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back to article Cambridgeshire makes road charge last resort

Cambridgeshire CC councillors have voted for a scheme which would use Transport Innovation Fund money and include road charging – if all else fails. The county's travel scheme proposes a trigger point for a congestion charge scheme, so that it would be introduced if congestion "reached a critical level and nothing else would …

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Give people a viable public transport

and they might use it.

It costs me the same to drive as get the train (where I get cold going outside, and have to stand up all the way because there are not enough trains), and it costs me about 1/2 the price to take my motorbike.

Oh, the bus is cheeper, but Im not spending 4 hours of my day sitting on a bus.

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Grenade

Typical bloody NuLabour!

"applications for the £3bn TIF stipulate that bids must..........include a (road) pricing regime......"

Which actually means: "Nobody wants this shit as it's political suicide to implement locally, but we desperately need to screw motorists for more cash. Let's try bribery........"

When I were a lad, using government money supplied for one purpose (e.g. transport improvements) for something else (e.g. bribing councillors to implement your latest tax wheeze) was called simulation fraud.

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Coat

It's all relative

Taken at face value, Cambs County councillors are actually doing the right thing, listening to their people, etc.

In reality, everything is being done as if to increase congestion in the city. Most recently, namely: re-timing the traffic lights at Hills Rd/Cherry Hinton Rd junction (a very busy junction during rush hours) and the removal of 2 lanes (1 each direction) off the Hills Rd bridge. Both done under the guise of cyclists' safety.

Don't get me wrong, cyclists are entitled to use the road notwithstanding them not paying road tax, but half the available road space? Come on - they are not tractors!!

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Guided busway

They will need to congestion charge to pay for the huge white elephant that is the guided busway (which seems to be nearly open, only a few months late - hurrah)

Still, Chesterton station is a good idea. If only they had kept the rail line they build the busway on - then you could have a direct rail link to there from the Science Park, the Regional college, and all points North.

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Cambridgeshire County Council?

That would be the same county council who recently bulldozered through an ill-conceived and expensive guided busway scheme: does anyone really want to trust them with £500m more of our money? Maybe it would do less actual harm if they did just "sit on their hands and expect the congestion to go away" his time... After all, look where "we must do something, this is something so we have to do it" planning has got us so far.

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FAIL

Cambridge

Much of the congestion in Cambridge itself has been caused by the Councils involved. Roads have been narrowed by creating bus only lanes. Massive and inappropriate use of traffic lights create grid-lock. Other roads now have chicanes and speed bumps and other hazards more usually found on crazy golf courses. Follow the link below to see why.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/5125422/Motorists-set-for-green-wave.html

I asked a councillor if they would consider the traffic schemes being trialed in Europe only to be told that 'they wouldn't work here'. In other words the Council wants a congestion charge.

What I want is someone to do a proper road design and get the traffic flowing again.

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less traffic lights?

i live in the small town of lincoln (its above watford so many of you wont have heard of it)

traffic congestion here is getting worse. but take a closer look at why.

i cant drive more than 1 mile in lincoln without hitting a traffic light. the lights change every 20 seconds or so meaning only a few cars ever move at each light change.

now, surely, it must be possible to work a way that lets cars flow between lights. every time you get a green you drive for 1/2 mile then hit another red. why is this? on main routes surely the most efficient way is foa steady stream, not stop start.

and dont get me started on cycle paths. we lost car lanes hundreds of drop curbs were put in to handle the bikes (right next to a low curb on someone's drive in most places), yet all cyclists use the paths these days. anyone else think all councils have someone who works for a traffic company at their helm?

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@M A Walters

"Don't get me wrong, cyclists are entitled to use the road notwithstanding them not paying road tax, but half the available road space? Come on - they are not tractors!!"

Individually they are not. But en masse... Have you not noticed how full the roads are with cyclists, now that term has started ?

Also, Hills Road is the main route from the town center to the rather large Addenbrooke's site - busy with cars, buses and cycles.

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Alert

From someone living in Cambridge

'it would be introduced if congestion "reached a critical level and nothing else would help".'

Nothing else would help, eh?

Try sequencing your traffic lights then - it's only been happening in London for about 40 years. For people who aren't residents of Cambridge, there are several areas of town where progress is virtually impossible with any significant level of traffic because there's a zillion traffic lights, and not a single road in Cambridge has successive lights rigged to work in sequence. Newmarket Road infamously has 10 sets of traffic lights on about a mile of road, all of them out of sequence with each other.

