Cambridge: building its global future

Trains, planes and cycle lanes

15 September 2017, by Savills Research

Cambridge’s real estate requirements can only be met if they are supported by timely, well-planned and integrated infrastructure that links the city with the world beyond


Whatever form it takes, improved infrastructure is essential for Cambridge to maintain its competitive edge. Congestion in the city is becoming a threat to economic investment as well as quality of life. In the 2014 Cambridge Ahead Quality of Life Survey, 42% of respondents identified road congestion as the most important issue facing their local area.

Moving around the city

Congestion will only worsen if the city sees more unmitigated edge of settlement development. This will bring more people who will need to move around the city, particularly at peak times and at already pinched locations.

It is, therefore, essential for new housing development to be linked to employment opportunities. Equally, new employment locations need to be served by good public transport and, where possible, integrated with other amenities. This reflects the growing preferences of workers not to be located on isolated business parks without amenities (see Savills/BCO What Workers Want Survey 2016).

The new station now open at Cambridge North will improve access to the business and science parks in that area of the city. A further railway station at Addenbrookes to the south of the city would have a similarly transformative effect, supporting growth at the hospitals and Biomedical Campus. This would link, in due course, to a new Oxford/Cambridge rail link.

Links across the city are important too – for example, between North West Cambridge and the growing focal point at the Biomedical Campus. This suggests a need to look for a network of citywide enhancements, not just connections into and out of the city centre.

Congestion is an important issue in Cambridge

▲ Congestion is an important issue in Cambridge

Connecting Cambridge

There are currently 68,000 homes in the long-term pipeline on sites within a 20-mile radius of Cambridge, with 14,200 currently under construction. A significant proportion of the residents of these developments are likely to commute into Cambridge, adding to existing rush-hour congestion.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership (formerly the City Deal) believes population growth means journeys on the transport network are likely to increase by 25% by 2031.

According to the 2011 census, more than 75% of commuters in South and East Cambridgeshire travelled to work by car, a clear indicator that infrastructure – including road upgrades, cycleways and increased public transport – needs to be planned and delivered ahead of or alongside new housing, not afterwards.

Significant effort is now going into tackling this problem, including via the new Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority with its elected mayor, and the newly re-badged Greater Cambridge Partnership. Much of that effort and funding is rightly focused on connecting the Cambridge hub with the burgeoning ring of commuter towns and new settlements of its hinterland.


Cambridge connectivity Improved road and rail links to other knowledge economies is crucial. Further expansion at Stansted would also improve Cambridge’s global connectivity

Figure 9

Source: Savills Research

More extensive links

Improved national and international links with other major employment centres are crucial to Cambridge’s continued success.

There are 4,500 knowledge intensive companies located within 25 miles of the city. Further afield, the bioscience and pharmaceutical companies based in Stevenage, Ware, Welwyn Garden City, as well as London, benefit from good connections to the city. However, links to other knowledge economies, such as Oxford and the Thames Valley, are poor. Proposals such as an East-West rail link could improve the situation, but are several years off. It will require significant investment and co-operation between local authorities and central government bodies to deliver.

Cambridge is a global centre for research and has to have global connections. Aviation capacity is extensive in all of its global competitors. The Boston Route 128 cluster and the San Francisco- Silicon Valley regions are served by 10 runways over a number of airports. In San Francisco, this amounts to a peak departure capacity of more than 200 flights per hour. Cambridge is served by airports with capacity for 160 movements per hour; but some are from Heathrow and Gatwick on the other side of London. Stansted Airport is the UK’s fourth busiest airport and further expansion, particularly in long-haul flights, would improve Cambridge’s global connectivity.


Subscribe to Savills research


Would you like to be notified via email about new research?