When will the Cambridge congestion charge take effect?

    Cambridge congestion charge
    The planned congestion charge zone in Cambridge has been very controversial amongst local residents.

    Plenty of cities in the UK have been discussing pilot schemes for emissions charges and congestion zones, and Cambridge is the latest to put forward an in-depth proposal for changes, to be implemented in 2027/8.

    In 2022, the Greater Cambridge Partnerships (GCP) group announced their plan to reduce car traffic in the city centre of Cambridge and increase sustainable travel methods including an improved bus service. 

    Their proposals have been controversial with local residents, and the ten-week consultation closed at midday on 23rd December

    To get a breakdown of the full scope of the proposals, read on.

    What is the proposal for vehicles?

    The congestion charge proposals are based on a flat fee for all private vehicles. On weekdays between 7am and 7pm, it would cost £5 to use a car or motorcycle, £10 for a van, and £50 for a heavy goods vehicle (HGV).

    Stakeholders claim that this charge, which is not reduced for zero-emissions vehicles, will pay for major increases to the public transport available to residents throughout the Cambridge city area. It will also reduce congestion, making the centre more pedestrian-friendly, and reduce the air pollution caused by car traffic.

    However, local residents point out that this will impact the local economy, as well as key workers accessing employment. The charge zone that has been put forward includes Addenbrookes Hospital and extends to the M11 and the A14.

    Local Park and Ride sites are all outside of the proposed Sustainable Travel Zone, and Park and Ride is one of the networks that GCP expects to expand, creating more parking spaces, as well as cheaper and more frequent services. They hope to encourage use of the network by people who would normally drive into the city.

    The proposed congestion charge zone, or Sustainable Travel Zone, covers a large area of Cambridge.

    What is the proposal for public transport?

    £50m has been awarded for improvements to public transport in Cambridge. Following public and expert consultations, the group behind the Sustainable Travel Zone proposals, GCP, have announced their ambitions for public transport.

    The key part of their plan is affordable, well-appointed bus routing. A bus ticket for the city centre would cost passengers as little as £1, and a commuter ticket just £2, under their plans to expand bus services throughout Cambridge and the surrounding area, through Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, and Suffolk.

    The GCP has declared they wish to start making changes to the bus services as early as 2023, and bring in the new flat fees for regional travel from 2026, ahead of the charges for cars being instigated.

    Consultations with the public in 2021 confirmed that local residents wanted local public transport to be improved and expanded, and pollution and congestion reduced. They have described the bus route expansion ambitions as ‘London-style’, suggesting an interconnected bus network allowing people to forgo private transport for their usual routes. 

    They have also announced that part of their funding would be invested in cycle paths, off-road cycle routes, and walkways, and in making the commercial centre more pedestrian-friendly. 

    Their funding would also cover the hiring and training of more bus drivers and transport workers, to ensure that a local network is robust before vehicle owners start paying the charge.

    Who is responsible for the plans?

    Greater Cambridge Partnership is the group responsible for delivering a city deal with the UK government. This means channelling investment of up to £500m to make Cambridge a better place to live and work, and boost economic growth. 

    The partners are Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, and the University of Cambridge. 

    They have worked on the Sustainable Travel Zone plans along with the Greater Cambridge Citizens’ Assembly, made up of residents and facilitated by two foundations with expertise in public participation. 

    In 2021, the GCP hosted a ‘Making Connections’ consultation, which revealed support for initiatives to reduce pollution and increase local public transport options. 

    Are the plans going to change?

    The plans were announced in the summer of 2022, with a window for feedback ending on 23rd December 2022. Within that window, feedback could be sent to the Making Connections survey.

    It is unclear to what degree the plans may change, but at the time of writing they are proposals, which indicates that there may be some flexibility when plans are finally delivered. 

    The Cambridge Sustainable Travel Zone is still in the proposal stage and could potentially change.

    Am I exempt from the Cambridge congestion charge?

    Within the proposal documents, there are seven categories of passenger vehicles exempt from the daily Sustainable Travel Zone charge (also known as the congestion charge). These are as follows, and may be subject to changes or further inclusions:

    • Emergency vehicles
    • Military vehicles
    • Disabled tax class vehicles
    • Breakdown services
    • NHS tax-exempt vehicles
    • Dial-a-ride services
    • Some local authority operational vehicles

    There are discounts recommended for further categories of passenger vehicles:

    • Blue badge holders could nominate up to two vehicles for a 100% discount
    • Low-income households could receive a discount of 25% to 100% on a stepped scale
    • Club car vehicles from certain providers could have a 100% discount

    No vehicles are exempt from charges based on their emissions rating.

    How to avoid the Cambridge congestion charge?

    The Sustainable Travel Charge in Cambridge will run from 7am to 7pm on weekdays. So, if you expect to use your car minimally within those times, you’ll rarely have to pay the £5 charge. 

    However, the truth is that this is likely to cost many residents up to £100 a month if they continue using private transport in the way they are used to. There’s no way to dodge the charge if you’re not covered by one of the above-mentioned categories. It’s possible that as the proposals move through the planning stages, further categories are added to account for residents who will be disproportionately affected by these changes.

    Should you sell your car?

    If you’re thinking about selling your car due to changes in local motoring charges, at Motorway we offer a simple – and completely free – method of getting the best price when selling, whatever the model.

    Sell with Motorway and our network of 5,000+ verified car dealers will compete to give you their best price.

    Selling your car with Motorway is quick, easy and can be done right from your phone.

    Just enter your reg on the homepage and you will be provided with an instant estimated sale price based on up-to-the-minute market data. We’ll then ask you a few easy questions about your car and guide you through the photos you need to take to complete your vehicle profile. It can be done right from your phone – in a matter of minutes.

    If you choose to enter your car into a daily sale, it will be shown to our nationwide network of more than 5,000 verified dealers looking to add to their stock of used cars. Interested dealers will then compete to buy your car, offering you their best price.

    In as little as 24 hours you will receive your best offer – and, if you choose to go ahead with the sale, your car will be collected for free by the dealer and the money will be quickly and securely transferred to your bank account.

    Selling your car?

    Read about everything you need to know about how to sell your car with more guides here. There’s a lot to learn as Clean Air Zones and emissions standards in the UK change in the run-up to 2035.