Cambridge (UK) Core Traffic Scheme

By News Editor / Updated: 29 Aug 2014

This scheme manages non-essential vehicles’ access to Cambridge city centre, giving higher priority to cyclists, pedestrians and public transport. Implemented gradually since 1997, the scheme has high public support and is helping to achieve air quality, traffic reduction and bus patronage targets for the city.

Background and objectives

Cambridge is an historic and lively city of around 90,000 people, but was not built to cope with the levels of traffic seen today. High traffic flows contribute to high levels of pollution in the narrow streets where pollutants are difficult to disperse. Developments planned for the city centre in the next few years will also add to the pressure.

Cambridgeshire County Council started the Cambridge Core Scheme in 1997. Its main objective is to encourage people to use their cars less, by promoting other means of sustainable transport, and to improve the city centre environment for all, and so helping tourism and shopping in the city centre.


The first stage of the Cambridge Core Traffic Scheme was introduced in 1997 to reduce through traffic in the historic core of the city. Further stages were implemented in 1999, 2003 and 2006. To gain local support for this controversial scheme, there was large-scale consultation with residents, local businesses, shops and University colleges. In addition, the scheme was widely promoted to ensure the public were made aware of the changes to the city centre. Post-scheme consultation was also carried out to update local people on the effects of the scheme. Surveys have shown that people thought the core area was safer, cleaner and a more pleasant environment following the introduction of the scheme. Typical measures include:

  • Streetscape improvements including the removal of “clutter”.
  • Improvements for cyclists.
  • A 20mph limit on some roads in the core area.
  • Measures to relieve congestion in key areas.

The planned spend on the scheme for 2006-2011 is about £2.4m (€3.6m) of which £0.6m (€0.9m) will be from private property developers.


Between 1993 and 2003 the number of private vehicles in the city centre fell by 15%. The County Council now has a target that there should be no more than 8,700 peak hour (7am -10am) inbound vehicle trips into the main city centre area in 2010/11 which, given the major growth in housing and jobs in the area, represents a proportional traffic reduction. This target may well be achievable given that since 2001 bus patronage on routes into Cambridge has grown by 30%. The Core Traffic scheme is a key contributor to this success.


The detailed consultation process and a publicity strategy improves public awareness and reduces confusion, thus easing the implementation process. The noticable improvements to the city centre environment brought about by earlier stages of the Core Traffic Scheme also help to gather public support for future stages. Introducing the scheme as part of a package of improvements to public transport, cycling and park and ride have also made it easier to gain public support and made the scheme work better.

Further information

Much of this case study was based on information in the Cambridgeshire Local Transport Plan 2006-2011 which you can be found at


A new LTP (LTP3) covering the period from 2011 to 2026 was adopted at a meeting of the full Council on March 29th 2011.Full information about LTP in Cambridge is available at:

Traffic and demand management
United Kingdom
Tom Rye
measures - access control
28 Nov 2011
29 Aug 2014