A study on behalf of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority has found a 'compelling case' for a much larger £4bn autonomous underground metro scheme.
The Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC), published this week, found the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) would support up to 100,000 jobs and 60,000 new homes.
The ‘benefit-cost ratio’ (BCR) would be considered high to very value for money by the Department for Transport’s assessment standards - the economic benefits would outweigh costs by two to four times.
However, the scheme has more than doubled in size since a report in January 2018, which supported the case for the SOBC.
The scheme would include 12km of ‘twin bore’ tunnelling under Cambridge city and two underground stations, one at the city centre, and one at Cambridge Station.
The CAM would serve inner transport corridors in the Greater Cambridge area from the city to Cambourne, Granta Park, Waterbeach and Newmarket Road and Trumpington park and rides.
It would also serve the regional area, with corridors extending to St Neots, Alconbury, Mildenhall and Haverhill. The CAM would extend in total to 142km.
With a maximum speed of about 55 mph, and operating a turn up and go service every few minutes, the CAM would get passengers across the city from East to west in 12 minutes and other key peak journey times could be halved.
Segregated routes would allow it 'to transition to autonomous technology when it becomes viable'.
Mayor James Palmer said: 'What we have is compelling case for moving forward with this scheme. It will offer world-class public transport that will reduce reliance on the private car. The CAM will be the scheme around which we can tackle the transport infrastructure challenges which threaten our future economic prosperity.
In short, we have a scheme that will deliver on our priorities. What is also hugely important is that this study shows we have a scheme that is deliverable and which is fundable and that every pound invested in the CAM will repay itself two to four times over.
'A transport infrastructure project of this scale is absolutely appropriate to the needs of the area. The CAM will serve an area of international renown, with a dynamic economy full of world-class businesses, academic excellence and pioneering research and development. We must develop infrastructure in the same spirit of ambition and which will foster the continued growth of our economy to 2050 and beyond.'
A report to the Combined Authority Board on March 27 will recommend approving £1m in funding to undertake the key next step of an Outline Business Case (OBC).
A statement from the combined authority said it is inviting local business groups and other stakeholders to contribute to the costs of taking the project forward - including the development of a detailed funding strategy and a programme of stakeholder engagement, completing in February 2020.
Produced by consultants Steer, the SOBC looked at the financial case for the CAM, the case for its commercial viability and the management case for how it can be delivered.
Engineering consultants Arup undertook a technical report on funding and finance as part of the SOBC .
The report suggests the scheme could be funded on the basis of ‘beneficiary pays’, while mayor Palmer has previously talked about the potential of land value capture, tax increment financing and the development of garden villages as ways to help fund the transport infrastructure.
Central government and local government could also contribute to the costs. This overall, combined funding model is similar to schemes including Crossrail and the Northern Line Extension in London.
CAM would operate with high-quality, zero-emission ‘trackless metro’ vehicles, powered by electric batteries recharged overnight and at route termini throughout the day, without the need for overhead wires. Vehicles would offer a high level of passenger comfort, comparable to trams,
Construction could start as early as 2021 with the City Deal-funded schemes, with the core metro infrastructure anticipated to be built between 2023 and 2029.