The Greater Cambridge City Deal is now consulting until 10 October on plans to introduce a package of measures to tackle peak-time congestion in the city, the main features of which are new peak-time congestion control points (virtual bollards), a tax on workplace parking spaces, and an extension of residents parking zones.
Peak-time congestion control points
New virtual bollards or bus gates (similar to the ones on Regent St, Bridge St, Silver St and Emmanuel Rd) are proposed for various locations in the city, including on Hills Road and Mill Road. These would permit only buses, cycles and hackney carriage taxis to pass during the morning and evening peaks. The exact locations and hours of operation are not yet determined.
The deadline for submitting a response to the consultation was 10 October 2016, though you can still write to the City Deal with questions or comments: email@example.com
Representation by SoPRA to the City Deal
There is general agreement amongst residents with the broad objectives of the plan to reduce congestion in order to allow buses to run more reliably. However many residents feel strongly that the proposed Peak-Time Control Points will have an unacceptably detrimental impact on their quality of life and the viability of local businesses. It is most probable that an overwhelming majority would vote against their introduction. But, given that a decision has already been made to introduce them, we would like to influence where and how the control points are introduced and operated. That is what this response is focused on.
We would like to thank officers and councillors for taking the time at exhibitions to patiently answer residents’ questions about the 8 Point Plan.
Some people who attended those exhibitions, in particular the one at St Paul’s, found it difficult to work out who was there in an official capacity because they were not all wearing clearly identifiable name badges. Some of the ‘officials’, including from Mott MacDonald, showed little knowledge or understanding of the local impacts of the PCCPs, and were unable to answer people’s questions.
Our residents’ association committee were happy to distribute leaflets door to door throughout South Petersfield. However, residents and businesses in many other areas of the city and, just as importantly, in necklace villages and beyond, did not receive individual notifications of the plans or consultations. I am sure that many people are still unaware of what is planned.
The consultation has given people a range of impressions of what is planned with the PCCPs, with officers and councillors offering contradictory interpretations of how much scope there is for changing the plans; what locations are under consideration; what hours they might operate; whether they will operate tidally; and who might be eligible for exemptions.
Many people have commented about the poor quality of the questionnaire, with leading questions and inadequate prompting on the negative impacts. In fact the entire exercise appears to be more like a sales promotion than an honest engagement around the pros and cons of the proposals.
The leaflet does not make clear that the planned congestion reduction proposals go hand-in-hand with new bus lanes on radial routes. Very few people will have read paragraph 63 of the Access & Capacity Report, which makes this clear. Describing bus lanes/ways as ‘public transport schemes’ with no further explanation or references is misleading and disingenuous.
Many residents now believe that they will have an automatic exemption to drive through control points. How they came to that conclusion is easy to see from this sentence in the leaflet: “It is important to underline that all properties and businesses along a road with a PCCP would still be accessible at all times – including during peak-hours.”
Some officers and councillors have stated categorically that residents and businesses close to PCCPs will be eligible for an exemption (though ‘close’ has not been defined). This is a promise that residents and local businesses expect to be kept!
It has been suggested that granting so many exemptions will put the scheme outside the Civil Enforcement powers of the County Council, and therefore enforceable only by the police, who are unlikely to make this a priority.
Cllr Herbert indicated that residents would be able to appeal Penalty Charge Notices for exceptional circumstances. This will be inconvenient and, for some people, stressful. As there are likely to be a large number of such claims, has the administrative burden on the County Council been costed?
People with disabilities
The Access & Capacity Report indicates that “Disabled drivers would not be exempt” from control point access restrictions. This should have been mentioned in the consultation, as many people assume that , say, Blue Badge holders would receive an automatic exemption as they do not have the option to walk, cycle or take a bus.
Many residents are concerned that people with limited mobility (e.g. because of a heart condition), but who do not qualify for a Blue Badge, will not be eligible for an exemption. Residents are also concerned that it will be difficult for them to assist infirm relatives and friends, e.g. to give them a lift to a doctor or hospital appointment.
Health and social care
There are serious concerns that health and social care workers will not be able to attend their charges in a timely manner: administering medication, helping with toileting and getting out of bed are all time-critical. It is not possible to reschedule visits to avoid traffic peaks without severely impacting the lives of vulnerable adults and children. Also care staff are generally not paid for the time it takes to drive between homes, so long detours will reduce their earnings, which are already barely above the minimum wage.
