Coun Shona Johnstone and Andie Harper
Congestion charging for Cambridge? Coun Shona Johnstone speaks out
Feeling congested? Is the idea of paying to drive your car on Cambridge's roads getting up your nose? We invited Councillor Shona Johnstone to defend the proposal live on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
UPDATE - public consultation announced - see below for details
Cars - can't live without 'em, can't legally dump 'em at the side of the road. And now, Cambridgeshire County Council is proposing to charge us for the privilege of driving them around the city.
Ah yes, the spectre of congestion charging in Cambridge rears its ugly head again.
On Monday 16th July, the council revealed proposals to introduce the charge - a suggested £3 to £5 cost per car entering, leaving or driving around the congestion zone - possibly within the next three years.
Er, confused? Mr Harper appears to be...
We invited leader of the council, Councillor Shona Johnstone to join presenter Andie Harper, to defend the proposals live on the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire mid-morning show.
Coun Johnstone duly came in on Friday 20th July and explained the reasons why the charge is necessary. She also listened to your comments and responded.
Talking about the revenue which potentially may be raised by the charge, Coun Johnstone said: "Let me absolutely emphasise there would be no way that we would be using the revenue from a congestion charge for anything else than re-investing in transport."
You can hear a short clip from that broadcast by clicking on the link below:
Congestion charge zones
Take a look at the full-size congestion charge zone map here:
UPDATE - public consultation announced
Council chiefs announced on 18th October that they wanted to hear residents' views on their £500 million public transport proposals. From 13th November 2007 until 13th February 2008, a series of 23 roadshows will tour Cambridgeshire enabling residents to have their say and see details of the plans.
Funding for this ambitious plan would come from the government's Transport Innovation Fund - a condition of which is that the County Council also considers a form of congestion charge.
Listeners to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire have been questioning the point of a consultation, as the council has ALREADY sent an outline proposal to the government. You can read some of their comments below and add your own by emailing us:
Your views on congestion charging
You're a very vocal bunch when it comes to this subject. Both during and after Coun Johnstone's broadcast, Andie Harper and his mid-morning team received dozens of emails, calls and texts.
Here are just a few of your comments and questions, but we're a nosy lot here at BBC Cambridgeshire and we'd like to know what more of you think. Email your comments to us and we'll keep Andie and the rest of the radio station busy dealing with them!
Simon - I'd love to be the first person to email you in favour of the congestion charge - but I just know it'd turn Milton into a car park.
Peter Jackson, Over - I wish I could trust the County Council's promise to take note of local opinion on the Congestion Charge but I don't. Experience shows that such promises are weasel words and are never honoured. Without a referendum there is no real mechanism for sounding out local views. The majority of local people were against the Guided Bus project and over 2,000 objections were sent in.
Councillor Shona Johnstone, our local councillor, pressed strongly for the Guided Bus scheme - which Councillor Melton of Chatteris said should be called 'the Shona Express' - despite the fact that most people in her constituency were and are strongly against it.
Dave - Let us not forget what happened at Northstowe where, after all the consultations, the locals and the developers settled on 8,000 new houses and guaranteed spacing to the surrounding towns and villages. Then the government inspector turned up and said no, we had to have 10,000 houses and threw out the separation restriction. So much for taking the local views into account.
Kevin - Someone living in Shelford has to pay to pop into Waitrose !!!. Madness. Moderate the school journeys and a lot will be solved.
Dave - This is long overdue. It is only by making people pay the true costs of the carbon dioxide they produce and the other pollution they produce that we can reduce car usage. Yes we need improved public transport, better park and ride facilities etc. But more than that given that within Cambridge a third of journeys are by bicycle cycling should get that proportion of the highways budget. Then we could have a viable cycle system for everyone. They can do it in Holland so why not here?
John - We should all suck on a fishermans friend. They relieve congestion and clear our nasal passages allowing us to pay through the nose much easier.
John - Here are five ways to aid school congestion in Cambridge: Staggered start times at schools... Proper school buses like the ones in the States, compulsory car sharing/pooling for school kids - like in the States kids encouraged to walk (they can easily do this by using their feet), kids taking bike proficiency classes, then using their bikes to ride to school.
I am a consultant, however I will not be putting this out to public consultation nor will I bill the council for £400,000 - unless they want a stupid logo as well.
Too much council talk - not enough action.
Mark - School buses, the answer to the congestion in Cambridge - yes it is a big contributary factor. This is a letter I received from the new school my youngest son will attend from september - well part of it...
'The school's transport charge for the year is £201 and the levy payment to Cambs County Council is £120 for the year. please make cheques payable to said school, for £201. There are methods to spread payments and also for people on benefits.