And the few areas of dual carriageway through the city centre have been converted into bus lanes. Sure, the busses and taxis can go faster along those sections - but the single carriageway bits at the ends are gridlocked, so all that does is change where the busses get stuck.

Meantime there's over £100m going on a white-elephant guided bus scheme between Cambridge and a couple of neighbouring towns. First estimate BTW was £54m, final budget was £116m, and latest report is looking at somewhere north of £120m.

As a colleague once said, the only skill that Cambridgeshire road planners apparently need is to be able to draw on maps in coloured crayon. Hanlon's Razor says, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." Still, in the face of decisions which apparently require *so* much stupidity, it's difficult to believe that's all it is.

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Unhappy

Re Give people a viable public transport

Totally agree going to newcastle for a stag do next month. Tried booking a train ticket 2 months ago was about £106 return. My car 10 year old disiel will do the 450 miles in about £45 of fuel. And driving will take about 1hour less time.

Come on people i DONT WANT TO DRIVE, but I cant really afford an extra £55 pounds thats over double the price.

It gets even more rediculous when you factor in that the single ticket was 50p less. Therefore if they can sell me the return for 50p why does the outbound journey costs so much??

Thats right they want to make as much money of those that drive. And those that choose not too. Win Win

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Happy

Cyclists vs Motorists rant?

.......with the buses caught in the crossfire? ...yawn! (Been there, done that )

Rant against the guv'mint? been there done that .. both the red blue and yellow flavours .

Rant against the cost ? We all know the figures. Bus and rail should only be mandated as eligible under strict price capping , and that includes strict guidelines for the bus / train drivers pay too . (Sorry T&G) Been there done that in the seventies. -'s why all the cars we drive are made by forriners :-)

So. bottom line is with the council....I for one will be seeking planning for a gibbet in my local square sometime soon .

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Anonymous Coward

Sequence lights not going to work

As a closehand observer of Hills road I can say that changing the sequence on the lights is not going to help as when the traffic reaches critical mass it is stationary for miles. No point changing the light sequence if there is no room on the other side of the lights for more than one car, if that.

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Anonymous Coward

Shame there aren't more Transport Planners or Economists here

I'm a postgrad student of Transport Planning & Economics, and I don't have a political axe to grind. However, studying the subject quickly brings to light a few facts:

* road pricing schemes, while understandably unpopular, actually make pretty sound sense overall (balancing economics, social and environmental consierations)

* people here have complained that it is cheaper to drive than take the train. This has more to do with driving actually being too cheap, than public transport being too expensive. Most people find this very difficult to believe, but the overall cost of motoring has gone DOWN over the last 20 years.

* also, the way people calculate transport costs often starts from the premise that they have will have a car regardless, and so only count the petrol costs when calculating the cost of a journey. They ignore the car purchase, insurance and maintenance costs, not to mention other 'external' costs involved in putting another car on the road. Public transport costs, however, have to incorporate many of those costs into the price of the ticket

There's lots that's wrong with transport systems, both locally and nationally, and this is not least down to an acknowledged lack of expertise in Transport Planning. But there are also a lot of public misconceptions that the media does little to dispel.

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Coat

Council sitting on their hands?

<fnarrr>

Maybe if the council sits on its hands for long enough, it'll then feel to them like somebody else is implementing the congestion charge.

</fnarrr>

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FAIL

Guided Bus Fail

Don't get me started on the useless guided bus scheme in Cambridge. Turning a viable railway line (that only needed reopening) into a slow bus lane, where the buses leave the line to join congested city streets, is ridiculous. It doesn't even integrate with the town's train station properly, taking half an hour to go ten miles out of town to the train station. And it's 9 months late so far, with the southern section (Park and Ride direct to train station via Addenbrooke's Hospital) delayed into the distant future.

In addition that train line would have been ideal for a direct link by train from the docks on the east coast to the distribution centres in Peterborough, taking masses of freight traffic off the A14.

Now it's a two lane track made from shredded tyres with "bus stations". Driverless trams or trains like the Docklands Light Railway weren't even considered.

And ultimately, the guided bus scheme doesn't really support many people., those villages aren't that big. Sure, Northstowe would be built in the future, but I can see potential residents being more enamoured with a tram or train station than some bus stops.

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Lincoln vs Cambridge

I drive in both towns regularly. Compared to Cambridge city traffic lights, Lincoln city ones are absolutely hopeless. The phasing is wildly wrong, delays are introduced for no reason at all and ones which should vary according to time of day, don't. It's almost as though they just installed them and left them on the manufacturers default timings.

About the only good thing the lights in Lincoln do is to manage (on a purely timed basis) the tidal flow system on Canwick Road.