Private hire vehicles
The Access & Capacity Report states, “The current Cambridge core traffic scheme allows private hire cars access through the existing closure points; however it is considered that this may not be appropriate for these closures.” Most of the public are not aware of the distinction between hackney and private hire taxis, nor of the reasoning for excluding private hire taxis. It must be remembered that some residents with limited mobility depend on private hire taxis, and would be penalised financially if those had to follow long detours. There will need to be clarity about which taxi companies are permitted to pass through control points.
Many people have expressed the view that the PCCP proposals discriminate against working mothers. The practical issues clearly apply to parents of either gender, but in most cases it is women who assume the responsibility of delivering and collecting young children from school (and pre- and after-school activities, often laden with sports bags, musical instruments, etc.) Combining this with getting to and from work in a short space of time by bike or bus is not a practical option for most of them.
It is clear that parents driving their children to school (primary and private schools in particular) generates a significant amount of traffic and congestion. The City Deal appears not to have any plans to tackle this, and is expecting parents to change their behaviour without any assistance.
Driving to work
Many residents work outside the city (often one partner works in the city, another outside). For them public transport is rarely an option (a situation that is unlikely to change) and they would resent having to leave home very much earlier, or drive several extra miles, on possibly highly congested roads, to get to work. This argues for making control points on radial roads tidal.
Home services & deliveries
It is unclear what the effect of PCCPs will be on:
- Post Office and other courier collections and deliveries (especially deliveries with a guaranteed delivery time before 10am).
- Builders, who typically start work on site between 8am and 9am.
- Maintenance service providers, e.g. attending plumbing emergencies.
Other practical considerations
People unfamiliar with the city will struggle to understand what route they need to take. Sat navs do not generally ‘know’ about time-limited access restrictions. It will be well-nigh impossible to communicate sufficient information on road-side signage to guide people to all destinations.
People arriving at a PCCP slightly later than anticipated but after the switch-on time, perhaps because of a hold-up en route, will be faced with having to take a Penalty Charge Notice or change their route at the last minute, possibly entailing a detour of several miles.
People reaching a PCCP unexpectedly will need to be able to turn around, including lorries and coaches. In many cases the only available ‘escape route’ will be via narrow residential streets.
Rat run: Tenison Rd
Figure 4.9 in the Short List Report, showing “Option 6 with mode shift – Demand flow difference from DM” indicates that Tenison Rd will receive a >50% increase in northbound traffic. That is extremely alarming for residents of that road, who fear a marked reduction in quality of life, in particular additional noise disturbance and pollution.
Tenison Rd is having nearly £500,000 of Section 106 money spent on it to calm the traffic to mitigate the increase in volume resulting from the CB1 development and increased footfall at the train station. This was in recognition of the fact that Tenison Rd (and, to a lesser extent, St Barnabas and Devonshire Rds) will already be carrying too much through traffic for non-arterial residential roads.
Tenison Rd is heavily used by people walking and cycling to and from the station. Adding a large volume of traffic will reduce safety and increase pollution.
The crossings at the junctions between Tenison Rd and the Northern Access Road and Station Road are uncontrolled. Local residents, workers and commuters already expect that these will present a serious obstacle for pedestrians, especially those with disabilities or young children, and a hazard for people on cycles. (These issues have been raised with Ian Dyer and the safety team.) Add significantly more through these junctions and they will be practically impassable for pedestrians at peak times (except of course when the road logjams).
Potential rat run: Tenison Ave–Lyndewode Rd
If the control point on Hills Road is set between Station Rd and Harvey Rd, Tenison Avenue and Lyndewode Rd will be used as a rat run. This appears not to have been picked up on the CSRM, presumably because the cell resolution is still too coarse.
Options we have discussed, but which would need detailed analysis and close consultation are:
- Adding a control point (possibly tidal) on Tenison Rd between Gt Northern Rd and Tenison Avenue. This would have major implications for residents and local businesses.
- Adding a control point or closing Tenison Avenue to through traffic.
The builders yard at the Mill Road end of Devonshire Road receives a stream of HGVs and builders’ vans, many of them during the morning peak. Having a control point on Mill Road bridge means that all traffic to Travis Perkins will have to travel up and down Devonshire Road (there is a right-turn ban from Mill Road into Devonshire Road – for good safety reasons). Has Travis Perkins been actively consulted on the proposals?
Travis Perkins is also likely to redevelop the site in 2017/18 in accordance with the planning consent granted on 8 April 2014 (11/1294/FUL, 11/1295/FUL). This will draw a large number of construction vehicles into Devonshire Rd during the morning peak.
Other potential rat runs
If the control point on Hills Rd is set beyond Bateman St, then Bateman St and other streets in New Town will become even more heavily used rat runs. Similar sorts of concerns will be raised around Coleridge Rd, Radegund Rd, Madingley and Coton villages, and no doubt other streets that the traffic model hasn’t picked up. How will these potential rat runs be addressed?