Shouldn't school transport be free Andie? A parent with 2, 3 or 4 children at school - that's an awful lot of money. Surely to ease congestion, free school transport would be more cost effective to our local beloved council.
John - I drive my wife into Cambridge station every day (no not in my 4X4), from Willingham. During term time, it takes me on average 40 minutes. During the school holidays it takes 20 - 25 minutes only.
The congestion charge in Cambridge will not make ANY difference to the congestion. It will just make life more miserable for all.
Matthew - That map is just pathetic thinking ! All Cambridge park and ride hubs are within the proposed congestion zone so what is the point driving to a park and ride, paying £5 then paying for the park and ride bus !!!
Makes no sense! Someone with some common sense needs to think about these proposals and the impact it will have on people who live within and on the outskirts of Cambridge.
Sarah - Being a resident in the Trumpington area, we see the amazing decrease of traffic that occurs everytime the numerous private schools of the Trumpington road break up. Its the same year in and year out, surely some joined up initiative from these schools, making good use of the park and ride as a shared car pool area or a school bus serving several schools should be considered.
I have to drive in to the city twice a week and the traffic is only a problem in their term time and i know once past the end of Trumpington road, the traffic eases. Couple this with the parking in the bus lane on Trumpington road and you really wonder why the obvious problems are not dealt with.
A 'one size fits all' solution across the major roads into the city is ridiculous, when i'm sure, like us in Trumpington, there are specific reasons for traffic volume that could be reduced creatively and without the need for yet more money being squeezed out from the mass majority who are not high wage earners.
Brian - The congestion charge will do no good at all if it works as well as the London example. I was driven to London not so long ago and as far as I could see the traffic problem was no better than it was a few years ago. One of the main problems is that it is not a true congestion charge. By that I mean there are a lot of exemptions such as Hybrid cars and other so called low polluting vehicles. As far as I can see they still congest and carried to its logical conclusion, if we all drove such cars there would be no money to councils but still congestion! The best thing that can happen is for all businesses to move out of Cambridge and then nobody would have to go there. Problem solved.
Colin - Can I add my two penneth please. I live off Histon Road but have to travel to Trumpington for work either by car or scooter. Trumpington has congestion ALL day long but as many have commented now Private Schools have closed its reduced. So this charge will have no affect on this situation the proposed road across from M11 junction 11 into Addenbrookes will reduce 90% of this traffic not a new stealth tax.
Perhaps Shona can answer the long asked question how did the Private Schools getting Parking allowed within Bus Lanes ?? This creates even more congestion as all the buses have to avoid what is the most stupid of situations with children taken out of parked cars into the traffic. Double yellow round other state schools, need I say more.
April - I listened with interest to Shona Johnstone on Friday, all I can say is watch out David Cameron she will have your job, she managed to not really answer the questions whilst appearing to answer them!
I have no doubt we will have this forced upon us just as we have been forced to have the guided bus and massive housing developments but if they must bring in this crazy idea then I feel they need to look at it a lot more carefully. for example my husband works in newmarket Rd he has to drive down the A14 and go up Ditton Lane to get there but if this scheme came in Ditton Lane would be in the congestion zone. His employers are hardly likely to pay for him to drive in the zone so he along with many others would then have to drive to the next junction Stow Cum Quy and then drive into work, adding miles to his journey, and time and also using up MORE fuel!!
I can see the sense of a zone in the inner areas of Cambridge but what they are proposing is going to hit many more people than just the commuters. or is this just another way of raising yet more revenue for them to waste? ...and if they continue to build on the flood plains round here we could be underwater but then we will be charged to use a boat I suppose!
Paul - The last part of your programme on Friday made for depressing listening as the usual Me,Me,Me brigade gave voice to their views exhibiting a mind boggling selfishness. I suspect the majority of people who were complaining are the very ones who have created the problem in the first place. They showed a lack of social spirit, only considering self.
Ask what you can do for your Country has never occurred to the complainers. They only think with their pockets and not with their heads/hearts. Not one of the complainers came up with a practical alternative. Parking, getting out of the car, walking, cycling or taking a bus was conveniently overlooked.
If you want to avoid paying the congestion charge or tax (whatever), you could move closer to your work into Cambridge. Anybody can afford a house in Cambridge. Sell your car and save £250 a month and put the money towards a mortgage. I did last year, and I’m on a lower than average salary. Cars depreciate anyway and houses don’t so you’re better off in the long term. Others don’t because they can’t be bothered to think of the impact they have on the environment. Without the pollution of cars we would all have a better environment, even in cities.