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Megaphone

Calling all Cambridge residents ...

It is about time that the Council were made to justify their policies. The problem is, those of us who have all the ideas are individuals and not able to make much headway on our own - so we need to get organised. Those who are supposed to be representing us (the Councillors) tend to have political agendas they'd rather follow.

So - I hereby invite any concerned residents to contact me at cambridge.transport@gmail.com, and maybe together we can give the Council and Councillors something to think about.

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Happy

@Re Give people a viable public transport

"Tried booking a train ticket 2 months ago was about £106 return."

Have a look at http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-train-tickets and try "Split ticketing" :-)

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@Paul B

"...Oh, the bus is cheeper..."

You haven't visited Cambridge recently have you? it's cheaper to drive than take the park+ride...

A free bus service - that would make me leave the car at home. Would probably cost less than half a billion quid to run, too!

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@M A Walters: cyclists and "road tax"

Oh give it a rest.

1) "road tax", i.e. vehicle excise duty, is part of general taxation, not to "maintain the roads"

2) Cars that emit less than 100g CO2 per km don't have to pay any road tax either, so perhaps you should moan at them, as they create as much congestion as any other car.

@Goat Man: there are plenty of cheaper train tickets than that to Newcastle (I presume you mean from London, as £106 is the standard fare) but you have to do so when not everyone else wants to travel. Think of it as a congestion charge for the trains... besides which, you don't have to pay for VED, insurance, depreciation, servicing and MoT tests to go by train.

Off-topic: when I search for "Chesterton" in Google Maps, it brings up a place near Bicester as the only result, even though the result for "Cambridge" has the suburb of Chesterton writ large.

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@AC 12:29

Agree in part though most people outside of metropolitan ares cannot reasonably live without a car. So the extra factors of finance, tax and the like are not factored into the equation. Weirdly it is cheaper often to fly to say Edinburgh and surely the airline is not a charity and their operating costs must be in excess of say train operator.

There is no strategic planning in this country that is the major fault. Some county builds an extra two lanes onto a major link road that crosses two or three other counties and their expansion is non existent or lost in years of planning tape.

The other big problem especially where lifestyle, health and the environment are concerned. is current economic theory and practice vastly undervalue these assests so the true cost of any planning adventure is never born out in the misery, loss of irriplacable habit and general fealing with all be had.

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FAIL

Hope your Transport Planning is better than your Economics

Of course people will ignore the cost of insurance, road tax etc when comparing with public transport costs - they're fixed costs. OK, maybe a 500 mile trip will bring my next service a few weeks nearer, but that doesn't really affect the argument that my marginal costs are less than half the price of public transport. Since the UK has followed the US and 'planned' towns around the assumption that everyone will have a car, I can't choose to dispense with my vehicle and rely on public transport (unless I live somewhere like central London).

As for UK public transport not being too expensive, I can only assume you've never travelled on the continent. When I stay in Dusseldorf, my hotel room card includes free travel on all regional bus, tram and rail networks. That extends as far as Mannheim (~200km), which would only cost a few euros even if I didn't have my free pass. The same could be said of many European countries.

I have friends who live in Le Mans and commute to Paris on the TGV (180km - farther than Birmingham to Euston). They pay less for their season ticket (in First) than a 25-mile commute in the Southeast of England (and they still moan about the cost, but then they're French)!

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RE:Shame there aren't more Transport Planners or Economists here

Oddly enough I have worked in the other costs, not just fuel, which is why the cost of driving is the same, not less. Petrol is about £6 for me to get to work, and a train ticket is £9 per day (baised on a 12 month ticket). My insurence is about £120, servicing £99 (including MoT), and my tax is £120. My car cost me just over £1500, but it will last several years (two and counting) and will have some value when I need a new one. It probably works out a little more when I take in to account the costs of repairs and things like tyres, but whatever you say it is not possible to live without a car as it is.

I can't take public transport to do the weekly shop (Non gose near the supermarket from where I live), and if I don't have a car I am stuck in the evenings, or bank holidays, or if I want to go to many places around me poorly served by public transport.

Your answer about driving being cheap is just stupid. If public transport costs more than driving then it SHOULD be better, but its worse. That is just another way of saying public transport costs to much. It is not competitive.

Also, please can you tell me why taxies can use bus lanes?

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Flame

Grrrr

What really sticks in my craw is the use of public money for road "improvements" that benefit only public transport - or to give it its other more commercial name, Stagecoach. It's nice that public transport gets a bit faster, but the main result is that Stagecoach make more money. So shouldn't we demand that the Council get to own a bit of Stagecoach in return for our money?

