Swavesey in fast lane as rural travel hubs project gathers pace

7 September 2017

Research has revealed that over 90% of people leaving their car or bike at the Swavesey Busway stop before boarding a guided bus come from the village or neighbouring Over – with councilors saying more rural travel hubs like this are being investigated.

At an event held at South Cambridgeshire District Council’s offices last night to look at the next steps for rural travel hubs, parish councils, councillors and interested groups heard how the Swavesey hub was helping local people access more frequent public transport links closer to their homes – and councilors have said that more should follow.

At the event the stop was used as one model for a rural travel hub, but it was reiterated that it is not a one size fits all and villagers and their parish councils are vital to shaping what would work best for them.

Since an initial call by South Cambridgeshire District Council last year asking parishes to step forward with their suggestions for how links to public transport could be improved, six areas (Swavesey, Oakington, Foxton, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whittlesford) have been working with the Council and the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) to look more closely at how the hubs could work in practice.

The event last night was the latest step in a rural travel hubs project, which is part of the GCP’s wider strategy to get more people out of cars and onto public transport, cycling and walking, to tackle congestion and air pollution as the area continues to grow. Participants at the event were very supportive of the idea and highlighted many public transport challenges facing our smaller villages. Parishes were keen to discuss how villages can be connected and looped into high speed quality transport networks.

Swavesey Parish Councilor Doug Hunt said “The car park and cycle facilities at the Swavesey Guided Busway stop are well used and enable people to easily access good public transport. It is good news that the survey results indicate that it is predominantly Swavesey and Over residents who use these facilities.

“However, rural hubs should really be designed around the premise of people walking, cycling or using public transport to get there. Indeed, rural hubs would not be welcomed if it resulted in a significant amount of additional cars from further afield travelling through already congested villages.

“Currently many people in South Cambridgeshire villages find it impossible to access public transport. If rural hubs were to be serviced by regular feeder buses for example this would provide an integrated transport system for the rural areas.”

The event last night shared the research the team had already carried out and looked in more depth at the facilities a successful travel hub would need. The work with the six parishes so far indicated that issues such as space to build a facility, reducing on street parking around rail stations/bus stops and ease of connection in to Cambridge by regular high quality public transport are important factors.

Parish councils have also helped shape the type of facilities they would like to see at hubs in South Cambridgeshire. These include a toilet, using porous surfaces that fit in to village settings for any new car parks, using enclosed and secure lockable boxes for cycle storage and bus turning circles.

Cllr Peter Topping, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said “We have championed rural travel hubs as we think they can deliver the right solutions for our villages. This is not a one size fits all situation and the conversations with parishes over recent months is really helping to shape what could be delivered for each community. We have six villages that are working very closely with us and I’d like to see more come forward. The research done at Swavesey demonstrates to our other villages that the improvements really do have a very positive effect for people living close by. Other options could include new secure and covered cycle parking, extra car parking spaces at railway stations or more bus shelters with real-time travel information.”

The Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Executive Board approved a £100,000 feasibility study on rural travel hubs in March this year, and tasked South Cambridgeshire District Council officers with leading the initial stage of the project. The results of the study and views from local communities will continue to be gathered over the coming months and are expected to be presented to the Board and Assembly in January 2018.