83% think local authorities are failing to address transport affordability as survey reveals many residents remain unconvinced by Cambridge road charge plans

A YouGov poll commissioned by the Cambridgeshire Sustainable Travel Alliance has revealed that 39% of a representative sample of Cambridgeshire residents support the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) proposals for a weekday road charge in Cambridge, which would be used to provide road space and funding for improved bus, cycling and walking routes in and around the city. 59% opposed the scheme and 3% were undecided.[1]

Bar chart showing levels of support for a Sustainable Travel Zone in Cambridge

A public consultation on the plans for a ‘Sustainable Travel Zone’, which would include a £50 million investment in sustainable transport before motor vehicle charges were introduced, concluded in December 2022 with results expected to be published in June 2023. If the scheme is approved later this year, bus improvements would start immediately and the road charges are expected to begin from 2025-2028.

The Alliance says that the results of this authoritative survey should encourage decision-makers to continue to develop plans for a Sustainable Travel Zone in Cambridge. As seen internationally, support for road-charging increases significantly following implementation when residents experience the benefits of the scheme. The YouGov survey also reveals a strong desire for action on climate change and affordability in regards to transport, so it is important for local authorities to focus on the work needed to ensure a ‘just transition’ to a greener and thriving region.

As part of the YouGov respondents were asked about the ways they travelled into Cambridge and their level of concern for three issues relating to transport. 74% said they were worried about transport affordability (the need to make travel to everyday destinations possible for those on the lowest incomes) and 83% did not think local transport authorities were doing well at addressing this issue. 73% were concerned about the need to reduce carbon emissions from transport and 66% did not think this issue was being addressed well by local authorities. 56% were worried about the need to reduce injuries and deaths on the road, but respondents thought this was an area that was being more effectively addressed. 46% said that local authorities were doing well at improving road safety.[2]

Bar chart showing level of worry about 3 transport issues

Compared with the overall sample, those who worried about carbon emissions and road safety were more likely to be in favour of the Sustainable Travel Zone, whereas those who worried about affordability showed the same level of support. Evidence shows transport policies like this have a positive impact on both climate and safety. Results from the road charge scheme in Stockholm showed a reduction in carbon emissions and localised air pollution, while the number of road crashes with injuries fell by 26.3% following the introduction of a similar scheme in Milan. Concerns about affordability echo the results from a 2023 report from the UK Behavioural Insights Team. The report showed that while 88% of people would like to make more sustainable choices, the same percentage felt it was too hard because of high costs, inconvenience, limited knowledge or other barriers. This suggests that if a Sustainable Transport Zone is implemented, it must include a detailed behaviour change programme and be designed in a way that addresses local affordability concerns.

Bar chart of support for STZ among people worried about different transport issues

Support for the GCP’s proposals was higher among people who travelled into and around Cambridge on foot and by bus or cycle. The Sustainable Travel Zone was supported by 49% of respondents who were bus users, 47% of those who were cyclists and 40% of those who walked into or within Cambridge. The GCP says that the introduction of the zone would double the size of the bus network and allow for 60,000 extra walking and cycling journeys each day. By law, funding raised from any road charge would be ringfenced for further investment in local transport and this is estimated to be £50m a year after operating costs.

Bar chart of support for STZ among people who travelled by bus, walking and cycling

Support for the Sustainable Travel Zone was higher among people under 45, with 42% of 25-34 year olds and 48% of 35-44 year olds showing support for the proposals. These age groups were also more likely to be worried about climate change and affordability issues. For example, 77% of 25-34 years olds were concerned about the need to reduce carbon emissions from transport compared with 70% of over 55s, and 80% of 25-34 year olds worried about transport affordability, compared with 68% of over 55s.

Bar chart of support for STZ among people of different age groups.

Commenting on the survey results, representatives from the Cambridgeshire Sustainable Travel Alliance said that they continued to strongly support the principle of a Sustainable Travel Zone for Cambridge, but that urgent action was needed to deliver the safe walking and cycling routes and franchised bus network that would help build trust and confidence in the GCP’s transport proposals.

David Stoughton, Chair of Cambridge Living Streets, said:

“Of the Cambridgeshire residents surveyed by YouGov, 90% had travelled within Cambridge but only 28% said they had walked. We know from our own research that there are many barriers to walking in the city from sloping, uneven pavements to obstructions such as pavement-parked cars and overgrown hedges. We urge the Greater Cambridge Partnership to ensure that safe walking has a much greater emphasis in the development of its plans for the Sustainable Travel Zone. Upfront investment in walking infrastructure – including effective integration with cycling and bus networks – must be put in place to enable more people to walk and wheel for everyday trips.”

Roxanne De Beaux, Executive Director of Camcycle, said:

“The figures from the YouGov survey show that, as seen in research from across the world, those who showed broad support for schemes which include road pricing can reveal more nuanced views once the detailed proposals are published, but that this support builds again once schemes are implemented. In Stockholm, support for road charging fell from 43% to 34% before the scheme, and then rose from 53% to 72% once the charge was implemented and benefits began to be realised. We urge local decision-makers to continue to prioritise a future built around sustainable transport which will deliver benefits for everyone in terms of better transport choice, reduced pollution and carbon emissions and more pleasant places to live. Meanwhile, it is important that the Greater Cambridge Partnership listens closely to the feedback from the consultation, accelerates work on key active travel routes such as the Greenways, and prepares a detailed behaviour change programme to support people in the transition to new modes and routes of travel.”

Chart of road pricing acceptability (Goodwin 2006) showing a dip when details are revealed and a rise on implementation of a scheme.
”The gestation process for road pricing schemes” – reproduced from (Goodwin, 2006) in ‘The Stockholm congestion charges: an overview’ (Eliasson,2014)

Richard Wood, Secretary of Cambridge Area Bus Users, said:

Nearly 1 in 10 bus services in the UK were cut in 2022 and here in Cambridgeshire we are faced with a struggling service which is becoming increasingly unreliable, preventing many from getting to their schools, jobs and hospital appointments on time. The Sustainable Travel Zone proposals offer a way in which our region can take back control of bus services, using new funding and prioritised space for buses to deliver a franchised network which is safe, convenient and attractive to use. The YouGov survey has shown that many people are worried about the affordability of travel in our area, so it is especially important to make sure that buses are accessible to people of all income levels and that the exemption and discount schemes for the road charge are designed in a way that is fair and transparent.”

The Cambridgeshire Sustainable Travel Alliance YouGov survey was undertaken from 23-28 December, following the Greater Cambridge Partnership consultation. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. 388 Cambridgeshire adults were interviewed, with the group weighted to provide a representative sample for reporting. The survey was carried out online.

[1] Respondents were asked “A ‘Sustainable Travel Zone’ is being proposed for Cambridge. Its aim is to reduce traffic and provide road space and funding for improved buses, and cycling and walking routes, in and around the city. First, £50 million would be invested into an upgraded bus network with new routes, more frequent services and cheaper fares (£1 within the city, £2 in the wider area).After this is in place, a daily road charge would be introduced to the whole city of Cambridge between 7am and 7pm on weekdays, within the Park & Ride sites. Cars and motorcycles would pay £5, larger vehicles would pay up to £50 and there would be a detailed system of exemptions, discounts and reimbursements.”In general, to what extent do you support or oppose this?”

[2] The issues were defined in the following terms: climate change (e.g. the need to reduce carbon emissions from transport), road safety (e.g. the need to reduce injuries and deaths) and affordability (e.g. the need to make travel to everyday destinations possible for those on the lowest incomes).

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