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Transport Planning/Economics

(Sorry, didn't mean to post anonymously before - I am the 12:29 poster)

@phoenix, ChrisMiller, Paul4: absolutely, the transport system as we currently have it means that most people need a car to function. Therefore people tend to ignore the fixed costs (treating them as 'sunk' in economic terms), and a better public transport system is needed to change that. But the fact still is that running a car costs more than the marginal costs that people tend to consider when making the comparisons with public transport.

Transport on the continent (and further afield) does show what can be done with subsidies (and make no mistake, the low-priced fares you quote must be subsidised). But subsidies must be paid for somewhere. It is now acknowledged by transport professionals and politicians alike that for road pricing to work, the revenue must be hypothecated into public transport systems to provide a sensible system to the majority of people. If people then want to continue to have the comfort/luxury/convenience of driving on a route that is covered by an alternative, then it is not unreasonable for them to pay for the priviledge.

The aim is not to victimise driving - it will remain a necessary part of the transport system. But congestion is caused primarily by the wasted space of single-occupant vehicles, so schemes to encourage vehicle-sharing (whether private or public) are designed to improve the journey for everyone.

Trips to the supermarket are an interesting case - the growth of out of town shopping centres have fed the dependency on the car, and led to the demise of many town centres, which in turn people have little choice but to drive to the out-of-town centres. It's a vicious circle, and an example of poor foresight in urban planning.

We often want to have our cake and eat it. That's fine, but we've got to accept that it costs money.

Taxis in bus lanes? Yeah, tricky one. One idea is that they're considered a premium service for which a higher fare has been paid, so they should have the flexibility of service. Not completely convinced by this myself.

There are schemes in the States with lanes designated for 'high-occupancy vehicles', for which single occupants are now also permitted to use for a small charge. The idea being that you can use the less congested lane if its worth a dollar to you, and in doing so you've removed one car from the 'standard' lanes, so marginally improving the journey of everyone else as well.

Driving is generally accepted (academically) as being too cheap. We're basically not "paying" for all the costs associated with our journey. For example, the added congestion our journey makes on all other drivers; the noise pollution to residents along our route; the environmental damage.

And airlines versus railway costs? Well airlines benefit massively from cheap avaiation fuel due to international agreements. So there's no question that they're subsidised, even if indirectly.

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That should help close more shops in the centre

...and later on, the council will be asking how this happened.

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FAIL

Put those planners a dunking in 40ft

Those Cambridge planners really need to be dunked in Fourty Foor Drain (near Chatteris) for their stupidity.

The old M&GN line that ran north from Cambridge to St Ives, Somersham, Chatteris & March was killed off by Dr Beeching and the A141 Chatteris Bypass runs along the old trackbed. (I have thew old Distant Signal on the Down line from Chatteris).

However the line to St Ives was until 10 or so years ago extant. Several pressure groups wanted it restored just to releive the rush hour traffic into & out of Cambridge. Did anyone listen? Nope. Of course they didn't. The muppetts in the Dft hate Railways and soon put paid to any plans. IT was finally killes off by this 'guided busway' which IMHO is a complete waste od money.

Give a good ducking in the depths of Fourty Foot. Mind the old cars though.

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Cyclists and "road tax"

@Gordon Ross - Yes, I suppose you are right. Especially the ones who can't cycle properly. Far too many of those at the moment. They will learn sooner or later (or become organ donors in the process).

@handle - I agree with your eco-car comment (especially in line with London's congestion charge), but that doesn't excuse such blatant misuse of road space as can be seen on the Hills Road bridge. Have you actually seen it??

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Bronze badge

@Paul4: try cycling

Avoids congestion. Huge fitness benefits. Saves money. Saves the environment.

And for your "weekly shop", attach a trailer to it, take a taxi, lift share with a neighbour, or use a supermarket delivery service. Think outside, erm, the box, and don't cling onto your food shopping as an excuse to have a car.

Or is cycling just "too dangerous", i.e. you're too lazy?

The costs you quote are merely the direct costs to you. You don't count all that car ownership costs everyone else, some aspects of which have been mentioned already. No, having the luxury of your own car is far too cheap.

@Chris Miller: you think a car is required outside Central London? ALL of London has excellent public transport.

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No Mandate

"After the council received mixed responses from the public when congestion charging was initially mooted" - well not really _that_ mixed, over 90% of Cambridgeshire residents are opposed.

