Local decision makers must take a radical approach to planning if the Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM) is to be built before 2041, Cambridgeshire leaders have warned.
Detailed proposals for a £1.5bn - £1.7bn metro system with a tunnel linking Cambridge and surrounding areas were published in January and suggested the scheme could be up and running by 2026.
But a report set to go before the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority board tomorrow warns that a further 13 years could be needed before the metro fully opens if planners were to take a traditional route by going through the Department for Transport (DfT).
Instead members of the Combined Authority, who wrote the report, suggest taking advantage of new localised powers to shave time off the delivery schedule.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has already poured scorn on the plans, labelling the metro “destructive, disruptive and prohibitively expensive”.
The report says: “It is estimated that a conventional approach to delivery and funding would see the metro corridors delivered from 2029 to 2041.”
Five years could be taken off the project by delivering the tunnelled section and some surface sections at once, although the report’s authors admit this would stretch the local supply chain.
The report also suggests procuring a tunnel boring machine (TBM) early to save time later on the project.
Despite concerns over timing raised in the report, Cambridgeshire mayor James Palmer has stressed he is “deadly serious” about beginning work on the metro system by 2023.
Palmer said: “I want to be clear that I see the delivery of the first phases of the metro by 2023, with full completion by 2028, as an absolute baseline, from which I will be pressing for additional time savings .
“The transport paper has estimated a “normal” delivery time of 2029 to 2041 for illustrative purposes only. That timescale is simply not relevant to how the Combined Authority would go about delivering this scheme in terms of its approach to development and funding.
“This paper was about highlighting how we will accelerate delivery of the metro and that will feed in to the next phases of its planning.”
Palmer also told Cambridge News that talks are ongoing with private investors to secure funding for the scheme.
“My aim is to get as much money through private funding as possible,” he said, adding meetings with interested parties have taken place in London this week.
“What we are doing has to be supported by government, but we are in advanced talks with investors.”
An economic review is set to be published in September, which a spokesperson for the Combined Authority said would provide more details on how the scheme will be funded.
The CAM would see 42km of new infrastructure built in the historic city, including a 3-4km tunnelled section in the centre.
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Mayor James Palmer’s reply, 01/08/2018:
“I don’t believe it is right to interpret the plans we have to speed up the delivery of the metro as a potential delay.
“What the Combined Authority’s work on the metro has found is the very opposite of a delay and is in fact a significant time saving on the estimated timescales for funding and delivering the scheme via a conventional process.
“That work will continue and I will be pressing for additional time savings on top of those that have already been identified.”