Local government

How can congestion be reduced in Greater Cambridge?

Greater Cambridge Citizens' Assembly
The Democratic Society, mySociety, RSA, Renaisi, Greater Cambridge Partnership, DCMS
2 weekends - September & October 2019

The Greater Cambridge Citizens’ Assembly on congestion, air quality and public transport brought together 53 randomly selected residents from Greater Cambridge and the wider travel to work area for two weekends during September and October 2019.

The citizens’ assembly was set the task to develop recommendations to the Greater Cambridge Partnership in response to the question: 

How do we reduce congestion, improve air quality and provide better public transport in Greater Cambridge?

Across two weekends, the citizens’ assembly heard a range of evidence relating to the challenges of congestion, air quality and public transport – this included learning, exploring and discussing: 

  • The situation in Greater Cambridge now and projections for the future; 
  • The impacts of congestion, air quality and public transport on our health; our environment; and our lives; 
  • Visions and approaches locally and from further afield on different ways to tackle the problem; and 
  • The range of measures that could be used to address the situation.

The Greater Cambridge Citizens' Assembly was part of the UK Government's Innovation in Democracy Programme.


Assembly members developed and prioritised their vision for transport in Greater Cambridge, with the following outcomes commanding the highest support:

  • Provide affordable public transport;
  • Provide fast and reliable public transport;
  • Be environmental and zero-carbon;
  • Restrict the city centre to only clean and electric vehicles;
  • Be people-centred – prioritising pedestrians and cyclist;
  • Be managed as one coordinated system (e.g. Transport for Cambridge);
  • Enable interconnection (e.g. north/south/east/west/urban/rural).

The citizens’ assembly voted on a series of measures to reduce congestion, improve air quality and public transport. Of the measures they considered, assembly members voted most strongly in favour of road closures, followed by a series of road charging options (clean air zone, pollution charge and flexible charge).

In addition to these measures, assembly members developed and prioritised a number of other supporting measures:

  • Mayor to franchise buses;
  • Plant trees and hedges to absorb carbon;
  • Encouraging the use of electric bikes;
  • Introduce a lollipop bus service with low emission electric vehicles;
  • Explore the viability of long-distance buses using the Park & Ride;
  • Establish a heavy-duty depot outside of Cambridge, with last-mile delivery through

    electric van / pedal-power;

  • Optimise traffic signals


A preliminary report was published immediately after the assembly. The full report outlining all of the assembly's outputs and recommendations was published in November 2019.

The full report was presented to the Greater Cambridge Partnership Joint Assembly and Executive Board in early 2020 1 . The Greater Cambridge Partnership published a draft response (p.80 - 97) to the citizens' assembly's recommendations in February 2020. This was followed by a more detailed response in July 2020.

  • 1This had been due to take place in late 2019, but was postponed due to the UK General Election