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Transport, travel and carbon

Across the county, transport emissions contribute almost 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. These predominantly come from cars. This picture as reflected nationally, with transport being one of the only sectors with increasing emissions. This is why changing the way we travel to be less polluting and more sustainable is so important for reaching net zero by 2050. 

Breakdown of greenhouse gas emissions in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, 2017. The majority of emissions arise from transportation - mainly the private car.
Breakdown of greenhouse gas emissions in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in 2017.

Air quality

Having clean air to breathe is the basic building block in creating a healthy environment for everyone. There are “hot spots” of poor air quality that impact health, particularly respiratory and cardiovascular disease in Cambridgeshire.

Transport and air quality are closely linked, with many of the air quality challenges centred around urban areas or key transport corridors like the A14. 

What we typically think of as "air pollution" is actually a mixture of small particles, including:

  • Particulate Matter (PM10, PM2.5) - made up of small airborne particles like dust, soot and drops of liquids. 
  • Nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2) - produced primarily for transportation
  • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) - emitted into the air by the burning of fossil fuels that contain sulphur. When mixed with water it can form sulphuric acid which is the main component of acid rain

In December 2019 we agreed our Air Quality Motion (p6). This set out how we will play our part in improving air quality. Actions are underway currently, and include:

  • Promoting the uptake of electric vehicles 
  • Increasing green canopy (tree cover) - especially around schools and on the highway
  • Improving alternative to the private car, including continuing to improve cycling infrastructure and working with partners to deliver the CAM metro

The Transport Hierarchy

The Transport Hierarchy describes how different types of transportation are more or less sustainable, relative to one another. It moves from flights through to car sharing, electric vehicles, public transport ending in walking - the most sustainable mode of travel available.

Each of us has a different ability to move towards lower carbon travel options, but if we move just one step up we can begin to make a big difference to the carbon emission total above. 

The transport hierarchy describes how different modes of transport emit different amounts of carbon. Worse emitters are planes with active transport (walking, running etc) as the most sustainable.

Work is underway to improve transport and travel, making sustainable options the "natural first choice" for Cambridgeshire communities:

Electrification of transport is key to reducing carbon emissions. Projects the council are developing include:

Find out more about electric vehicles (EV) and how you could switch on our sustainable transport pages

Cargo bikes are bike that are specially made to carry more than just their rider: they can be used for other passengers or moving bulkier items that would not normally fit on a bike. Many already use them for the school run. The offer an environmentally friendly and safe way to travel.

Electric cargo bike have the addition of an electric motor, which makes the ride easier and less strenuous. 

In partnership with Greater Cambridge Partnership and Cambridge City Council, funding for 30 e-cargo bikes has been secured. The bikes will be available through a scheme leasing them to families, local businesses and other organisations. 

Offering an alternative to motorised vehicles, the low-carbon bikes can help improve air quality through lower emissions, as well as reducing traffic and encouraging active travel.

There will also be a “try before you buy” scheme, and a first mile delivery initiative, collecting parcels from shops and businesses and reducing the number of delivery vans in the city centre.

The Council and Cambridge City Council are running a successful project under the Horizon 2020 City Changer Cargo Bike project to increased uptake of cargo-bikes in the City. The project focuses both on access to the bikes, as well as provision of suitable cargo-bike “parking” facilities.

In our more urban areas buses can be a significant contributor to air pollution challenges, due to the nature of their stop-start driving. The Council is working with the Greater Cambridge Partnership and the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority to work with the bus companies serving the region to understand how the buses they use can be improved. 

The technology is still a little uncertain for those longer bus routes, with both electric and hydrogen bus technologies emerging, so smaller scale pilot projects are underway. Already, the Greater Cambridge Partnership is testing the use of fully electric buses in Cambridge. Visit the Greater Cambridgeshire Partnership website to learn more.

As a partner in the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP), we are working to develop and deliver a comprehensive programme of sustainable transport initiatives including excellent cycling and walking infrastructure.

The partnership aims to reduce congestion, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions and create a more sustainable network for the future, by enabling significantly more people to travel by public transport, cycling and walking and significantly fewer people travelling by car. 

Projects include:

  • Future Network mapping to show how sustainable transport infrastructure will be substantially enhanced over the next decade, forming a cohesive network throughout the Greater Cambridge area and further afield.
  • Four corridor schemesCambourne to Cambridge, Waterbeach to Cambridge, Cambridge Eastern and Cambridge South East – will offer better public transport and active travel routes along four corridors identified as essential to link growing communities to the north, south east, east and west. The schemes form an integral part of delivery of the Combined Authority’s (CPCA) Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM) scheme
  • The GCP is creating safe and easy routes for more active travel journeys to encourage more people to join Greater Cambridge’s already UK-leading number of cyclists, along with those walking and horse-riding. A network of 12 Greenways will create connections for those travelling into the city, and inner city Cross City Cycling, Chisholm Trail and Madingley Road schemes are all underway to better link up key sites.
  • Further improvement schemes at Milton and Histon Road are creating better connections for faster and more reliable public transport journeys and better walking and cycling links.
  • The GCP is enhancing Travel Hub capacity on routes into the city, linking up bus, walking and cycling networks and providing over 10,000 additional park and ride spaces so people can easily switch to sustainable transport. New facilities will be equipped with charging points for electric vehicles and future-proofed to evolve over time as technology changes the way we travel.
    Park and ride provision at the existing Trumpington site has been extended and new Travel Hub facilities are being created at Cambridge South West to the west of Junction 11 of the M11 and close to Foxton Train Station at Foxton
  • Projects already underway and in planning include trials to improve walking, cycling and bus journeys by restricting traffic through trips, and a scheme to better manage goods vehicle deliveries.

Supported by recommendations of the Greater Cambridge Citizen’s Assembly, the project is considering measures to actively reduce city centre congestion and fund a transformed future public transport network. The GCP are looking at how different packages of measures could improve sustainable transport options alongside different ways of reducing car trips.