…which makes it a public transport system that goes beyond Cambridgeshire – good. But it’s still at the scoping stage.
Mr Palmer posted the following updates
Click on the image above to see the additional stops.
One of the things that has muddied the picture for over a century with transport and local government is the local government boundaries.
The administrative boundaries of Cambridgeshire County Council from G-Maps show Cambridge, the county town being geographically closer to the likes of Mildenhall, Newmarket, Saffron Walden, Bedford, and Haverhill (the last being one of the largest towns without a railway service) than Wisbech – 40 miles north suffering from economic deprivation for decades with very poor transport links to anywhere.
Addenbrooke’s and the Biomedical Campus in particular need the Haverhill link completed as quickly as possible given the amount of traffic that is on the roads already. How we got to here without the substantial transport investment needed reflects badly on successive national governments and their refusal to provide either resources or powers necessary to have prevented this situation.
Regarding Mildenhall, the future of the airbase is one of the reasons influencing considerations there – alongside the pre-Beeching era railway line (as with Haverhill) long since closed. Discussions on what should be done with the base are already in full flow, and given Cambridge’s housing pressures, following the pattern of building housing on and around former air bases is one of the options.
Mayoral Development Corporations
Looking at the Localism Act cited in Mr Thomas’s article, the Act regarding MDCs only applies to London. Therefore new legislation would be needed to give similar powers to executive mayors in England. Given the time it would take to get a new bill through Parliament, chances are that ministers would look at powers under existing legislation to designate/empower an organisation with the planning powers Mr Palmer speaks of.
Cambridgeshire’s governance remains a mess – and ministers only have themselves to blame
The Greater Cambridge/Greater Peterborough Partnership has since been absorbed into the Combined Authority’s infrastructure. Yet as I’ve said before, Cambridgeshire – and England generally is long overdue a comprehensive restructure of local government, the last one being in the mid-1970s.
Cambridge – close to the borders of Herts, Beds, Suffolk and Essex
When I was at sixth form college in the late 1990s I was struck by the number of students who had to cross county boundaries to do courses at places that for me were within walking distance. They were out of the door before 7am while I could be still in bed at 8.30am even though we both had classes starting at 9am.
Any Mayoral Development Corporation looking at significantly improving transport in and around Cambridge beyond the villages will need to have powers extending to some of the nearby larger towns over the county boundary – Haverhill being one of the more significant of these. At the same time, one of the areas that really needs improved transport links is east and north east of Cambridge – in particular the upgrading of existing branch lines.
Some areas are inevitably outside of the Mayor’s legal competency – such as dealing with Freight on the A14. Not a day seems to go by without reports of an accident on it. It’s also not new.
Above – from 1995. Nearly a quarter of a century later and we still have similar headlines.
It remains to be seen if the proposed East West Rail will form part of the solution to the A14’s problems. The maps on this web page showing mid-2000s rail traffic highlight thinking around freight-only rail lines – freight being far heavier than passenger trains (which in the grand scheme of things are metal tubes full of people rather than wagons full of materials and liquids) do more damage to rail tracks. At the same time, freight services don’t need to be nearly as frequent as passenger services. Hence different repair regimes/schedules could be possible.
“Will Mr Palmer get the funding and powers?”
Parliament had an inquiry on land value capture – one of the means of funding this – you can read their report here. We await ministers’ responses to this. Otherwise it’s issuing bonds against future fare revenue, or waiting for the Treasury to open its purse strings again. And thus we are back to the same problem of Cambridge not being able to tap into the wealth it is generating for the economy to re-invest in much needed infrastructure.