The County Council owns the roads that would be affected, and hence it must decide, however everyone who lives outside the City doesn't want congestion charges. The City Council wants it, but can't implement it because it doesn't own the roads.

No County councillors have a mandate for introducing this, indeed it's against the majority of their consituents wishes. So hopefully it'll die a death (again).

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@less traffic lights?

I feel I should point out that Lincoln (capital L) is a city, not a town. Citizen Kaned obviously didn't drive there when it had two level crossings across the High Street, across one of which interminable strings of iron ore destined for either Scunthorpe or Northampton, (and from either Northampton or Scunthorpe) would clank across at a walking pace. Or during Bank holidays, when the city would be bisected by a long line of stationery holiday traffic.

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@handle and @ Hamble

I do agree that people should drive less which Is why I have a motorbike to get to work (100+mpg, and less congestion than a bike.), but as it stands public transport is just not viable and I do not beleave that upping the cost of driving is the way to go. Public transport has to be reduced in cost.

If you up the cost of driving then you hurt people who HAVE to drive too much. There are still plenty of people who live in rural areas. My inlaws (In there 60s) would have to cycle over 10 miles to get to the shops, through deepest darkest hilly Yorkshire.

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@M A Walters: Hills Road Bridge

No, I haven't seen this bridge - I don't live or work in Cambridge though I know people there who cycle extensively and are disgusted by the local paper's attitude to cyclists, motivated entirely by the advertising revenue it gets from car dealers. I think they mentioned this bridge the last time I saw them but are away at the moment so I can't get details from cyclists' point of view. Looking it up on the web seems to indicate that the disruption is temporarily worse due to road works, and is mostly due to the guided bus which I wouldn't defend in the name of public transport.

Measures that encourage cycling ought to be applauded by car drivers - congestion caused per traveller is on average far greater when those travellers are being transported by car than by bicycle. You've noticed the increase in cyclists during term time - would you prefer that each of them were driving a car instead?

I presume you don't venture out on the roads on a bicycle much, if at all. If you did, you'd know that, irritating though bad cyclists are, because they are not wrapped in a tonne of metal with dozens of horsepower pushing it along, they are an order of magnitude less dangerous than bad motorists, and tend to be suicidal rather than homicidal. Sitting in traffic jams you will be irritated by all the cycles whizzing past, and because you will see more of them then the cars represented by the bumper of the stationary vehicle in front of you, you will be exposed to a disproportionate number of bad ones. Dozy motorists not looking out for bicycles (however well-lit and well-behaved their riders), or aggressive motorists, are the cause of most of the serious collisions; the blame for very few organ donations rests entirely with the cyclist.

Cambridge is flat. If you have a commute of less than five miles or so and are able-bodied, there really isn't any reason why you shouldn't cycle most of the time. Of course there is a risk, but it is low if you are prepared, sensible (get some training), and if you don't spend half your time and salary at the gym anyway, your life expectancy will go up by about 10 years. I commute 10 miles each way, with quite a lot of climb, but that's getting fairly hard-core and I wouldn't expect those other than the dedicated to follow suit.

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@Paul4: cheaper public transport and the 'need' to drive

I would agree that I believe public transport should be cheaper. But to accept that, we need to accept that it must therefore have increased subsidy, which needs to be paid for out of some form of taxation. So we pay for it in the end.

You are right to say that it is a problem especially for those in rural areas. However, a well-planned road pricing scheme would take account of that. It should be much cheaper to drive on rural roads than it is in urban city centres. Firstly from the economic perspective of lower demand (and lower congestion, so it is actually a lower 'cost' to society), and secondly because rural areas are never going to have the same public transport facilities as urban areas.

We also should consider what constitues a 'need' to drive. Some solutions have been suggested already, e.g. online shopping, but when we consider that only 60 years ago hardly anyone had a private vehicle - it was a luxury, not a necessity - we need to stop a moment to ask why car ownership has become so essential suddenly.

Partly it's a vicious circle. For example, studies show that people will commute longer distances to work precisely because it has now become quicker to travel longer distances. (On average, people's job market range is approx up to one hour from their home). Now that they're prepared to work further afield, they're locked in to the transport system to get them that distance, which is often the car.

Also, relying on the fact that people can travel further, businesses and services tend to agglomerate (for example, rural post offices shut down, local shops disappear, even hospitals close in favour of centralised super-hospitals). The fact that most people can travel by car has led to a de-facto assumption that we will, and now must, travel by car. This then serves to social exclusion of those without a car. It wasn't planned that way, but it's a knock-on effect of the explosion in car ownership over the last 40 years.

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