The modelling indicates that a large portion of traffic will be displaced onto other roads. Newmarket Rd in particular stands out as it is a major bus route. It does not seem to be a good strategy to improve the reliability of some services at the expense of others.
Park & Ride
Many residents have asked why the County Council does not reverse the imposition of a £1 charge for parking at the Park & Ride. The ~15% sustained reduction in use of P&R has undoubtedly led to a significant and sustained increase in traffic into the city, congestion at peak times, and residential streets jammed with commuters’ cars.
Many residents have asked why the City Deal has not consulted on a congestion charge, believing it to be a more satisfactory way to reduce congestion.
Residents support the underlying objective of reducing congestion in the city centre, and accept that behaviour change is necessary to achieve this. However there is very little support for PCCPs in the locations proposed. There is concern that the side-effects will be highly detrimental to residents’ quality of life and to the viability of local businesses. The plans offer no improvements to city bus services, nor assistance with getting children to and from school.
We therefore ask the City Deal to:
- Conduct an equality impact assessment of the planned measures on those people and businesses that have no reasonable alternative to driving when the PCCPs are active.
- Clarify who will be eligible for exemptions.
- Examine in more detail what the impacts of PCCPs will be on traffic flows between Hills Road and Mill Road.
- Incentivise commuters to use P&R (or regular bus services).
- Commission research into how parents may be assisted in taking their children to and from school safely without needing to drive.
We also ask the City Deal to review and model the following variations and alternatives:
- Operate PCCPs in the morning only. If City Deal measures are effective at inducing modal shift to buses and bikes, there will be fewer people driving out of the city in the evening.
- Operate PCCPs on radial roads (Mill Rd, Hills Rd) tidally (so that residents can exit the city in the morning, and enter in the evening).
- Test the Mill Road PCCP at one of three locations:
- On the railway bridge
- By the swimming pool
- East of Coleridge Road
- Test the Hills Rd PCCP at one of two locations:
- Between Station Rd and Bateman St, with additional control(s) to block rat-running via Tenison Ave.
- Between Harvey Rd and Gonville Pl, with additional controls to block rat-running in New Town.
- Consult on adding a PCCP on Tenison Rd at the Gt Northern Way junction, and any other measures that would reduce through traffic in the area.
- Instead of PCCPs on Mill Rd and Hills Rd, have control points at the Trumpington St end of Lensfield Rd and Bateman St. Combined with the East Rd PCCP, this would be effective at reducing traffic on Hills Rd and Mill Rd, as these would no longer be through routes to other parts of the city. This is illustrated at: http://www.smartertransport.uk/buses/#map4
- Instead of using PCCPs, make the inner ring road one-way with a contraflow bus lane. This is illustrated at: http://www.smartertransport.uk/buses/#map3
- Develop an equitable road pricing scheme.
Response from City Deal to SoPRA’s initial representation
Thank you very much for offering to distribute copies of our information leaflet to residents in your area, we would be happy to provide you with 1,000 copies as requested. [We will arrange collection.] We will also be offering leaflets to other residents associations and community groups, through FeCRA, to distribute around Cambridgeshire.
People with disabilities
We acknowledge that the Access & Capacity Report does indicate that “Disabled drivers would not be exempt” from control point access restrictions. Although this is the current proposal, we welcome the views from respondents on this proposition. We will be investigating detailed exemptions once we have these views, after the engagement period.
Health and Social Care
You raise some important concerns, which we are well aware of. Delivering care to people is really important for the County Council so we will be working with colleagues across the Council and with their providers to ensure that we are able to maintain this vital service.
Private Hire Vehicles
We acknowledge that not everyone will be aware of the distinction between hackney and private hire taxis. This is an area where more work is needed and discussions with stakeholders and operators will be essential to develop our plans as we move forward.
Potential rat runs and impassable crossings
We acknowledge that we need to work with residents, employers and stakeholders to consider the detailed implications of the proposed PCCPs, particularly with regard to potential rat runs. Over the coming months we will be undertaking more detailed modelling to test the impacts of the PCCPs and refine the proposals to minimise rat runs and develop any supporting measures that may be required. We will work with local communities to develop any necessary mitigation measures to address these issues. And will also develop complementary proposals for reallocating road space to pedestrians and cyclists.
There has been no intention to mislead people about the links between these proposals and those for bus and cycle improvements on the radial routes. We are producing some more maps for the exhibitions boards which will help to show the links between the different schemes and will put these on our website when ready.