Our planet needs action. At present there is little consideration for the environment. Thank goodness we have sensible councillors who are considering this now and not waiting for the problem to escalate.
Our parents coped admirably without cars. Shopping was never a problem; they just bought smaller amounts and more often & locally. And they had jobs to go to. Mind you, we made our own way to school and weren’t delivered like parcels; almost as if a signature is required for safe delivery!!! Everybody is busy, but priorities....
I want to see the zone expanded to the outer peripheries & time extended to include all of the week and weekends too. That would really make an impact on this problem. This country must avoid repeating the same mistakes as USA and instead move more towards the successful European alternatives.
You say you don’t hear from anybody supporting the guided bus. Well I know plenty who do and I’m one. It’s a great initiative and will be a success if the ticket prices are cheaper than two people going by car. There’s a challenge to the County Council!
Mark - I listened on friday to the councils reaction to the publics reaction to the congestion charge. I think one bright lady described Ms. Johnstones answers as 'piffle' and I have to say I couldn't agree more. To hear her say that not many people have appointments at Addenbrookes before 9.30 is a scandal - ask her to go to the oncology clinic and talk to patients who have to attend day after day for weeks. £5 a day will help them feel much better!
Her answer to residents of Newmarket road and Coldhams lane who state that the main problem with congestion is at the weekend... I live off Newmarket road and lo and behold saturday and sunday - um shona, believe it or not traffic tailed back... and back and back. Oh yes and I saw quite a few nearly empty park and ride buses. Suggest she listens to people who actually live in these places and experience just what the roads are like.
I would love to have asked this lady two questions, that's all...
Don - What I would like to ask our illustrious councillor Miss Johnstone are the following:
1. Are motorcycles and Mopeds going to be part of this scheme and if so why as they do not contribute ANY congestion what so ever.
2. If you are going to charge people for coming into the Cambridge then are you seriously telling us that the local public transport can take the pressure of getting everyone into work on time for 0900? I doubt it seriously.
3. I agree with other comments with regards to who contributes congestion the most and it is most definitly the school runners in the morning.....these weeks the A14 has been free flowing and getting in and out of Cambridge a doddle....hmm i wonder why? Summer holidays for kids maybe?
4. Why are you even considering putting up the congestion zone as far as the park and rides? What is the point?!
5. Did you not even think to ask the people of cambridge to whom you are answerable to and ask what our opinions were before you decided to put these new measures in?
6. Have you not thought about the bigger picture on this as there a lot of people who need to come into cambridge to work and are on a modest salary how this will affect them?
7. I think we should take a lesson from our friends the Germans as they start their schools early around 0700 so that A) the parents can take their kids to school, B) the traffic caused from the school run is gone before people come in to work. It works effectivly so why not follow others examples?
8. What exactly is the money going to be invested in with regards to the local transport then? Are our roads and bus services that bad at the moment? Do they not charge a small fortune for a ticket compared to what you'd pay in London?
Overall I think this is a classic case of knee jerk reaction to a problem that can be best solved intelligently and not by harming the majority. I think there is an underline driving force such as the universities but this move is a money making scheme no doubt about it. We pay our council tax to be used in an intelligent way but this move is quite the opposite and should it be implemented you will find a lot of the Cambridge population losing all confidence in out councillors and local government.
APH - Interesting development this one: I started commuting to Cambridge 4 years ago, 20,000 miles a year. I changed my car from a Rover Metro to a Honda Civic Hybrid. At the time, this car came with £1000 grant from the government (since scrapped) and of course it is exempt from the London congestion charge. I emailed Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County Council to ask them whether they were considering a congestion charge and whether the Civic Hybrid would be exempt.
Four years on I'm still awaiting a response!
Quite pathetic. I've since given up driving to work: it's over-rated and the A14 is useless. Improved public transport may reduce car journeys in Cambridge itself, but my commute by public transport would have taken 3 1/2 hours from East Northants - quite impossible twice a day.
If either council ever reply to my emails, I'll let you know.
Claire - I have just read your article on the BBC website about congestion charging and I am in shock. I can understand why councillors would think about implementing a congestion charge in central Cambridge to alleviate congestion (even though I am opposed to the idea) but this map cover almost the whole of Cambridge!
I live on the Southern side of the city, close to Addenbrookes and hardly have any problems with congestion on my daily drive to West Cambridge. The proposed area seems to me very excessive as it covers much more than what most would class as the city centre.
Another problem for our family would be that my father in disabled and in a wheelchair. He needs regular trips to the hospital and doctors surgery. Since the charge zone covers the road where we live and the hospital and surgery we will have to pay an extortionate amount. I understand that the charge will only be implemented in the morning rush hour but since many of his appointments are early to work around our working hours this would pose a huge problem. Public transport is not an option because at peak times there is very little room for people to stand, let alone to fit a man in a wheelchair.
