The new mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer, has confirmed that an underground railway system for Cambridge is the preferred option for resolving the city’s chronic transport issues.
The Conservative candidate, who used to run a diary business in Soham before entering politics in 2007, was leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council until becoming the inaugural mayor of the new combined region on May 4.
The winning candidate polled 56.9% of the vote in the second round, beating the Liberal Democrat’s Rod Cantrill, after no candidate received more than 50% of the vote in the first round. Palmer received 88,826 votes in total against Cantrill’s 67,205 votes.
Palmer told the BBC: “We are a very strong county that pays into national government and we deserve to be properly linked by quality rail, quality light railway and public transport and quality road networks.
“We need to upgrade the A10 and A47, open up the Fens to growth, and we need an underground or light railway option for the south of the county.”
Palmer has said that he envisages a 22km railway link between Cambridge and surrounding towns including Babraham, Hinxton and the Science Park.
Philip Woolner, joint managing partner of Cheffins, said: “Taking away all of the surrounding noise about devolution in general, having a champion for Cambridge is what is needed to really get our economy moving. The idea of Cambridge’s own mayor to go to Whitehall and bang the drum for the city and what it needs is an exciting prospect for many and it also provides accountability for when changes are not put into place quickly and efficiently.
“When it comes to commercial property and business, the most important task for this new mayor will be making moves to facilitate Cambridge’s rise in office take up and R&D as pressure on the city itself intensifies. Central Cambridge does need to progress its revamp if it is going to continue in its role as one of the pillars in driving Britain’s economy and currently lack of space and ease of access could delay this. The sheer levels of development in Cambridge itself has not been offset by an improvement in transport which has fallen far short of expectations, and this will be where our new mayor, James Palmer, will come into play.
“He has said that he wants to include an underground system, an extension to the M11, improvements to the A10 and a light railway to the surrounding villages. This would be hugely welcomed by the city itself however there are significant questions over the viability of this and also funding.
“From a housing perspective, the control over £70m to build new homes in the region will be welcomed as affordability for many in the region continues to be an issue. Palmer has been quoted to have said he is looking to ‘provide the very best opportunities for everybody in this county’ and affordable homes should certainly be on the top of his priority list. The county’s housing market is in flux as the volume of new homes has not matched the growth in population for decades. House prices have spiralled not in line with incomes and as a result we are seeing many young local people unable to get on the housing ladder.
“The funds offered as part of this deal ought to go some way to provide affordable housing through schemes such as Community Land Trusts which have already been a success throughout the county.”