Following on from a post back in February, I had a brief go at imagining what an underground light rail system for Cambridge would look like (after all, Cambridge needs a bit more political ambition and vision). Maybe, with at least £1billion potentially being unlocked soon for transport in the Greater Cambridge area, something like this could be implemented – I certainly hope that it at least generates debate about the sorely needed transport investment in and around the city. While I haven’t done all of the analyses that I’d like1 (I’m not getting paid for this, unsurprisingly), I have tried to connect up a number of the hotspots highlighted on the map here with key transport links, attempted to avoid historic buildings (points at which the Cam can be crossed are somewhat limited by this) and given some thought to splitting the project into lines which also represent key stages2. As noted on the proposal summary below, I have assumed a deep-level system – a cut-and-cover system would add the additional constraint of generally following roads3.One small annoyance I have with the proposal above was the inability to serve Cambridge Retail Park and the Beehive Centre while also serving central Cambridge (Petersfield, Kite and Midsummer Common – sites, you’ll notice, where there is considerable green space and/or buildings that won’t be missed, so stations can be built) without doing a couple of sharp turns. I think there is less of an economic or mid-term case for a east-west line through the city centre4 (I don’t think there’s much development planned on this axis), but there are still a few plausible solutions:
- Re-route the ‘Central’ and ‘South’ lines so that the ‘Central’ line serves (after Chesterton) Cambridge Retail Park and the Beehive Centre before proceeding to Cambridge Station, Addenbrooke’s and Trumpington while the ‘South’ line serves (after Cherry Hinton) Cambridge Station and Petersfield before terminating at Kite.
- Following on from the previous option, there would also be potential to have the ‘South’ line terminus further west near or in Lion Yard, the Grand Arcade or Cambridge University’s New Museums Site (which will soon be undergoing redevelopment).
- The modified ‘South’ line could go further west still before terminating, with the line crossing the Cam not far from The Fen Causeway (avoiding the colleges to the North of this) so that it can serve the Newtown, Mill Pond and/or Newnham areas and/or Cambridge University’s Sidgwick Site, before possibly meeting the North Line at West Cambridge.
The proposal detailed in the map would be structurally closest to a X-system whereas the alternative detailed textually would be a Secant-system – the cities in which these can be found would suggest that the former is more suitable for a city and metropolitan area of Cambridge’s size and structure.
Back-of-an-envelope calculations suggest that the number of stations envisaged should provide a London-like ratio of population to stations, ensuring financial viability. Obviously the city deal that Cambridge may get would significantly help with funding the constuction but there are other methods of raising money, depending on how much is needed and how aggressively adoption of the system is to be pushed. One aggressive solution for the phases depicted could involve city-wide parking restrictions that penalize overnight parking to ensure that the beneficiaries (residents of the city) are incentivised to use the system (residents who want a car for travel within Cambridge should put a garage-like facility higher up their list of priorities and those who need to travel by car outside of Cambridge could use the Park and Ride car parks for overnight parking). Further phases, to nearby towns and villages, could be funded via a city-wide congestion charge. However, if such an anti-car philosophy is being followed, it might be cheaper to simply convert most of Cambridge’s main roads into a tram-like surface-level light rail system, leaving enough roads for access (residential, commercial and emergency).
In the image below I’ve tried to envision what a smart card for the Cambridge Automated Metro (the equivalent of an Oyster Card) would look like. It uses the colours I’ve given the lines, to maintain a consistent look. It took a while to make the card not look too flag-like!
Finally, have you noticed the new favicon that this website has had for the last few months? I updated it from the LocaMsg icon when I was doing early work on the Cambridge Automated Metro idea, coming up with logo symbol designs. The logos used in the images above, the favicon and a few more designs can be found in the image below.
- For example, distances between stations, potential users served by each station, station locations and depot location(s). [↩]
- The Central line is obviously the key cross-city route, and both it and the North line would be easier to do sooner rather than later as they connect key points which do not yet exist and for which the plans have not been finalised: North-West Cambridge, Northstowe, West Cambridge (the site exists, but there’s still considerable space that hasn’t been used), Cambridge Science Park (the station, rather than the science park itself, so it’s useful for Cambridge Business Park too) and Cambridge Station (not all of the new development has been approved, and there is considerable space on the opposite side of the railway tracks to the station side). [↩]
- If the system were cut-and-cover, I think I would stick to roughly the same overall plan but some route details and stations may be changed. [↩]
- This would go from the Newnham area (potentially serving Cambridge University’s Sidgwick Site) via Lensfield Road, meeting the ‘Central’ line at Petersfield, serving Cambridge Retail Park and the Beehive Centre before reaching a Abbey/Fen Ditton/Cambridge Airport terminus. [↩]