My suggestion for reducing traffic would be to bring in school buses and make them effective and cheap to use. Looking at the roads once the schools and colleges have broken up it is easy to see where the real problem lies. The roads are almost empty without school run traffic and journey's take half the time.
I would urge the council to listen to the people of Cambridge and think of a more workable solution to congestion. Please do not punish the people of the city for simply trying to go about their daily lives.
Ales - Congestion charge is just another excuse for getting more money from people. What will be next? Taxes, on kids if you have too many of them, like in China? Decision makers are so incapable to find reasonable solution or too much financially oriented. The same people, who will decide about congestion charge, will not pay any charge, because they will for sure decide to have also special permit for "some" people and they will be among them. And nobody is thinking about people who live in Cambridge. They already pay Council Tax (1000-1500 GBP) and they will have to pay also annual congestion charge, if they still would like in Cambridge. Think also about turists, who come with cars in UK. When they come to UK, everything is already more expensive than in the continental Europe and yes, to this cost we have to add also congestion charge. This is really GREAT Britain.
Joan, Impington - It seems such a large catchment area for charging (Addenbrookes included where parking charges are already in force??) Why build the Newmarket Road retail park, Tesco and then charge everyone to come and shop there? Take a look around at this time of year - University students have gone home, private schools closed for the holidays - what a difference to the traffic. Doesn't take a great deal of working out does it as to who causes the congestion. Give us a break who work in Cambridge - please.
Elaine - Several times in this conversation Ms Johnstone has referred to people choosing to come in at different times. Maybe she can 'choose' what time to come into work but many can't. Here's a novelty: instead of penalising workers, why not incentivise employers by discount on business rates if they can prove that 20 per cent or 30 per cent of their employees aren't coming in and going out at peak times?
There must be many office workers who in this day and age do not need to come in for 9 and leave at 5. My partner works for a company who aren't obsessive about the 9-5, so he leaves for work at 10 and sails through to Fulbourn on the A14 in 15 mins. He comes home after 7pm in the same time. While this may not suit all - it must suit a good percentage.
John - Overall I think we know as little now as we did before your interview. What was evident however was that the whole scheme is money driven, I say this as there was not one scrap of evidence put forward to show that the scheme will ease congestion ( I would even question there is congestion in the sense you would experience in a large conurbation).
My only ray of light is that if it takes 4 years to come in I will have retired by then.
Maggie, Impington - Just a quick question for Shona - does she really not understand the REAL consequences that the dreaded congestion charge will have on the little people like me, who work part time in town, travel from Impington 4 days a week. Who get paid a mere pittance for working in as a Teaching Assistant, for which the teachers would not be able to do their jobs probably and give 100% of their time to their children, or offer them the much needed support that so many children need, in this all inclusive world that we live in.
If the charge is introduced everyone loses out, my school, my family and myself. WHY CAN'T WE INTRODUCE STAGGERED WORKING TIMES, STAGGERED DELIVERY TIMES, STAGGERED SCHOOL TIMES. If times were staggered i.e if all deliveries into the city had to be before, during and after school times, that would surely allevieate much of the traffic. I would use public transport, but I can not rely on it! And aslo Shona needs to open her eyes only to see that the traffic is bad ALL DAY, not just first thing in the morning.
If the charge takes place I WILL HAVE TO GIVE UP WORK, which means taking away my freedom of choice of being able give my daughter a better life and my self-preservation of my sanity.
You know I don't think our Council want to have people come from afar to our city anymore, it's becoming really user unfriendly.
Eleanor - Is it why some of the council Offices have been moved out to Cambourne? So the POOR council workers do not have to pay. Is it me being cynical again.
John - The congestion charge is WRONG! WRONG WRONG WRONG and BAD for Cambridge and its future!
We will end up with a town full of mobile phone loss leading stores! A ghost town. This has happened before in other cities, and Cambridge is too wonderful for this to happen.
What will happen is that people will pay and be worse off for the privilege of coming into Cambridge. Simple as that.
Miss Johnston said that car parking is already almost a congestion charge...can't agree, Cambridge parking and the congestion charge will be daylight robbery aimed totally at the families who are worse off...example, I come into Cambridge after 9:30 am and I am amazed at the amount of beautiful luxury sports cars that come in at that time also, the business owners can come in at what ever time they want, it is the workers who will be worse off.
Come on and wake up, listen to the people and don't make life any harder or more complicated than need be.
last updated: 19/10/07