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Cambridge congestion charge plans shelved

Lack of local support

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Cambridgeshire County Council has shelved plans for congestion charging following a lack of local support.

The council had said it wanted to cut traffic levels in the city by 10 per cent and submitted a bid for £500m of the government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF). Its bid included proposals for peak period congestion charging in and around Cambridge, along with subsidising bus fares, a new railway station, park-and-ride facilities and an extensive network of cycle paths.

Cambridgeshire has now withdrawn its plans and gone "back to the drawing board", despite a growing problem of congestion in and around the city of Cambridge.

Councillor Jill Tuck, the new Conservative leader of the council, said: "We have listened carefully over the last few months and it is clear that the Transport Innovation Fund scheme we put forward for consultation last Autumn does not have sufficient support either from other key organisations or the public and needs, at the very least, refinement."

A new transport commission, made up of key public and private sector organisations, will be created to come up with recommendations for a new transport strategy for the Cambridge area.

Invitations to join the commission were sent this week to organisations including Cambridgeshire's city and district councils, Addenbrooke's Hospital, local police, the university, bus operator Stagecoach, the chamber of commerce and trade, the Federation of Small Businesses and business organisation the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

"The government's Transport Innovation Fund does give us a unique opportunity to attract substantial funding for transport improvements," said Tuck. "The £500m we have requested is way in excess of anything we could ever raise locally, but such a huge cash injection does have to be accompanied by a congestion charging scheme.

"It will be for the commission to determine what is best for Cambridge but any scheme must have support from key public and private organisations and also the public."

The TIF aims to deliver £2.5bn by 2015 to support innovative local transport projects. Schemes are expected to combine road managing measures, such as congestion charging, with improvements in public transport.

So far Manchester is the only city to have won its TIF bid. The city could get £3bn to support innovations, including a peak time pricing regime to cut road congestion.

A spokesperson for environmental group Friends of the Earth expressed concerns about Cambridgeshire's decision.

"Climate change is the biggest threat to the planet and congestion charging can play an important role in tackling climate change," he told GC News. "Traffic levels have risen considerably under Labour, despite the fact that they promised to cut them when they came into power."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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