve the transport, social or economic benefits claimed by the Council.
We will present evidence that shows that the busway will attract far fewer than the 20,000 passengers per day claimed by the Council.
We will also present evidence, from the Council's own publications, that shows just how misleading the claim of 20,000 passengers per day is. In particular, 91% of these projected passengers are passengers that would otherwise use conventional bus services. The quality of these conventional bus services would suffer from the busway, leading to a much worse public transport system for a number of communities in Cambridgeshire.
Again from the Council's own data, we will show that the busway would produce a minimal shift away from private car usage. Traffic on the A14 would be reduced by only 1% and A14 peak-hour journey times would be reduced by no more than a few seconds. As a result the busway would produce no decline in 'rat-running' through villages. 66% of the economic benefits of the busway are claimed by the Council to consist of the decongestion benefits for non-users. From the Council's own data, these benefits are simply not going to occur.
Comparison with a 'do minimum' option
We will be presenting a comparison between the busway and a 'do minimum' case in which the Council makes improvements to conventional bus services. Comparison of benefits with a 'do minimum' case is a government requirement. The busway scheme would attract only 1,800 passengers per day more than the 'do minimum' case.
The busway scheme consists of three elements that are not in the 'do minimum' case:
- new Park and Ride sites;
- new bus priorities on City roads, which the Council intends to implement anyway; and
- the busway itself.
We will show that all of the benefits of the Council's scheme over the 'do minimum' case, including the 1,800 passengers per day and the 1% reduction in A14 traffic, derive in fact from the Park and Ride sites and from the new on-road priorities. No additional benefits derive from the busway.
The Council says it is proposing to spend:
- £6 million on the on-road improvements;
- £4 million on new park and ride facilities; and
- £82 million on the busway.
There is a case to be made for the on-road improvements and for the new Park and Ride facilities. But it would in fact be better to do nothing, rather than to proceed with the busway.
The Council is seeking powers to acquire and use 134 hectares of land. Of these, 11 hectares are for the parking sites and 123 hectares are for the busway. Most of the land required for the busway lies outside the existing transport corridor – the current railway land forms only a minority. The busway itself would produce no benefits. There is no compelling case, indeed no case at all, to grant the Council powers over this land.
We will show that the Council has understated both the construction costs of the busway and the ongoing costs of operating it. The former undermines the funding case, while the latter means that the busway would require ongoing subsidy, despite Council denials. Both of these factors mean that the busway fails viability tests in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Circular referenced in the Statement of Matters.
The Council claims 34% of the economic benefits of the busway are due to user benefits – reduction in journey time and increased reliability in journey time. We will demonstrate that none of the user benefits are due to the busway.
In particular the 20,000 total daily passengers claimed for the scheme include:
- 29% whose journeys would not use the busway at all, but would be made entirely along public roads; and
- Another 31% whose journeys would be quicker and cheaper using existing bus services.
Nearly all of the 1,800 new passengers per day are passengers whose journeys would not use the busway at all. This is just one illustration of how the Council has produced a completely flawed case for constructing the busway.
The Council has based all of its passenger projections on 3,400 peak hour journeys per day. It has then multiplied by 6 to get the daily usage level. This crude factor of 6, on which its entire economic projection depends, is taken from London, where second car ownership is low. It has been applied directly to rural Cambridgeshire, where second car ownership is nearly five times higher. This leads to the incorrect prediction of 25% of journeys as off-peak journeys from Northstowe and the villages. We will show that the busway would actually do very little to tempt residents away from their second cars.
Thus the busway would do very little to attract new journeys to public transport. It is little wonder that the Council's figures show the benefits of the busway as hardly different from the 'do minimum' scheme. New, conventional bus services would provide just as attractive a service as the busway to serve both Northstowe and the proposed Park and Ride sites.
There would be benefits from providing an alternative bus option during the proposed A14 road upgrade, but these benefits would be short-lived. These benefits could be obtained by constructing a temporary bus-only road along the path of proposed new local A14 distributor road, for use during the A14 upgrade works only. The Council should now look seriously at this option.
Comparisons with other Options
The Council's comparisons of alternative transport options are flawed; both their comparison with the 'do minimum' strategy and with a rail alternative. We will show that the Council has constructed very poor versions of all the alternatives for its comparisons, making these comparisons completely invalid. The fact that the Council has found it necessary to use these artificial alternatives can only indicate how weak it believes the case for the busway really is. The Council has recently produced claims as to the costs of a proposed rail system, that are so exaggerated and so full of obvious flaws as to undermine any claim that the Council might make that it understands the transport alternatives. We will present evidence to show just how far wide of the truth the Council's rail assessment is.
We will show that the busway is directly in conflict with the strategic transport needs of Cambridgeshire and the region, providing no relief on the A14 for traffic growth in the London-Stansted-Cambridge-Peterborough corridor, blocking the two key routes for an East-West rail link out of Cambridge towards Bedfordshire and preventing the St Ives rail route from being used in the future for freight traffic. The right transport solution for Cambridgeshire is a combination of improved conventional bus services and reinstatement of the disused rail routes.
The busway would be environmentally detrimental to the City of Cambridge, since its operation depends on running additional buses through the congested central streets. The ability of these buses to run right through the centre of the city is claimed as a great benefit of the scheme. However it would not deliver the benefits claimed.
Of the passengers that the Council claims would use the scheme to access the City centre, the majority would actually start their journeys from the city fringe and not use the busway at all.
In contrast, 72% of busway riders would not actually want to access the City centre. But their journeys – and those of everyone else – would be made slower by travelling through the City by bus.
These passengers would be better served by a rail route that avoids the city centre completely, producing significantly faster as well as much more reliable journey times – four times faster from the station to the Science Park for example. This is the only credible way to produce a significant modal shift from private car usage and to decrease congestion.
The Council should abandon the busway and instead properly evaluate some of the rail alternatives already put to it. A well-designed rail scheme would:
- reduce both bus and car congestion in the City of Cambridge;
- produce a greater modal shift from private car usage than the busway;
- significantly promote cycling by offering carriage of bicycles, including at peak periods;
- require significantly less land purchase and much less clearance of vegetation and habitat;
- use land that is almost entirely within the existing railway reserve;
- not produce the environmental 'scar' that District Council planning specialists say would result from the construction of the busway; and
- cost less to construct than the busway.
Last month the Department for Transport announced that Local Transport Plan funds may now be used by local authorities to fund rail schemes, particularly those that are aimed at congestion reduction.
It would be better to do nothing rather than to proceed with the busway. Instead the Council should, as a matter of priority, work up an appropriate rail scheme for Local Transport Plan funding under the government's new policy.
Site last modified September 2021