Mayor James Palmer has said the extension of the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) to Alconbury Weald, to be delivered ahead of the rest of the CAM, will offer the public transport solution the rapidly developing site needs to thrive.
Alconbury Weald, a former airfield, is being transformed into a major centre for employment and housing with the development of 6,500 new homes and an Enterprise Campus that will create 8,000 new jobs. Providing residents with fast and reliable public transport is core to the area’s ambitious plans for growth.
Currently the only public transport connection for the site is an hourly bus service. Initial discussions over a railway station for Alconbury Weald on the East Coast line were held before the site was transferred into private ownership in 2009, but the required improvements to the railway to make this viable were cancelled by the Department for Transport and Network Rail in 2017.
In order to resolve this situation, Mayor James Palmer will recommend that the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Board approve extending the CAM route to Alconbury Weald when it meets on September 25th. This would form part of the route that will also connect Cambridge with St Ives and Huntingdon. The expectation is it can be built well ahead of the rest of the CAM, due to be delivered between 2023-29 and will provide the connections that many of the residents and employers now based at Alconbury Weald were promised on relocating to the new development.
While Mayor Palmer still supports continuing discussions with the developer Urban & Civic, the Department of Transport and Network Rail on delivering a future railway station for Alconbury Weald, the delivery of public transport for Alconbury Weald through the CAM will provide the connections the site needs far quicker than can be provided by heavy rail.
Mayor James Palmer said:
“What is critical is that we have a public transport solution for Alconbury that can be delivered affordably and within a reasonable time frame.
“For this development to reach the potential we all want to see, which mixes well-planned homes and jobs, it needs a public transport solution. The CAM is far and away the most viable and deliverable option we have, and the good news is we aim to begin work on this crucial route, well ahead of the rest of the Metro, which kicks off in 2023.
“Extending the CAM to include Alconbury Weald, linking Huntingdon and St Ives, will provide a rapid public transport option for residents travelling into Cambridge city centre and across Cambridgeshire. The added benefit of this approach is that it could be delivered by local partners, without the need for reliance on national bodies. We will also continue the discussions with Government and partners on a new station, but the CAM gives us the ability to quickly put in place the public transport infrastructure we know is so urgently needed.”
Tim Leathes, Development Director at Urban & Civic said:
“We are delighted to be working with the Mayor to extend the CAM to Alconbury Weald. New and genuinely sustainable public transport connections can only further reinforce the speed of housing and job creation at Alconbury Weald.”
The Mayoral Combined Authority is also reviewing options for radical reform of the bus network, including the possibility of including franchising, via the Mayor’s powers under the Bus Services Act 2017. The review will align with the wider aims of encouraging more people on to public transport and better connecting sites like Alconbury Weald to reduce a reliance on car use.