The large rural hinterlands of South Cambridgeshire have isolated residents from access to appropriate transport for essential and social journeys into hubs such as London and Cambridge city centre.
In response, the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) devised the transformation of Whittlesford Parkway Station into a multi-modal transport interchange founded on active and sustainable travel. With greater capacity and connectivity, it will not only facilitate local housing and job growth but ensure Cambridgeshire is a place where existing and future generations’ needs are met.
WYG received an ‘Award for infrastructure planning’ At The Planning Awards 2019, in recognition of the scheme. Our team provided services including transport planning, town planning, masterplanning, capacity building, highways engineering, urban design, and consultation.
When the GCP commissioned WYG to produce a masterplan, success hinged on balancing economic, social, and environmental factors across three overarching objectives:
It was a multi-pronged challenge, and with good reason. The surrounding area houses several local businesses with large-scale growth ambitions. Some specialise heavily in life science and draw from a large labour market catchment. Improved access via the interchange presented an opportunity to attract market-leading scientists, educators, and entrepreneurs from London and beyond.
When we consider better quality of life for commuters, we often imagine vibrant local areas encouraging active travel, but connectivity must also include greater opportunities for social interaction. For many years, the opposite has been true, with the station off-limits to those with limited mobility or no car.
The resulting scheme has focussed on removing barriers to walking and cycling. It has extended to consolidating car parking within a dedicated multi-storey facility to reduce commuting impact on residents. It has also accounted for people with limited mobility through a new lift and footbridge enabling step-free access between platforms, making movement across platforms easier for cyclists.
A new bus turning circle permits safe and efficient access by both public bus services and business park-funded commuter busses - a big step up from minibuses having exclusive access due to safety concerns. Junction treatments, full-route enhancements (including along NCN11), and increased cycle parking by 200 percent will see the already-high proportion of cycling commuters (17 percent) increase even further.
New signalised junctions will also mitigate physical disconnect on the A505 between the station and surrounding villages of Duxford and Hinxton, enabling safer access, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists.
This project wouldn’t be possible without extensive consultation with stakeholders from station users and non-users to elected members, transport providers, interest groups, landowners, local businesses, and residents.
Everyone had to feel included in the masterplan and design. The project’s very premise was a two-way street: the masterplan could only be delivered on the back of growth and developer contributions, but that development wouldn’t come forward without additional capacity and connectivity at the station.
Clear communication was therefore vital. A town planner oversaw the masterplan itself; an interactive workshop brought stakeholders together to identify potential issues and opportunities; other events included face-to-face station user surveys of morning commuters, an online survey capturing non-user views, and conversations with individuals over a 10-week period.
Input from business parks Granta Park and The Wellcome Genome Campus played a big role too. With around 2,500 employees each, both have large-scale growth ambitions reliant on the station’s success in increasing accessibility.
Crucially, Greater Anglia, the train operating company responsible for the station, also led the submission of an Access for All funding bid for the Department for Transport based on priorities in the masterplan.
James Blacow, former project manager at the Greater Cambridge Partnership, said: “WYG have actively engaged with over fifty stakeholders, including Parish and District Councillors, local residents, commuters, rail and platform operators, large local employment hubs and local campaign groups.
“[They] have been extremely proactive with the community and stakeholder engagement throughout this project. The GCP looked to ensure this project was community-led and developed alongside residents and stakeholders right from the very early stages.”
Revitalising the station isn’t just about making the station experience more convenient. It’s about the lasting impact of easier access to educational institutions in Cambridge and a wider jobs market.
Pedestrianisation of Station Road East – the buffer zone by the bus turning circle – and reallocation of parking space immediately west of the station will enhance the setting and architectural qualities of the Duxford Chapel and Red Lion listed buildings, creating a new public space attracting visitors by blending seamlessly into the surroundings.
Improved waiting facilities for buses and trains, and overall increase in football and activity in and around the station, will improve the comfort and safety felt by those otherwise deterred from using public transport for personal safety reasons.
The new station effectively manages competing needs, balancing the demands of residents with commuters from farther afield. It also caters to localised sustainable transportation through the strategically important and heavily trafficked A505. We’re proud to have supported a project demonstrating how a rural based interchange can transform into a key link between people, education, and employment.