Plan to improve transport in Fenland takes step forward

Cllr Simon King at Cambridgeshire County Council elections

Cllr Simon King responded to the report on transport access in Fenland - Credit: Harry Rutter

Access to transport in the Fenland area of Cambridgeshire is worse now than it was around 15 years ago, a report has said.

Cambridgeshire County Council is developing a strategy to improve transport in the Fenland district, but has said there are “significant” challenges to overcome.

The draft transport strategy was presented to councillors at a Highways and Transport meeting yesterday (Tuesday, March 8).

The report states that accessibility in Fenland is more challenging now than it was in 2004 to 2006, with fewer bus services, medical services being centralised and the availability of education courses.

It said: “There are many challenges that affect Fenland, some of which are quite unique to the area, but together they pose a significant barrier to ease of access to key services for residents and workers in the area.

“All these challenges are either impacted by transport or have an impact on transport provision.

“These challenges are particularly acute in Fenland where there is a transport infrastructure deficit.”

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The report listed the main issues relating to transport that had been identified in the Fenland district, which are:

  • Rural district with sparsely scattered population.
  • High levels of out commuting and use of private car.
  • Poor sustainable transport options and connectivity with transport hubs.
  • Areas of significant deprivation – including poor health and low life expectancy – and low education/work attainment.
  • Poor walking and cycling infrastructure and low uptake as mode of travel.
  • Congestion hotspots, rural roads, and safety issues.
  • High volumes of farm and HGV traffic.
  • Significant population growth and ageing demographic.

The aim for the strategy will be to address the transport issues in the district and provide a framework and action plan of transport schemes for the area.

Setting out the vision for the strategy, the report said: “To prioritise and develop a connected and inclusive transport network in Fenland. A network that will enable more people to access employment, education, healthcare and everyday services by a range of transport modes.

“There is a key focus on active or sustainable travel to improve opportunities, the health and wellbeing of Fenland residents and the environment they live in, now and for future generations.”

Four main draft objectives have been approved as part of the plans on what it is hoped will be achieved.

These are to enable residents to live fit and healthy lifestyles, as they are able, by developing and promoting a connected, safe and viable active travel network and improving wellbeing.

To support the needs of the local economy by developing better connectivity to places of education, retail, employment and healthcare.

To reduce the impact of rural isolation on the day-to-day life and future prospects of Fenland residents by developing better access solutions to key services and facilities.

Also to meet the challenge of climate change and enhance the natural environment by encouraging people to travel more sustainably.

Councillor Simon King, councillor for Roman Bank and Peckover in the Fenland district, said the report did not tell him anything ‘he did not already know’, but welcomed that this had now been ‘backed up with ‘facts and figures’.

He also said he noted in the report the impact in Fenland of community transport. Cllr King said he felt that in light of the “failed attempts” to introduce a viable bus service in the district, and the decrease in number of people travelling on public transport following the pandemic, that this ‘underlined’ the importance of supporting community transport.

The transport strategy is still being developed. The county council plans to discuss the plans with stakeholders this summer, and a public consultation on the strategy is due to take place in Autumn to Winter time this year.

The strategy is aimed to be adopted next year.