January 2015

SQW advises on the Greater Cambridge City Deal and the economic prioritisation of transport schemes

Among the Wave 2 City Deals, the Deal agreed between the Greater Cambridge authorities and government was amongst the most ambitious (see here).

The Deal was premised on the requirement for significant infrastructure investment to enable further innovation-led growth across Greater Cambridge. Over 30 years, SQW has charted the growth of the Cambridge Phenomenon – the cluster of high tech and science-based businesses in and around Cambridge – and we have commented on the critical role that infrastructure investment has to play (for examle, see here). Within this context, the City Deal is potentially very important.

The Greater Cambridge City Deal has two major process-related commitments at its core:

  • A "Gain Share" funding mechanism through which government is making available £100m of funding over four years with the possibility of a further £400m in subsequent years, but dependent on the extent to which the first tranche of funding delivers economic impact.
  • A move towards a combined authority governance structure, recognising the importance of simplified planning measures and more formalised joint working across the area's planning authorities.

Substantively – in delivering the City Deal – "the backbone of the proposed strategy is a transport network to link areas of population and employment within the City Deal area"* . In response, a large number of different transport schemes have been identified, most relating to public transport links and pedestrian/cycle routes and all with a strong transport-related rationale.

However the City Deal's "bottom line" is different; it relates to the delivery of additional economic growth. For this reason – and in the context of the Gain Share funding mechanism – an early commitment was made to complete an "independent assessment of the economic benefits and economic impact of the first tranche of transport investments"**.

This independent assessment has just been completed by SQW and Cambridge Econometrics. Through it, we identified the relative economic benefit that could be derived from specific transport schemes and the relationships between these and housing and employment growth. We also developed and implemented a tool for economic prioritisation and completed a series of sensitivity analyses.

Early in 2015, the findings from our work were considered by the City Deal Assembly and were recommended for approval to the Executive Board. It will make a final decision in terms of which transport schemes are delivered over the City Deal's first five years.

For further details please contact Christine Doel


* City Deal p3
** City Deal p13