The Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM), CamBedRailRoad (CBRR), a Cambridge South railway station, the Ofo dockless bike scheme, a congestion charge, an extension of the Guided Bus scheme. Acronyms, proposals and concepts all hovering above Cambridge in a word cloud as possible solutions to what’s characterised as the city’s ‘transport woes’.
For those of us who’ve worked in London or any other major metropolitan city, acknowledging that Cambridge is ‘congested’ by that measure is difficult.
However, it’s a question of scale, context and aspiration. Cambridge city centre is restricted within tight, historical bounds but when property agents speak of ‘Cambridge’, we mean a 15 to 20 mile radius. Some companies share this view and some don’t when it comes to their property requirements.
Currently, we have active enquiries from non-indigenous businesses who want to locate to ‘Cambridge’. They are very insistent that they want to be within the CB1 commercial quarter round the city centre railway station.
That’s ‘Cambridge’ for them. They have a young, mobile workforce who live in London and will do a reverse-commute or they know they can recruit in Cambridge from a pool of the same demographic. For this demographic and, I would suggest the wider generation, the car is not necessarily the king it was for the company car generation of 20 years ago.
Employees’ priorities are changing and, thereby, employers’ property requirements are too. Priced out by a tax regime, reduced parking with new office and, reflecting wider environmental concerns, the company car is losing its appeal and parking is not the priority it once was for office occupiers in the city.
This is one reason why finding - and funding - appealing, affordable and viable public transport solutions are top of mind for the city’s civic burghers and business brains. Giving an added dimension to the Cambridge congestion conundrum is the drift of modern working practices to hours that do not, necessarily, conform to public transport timetables.
So it’s just as well that the transport debate is not parochially focused and is looking at developing and connecting centres of ‘Cambridge’ employment well beyond the city’s traditional boundaries. On an even bigger scale, the debate includes the all important Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Corridor - named and regarded by central government as crucial to the UK’s future prosperity.
It is important not to forget that when first built in the 1970s, the Cambridge Science Park was very much an ‘out of town’ business location. Admittedly, you could get in your company car and commute to the Science Park quickly enough from the city or the surrounding commuter villages but times have changed.
The Science Park has been the driver of the development of other business parks on this northern fringe for the past 40 years. Now, in turn, there’s the city’s second railway station nearby with attendant commercial development coming through as the CB4 companion to CB1 around the city centre railway station.
Earlier this summer (2018), a master planner was appointed to spearhead the redevelopment of a 120-acre site on the nearby Cambridge Northern Fringe East. This will see one million square feet of commercial development and 5,200 new homes in the coming 15 years.
The £1.5 billion capital investment programme of works to upgrade the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon will keep private and commercial vehicles moving around our vital economic hub upon completion in 2020.
Congestion hasn’t been a deterrent to Cambridge’s commercial success up to now but we’re reaching a tipping point. We have to keep moving to keep succeeding.
Keep on moving beyond Cambridge’s conventional boundaries to find hard engineering and infrastructure solutions to ensure residents and commuters are able to go with the flow to maintain the city’s business pre-eminence.
For more information about offices and R&D laboratory space in Cambridge and the surrounding area, contact Ben Green, 01223 467155, firstname.lastname@example.org.