Greater Huntingdon…

The population of Cambridgeshire is growing1 and there’s plenty of demand for further growth2, but developing new places for people to live, work and play in Cambridgeshire is tricky. Cambridge itself is surrounded by green belt that few seem willing to sacrifice, despite much of it being described as dull and featureless.3 There’s lots of development around Peterborough, but it cannot be expected to handle all of the population growth. A few new towns are being developed (Cambourne and Northstowe), but these are not well suited to grow beyond a certain size.4

Notably, Cambridgeshire is curious in that it has two small-ish cities but does not yet have any large towns like Wellingborough, Corby and Kettering in neighbouring Northamptonshire. Many of the bigger towns to the east of the county (March, Wisbech and the city of Ely) are surrounded by flat, low-lying land that’s at risk of flooding by both river and, in the longer term, sea. On this basis5, I would suggest that these towns should not be top of the list for future growth. However, the bigger towns in the west of Cambridgeshire are better suited to handling significant growth and providing Cambridgeshire with some large towns: Huntingdon and St Neots.

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  1. There are a variety of good reasons for this, such as great employment opportunities in Cambridge itself and the Metropolitan Green Belt covering much of the land between Cambridgeshire and London. []
  2. The house price to wage ratio in the county is currently the highest in the country. []
  3. I recall reading a news article where a developer used words to this effect several years ago in Cambridge News. Unfortunately their website does not keep articles around for very long (for example, the Cambridge Automated Metro article has disappeared), so I can’t provide a reference. However, it’s not difficult to see their point, even if you disagree with their implication that the green belt should therefore not be kept. []
  4. For example, there are reasons there weren’t towns in those locations in the first place, though that doesn’t mean that further growth is impossible. []
  5. There are other reasons to discount these towns too, such as poor transport links. []

Cambridge Connect…

I recently stumbled across the website of Cambridge Connect, an initiative “to help create an enduring system of rapid and sustainable transit that would help address the transport challenges facing Cambridge, while ensuring that the social, educational, economic, environmental, historic and cultural qualities that define the City are maintained and enhanced”. So far the energies of Cambridge Connect seem to have been mostly spent investigating and proposing a light rail rapid transit system for Cambridge, something that I agree needs to be pursued as a long-term transport solution for the city and surrounding areas. It’s also probably a good time to propose the idea again because, as I initially feared, it looks like Cambridge’s city deal money is almost certainly going to be mostly spent on relatively piecemeal improvements that make Cambridge a less attractive place to live for most people1.

A Dublin Bus bus in Cambridge

An old Dublin Bus bus (now Go Whippet branded) in Cambridge

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  1. Buses (at least the ones in Cambridge) are mostly unpleasant for anyone on or near them and much of the cycle infrastructure in Cambridge is dangerous when combined with drivers not familiar with the city. Also, as argued previously, the prevalence is cycling in Cambridge is probably contributed to by the poor public transport. []

Greater London Transport Tracks Map…

This is a really cool map, showing the full geographically accurate (as far as I can tell) track layout of all railways and tramways in London. London Underground, London Overground and closed railways are all included, as is Tramlink in South London. Also included are the start and end of tunnels and the location and layout of depots and sidings.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t feature any old tram lines or anything that was proposed but abandoned, even if building work had started (e.g. the Northern Line extension to Bushey Heath). However, it does include lines currently under construction (e.g. Crossrail) and that have not yet been started (e.g. the Northern Line extension to Battersea).

From the map you can get a real sense of where the railway capacity is in London as well as where stations, minor branch lines and useful non-radial links have been lost. The additional diagrams of historic track and junction layouts are particularly interesting. I am surprised and impressed that someone managed to find all of this information!

There are maps for additional cities and regions available too, from a drop-down menu above the map. I’d like to see Dublin’s railways, Luas and DART on a similar map.

Future Mobility…

One of the things I have been busy doing recently was a talk for the University of Cambridge about ‘Future Mobility’ at the European Student Science Parliament held there. Specifically, I was talking as an expert (due to my work building up to and resulting in Cambridge Automated Metro) about the future of sustainable transport options in cities with historic cores, like Cambridge. This was my third time giving a talk like this12, and I quite enjoyed it. Like the blog post that preceded Cambridge Automated Metro, it’s fun to have an excuse to research one’s ideas further and wrap up the results into a good summary. A talk is a particularly good format to convey this summary in, as it can be adjusted to suit the audience and feedback from the audience is normally genuine and useful.

The River Cam

The River Cam is a potential thoroughfare that didn’t feature in any ideas I suggested or heard.

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  1. The other talks I have given were not on this subject, so there was a lot of preparatory work I needed to do. []
  2. I had talked about Cambridge Automated Metro to a local newspaper and on regional TV and radio. []

Website of the month, October 2013…

The website of the month for October 2013 is A view from the cycle path. The website seems to be primarily about cycling as a means of transportation but also has some posts specific to the problem of cycling in Cambridge. It explores issues such as the exaggeration of cycling levels in Cambridge as well as the fact that many cycle due to various restrictions and issues with other forms of transport in the city rather than because they would otherwise freely choose to. I feel that the local councils could do with reminding of these and other facts as they proceed to waste large sums of money on “pro-cycling” schemes that are of little benefit to anyone. As I highlighted during media coverage of Cambridge Automated Metro, I’m that a large chunk of the new large “city deal” transport budget will be spent on previously unheard of amounts of red paint for cycle lanes on roads that are too small in a city with no alternative transport conduits.

This month I am also highlighting the Finn McDonald YouTube channel on which one can find (a decreasing number of) long YouTube videos containing the music produced in soundtrack recording sessions, including my favourite music. A number of films with good soundtracks are covered by the channel.

In other news I remain quite busy but I have recently finished off and scheduled a few posts that I started many months ago.

Cambridge Automated Metro (CAM): the reaction…

Last month’s Cambridge Automated Metro post got quite a reaction. Beyond the tens of comments on this blog, it made pages 11 and 2 of Cambridge News, was reported on by ITV News Anglia and got me an interview with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire2. The proposal has certainly inspired some debate and thoughts, which was good to see. Below are my reactions to the coverage and your feedback.

Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone who has added their thoughts to the debate as, encouragingly, the vast majority of responses have been constructive. I had anticipated a more NIMBYish response sprinkled with some vague engineering concerns – this is the response that proposals for tunnels under Cambridge have been countered with in the past.
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  1. If anyone is a subscriber to the E-Edition of Cambridge News, you may have enough information for me to link to a better image of the front page. Please contact me if you can help! []
  2. If you know of a legal way of sharing that radio show with others now that it’s no longer on iPlayer, please do let me know. There’s a shred of evidence here, from around the time I was interviewed, indicating my presence on the show. []

CAM: Cambridge Automated Metro…

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.

Cambridge Automated Metro Proposal

What an underground DLR-style railway for Cambridge might look like.

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  1. For example, distances between stations, potential users served by each station, station locations and depot location(s). []
  2. 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). []
  3. 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. []