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Oxford-Cambridge expressway project cancelled

Oxford-Cambridge expressway project cancelled

Oxford-Cambridge expressway project cancelled as Transport Secretary looks to alternative plans for improving transport in the region. The construction of the Oxford to Cambridge expressway has been cancelled as analysis shows the benefits the road would deliver are outweighed by its costs.

  • Oxford-Cambridge expressway formally cancelled following pause last March
  • extensive analysis and local engagement reveals the expressway would not be cost-effective for the taxpayer
  • the Government will continue to work on alternative plans to boost transport connectivity in the arc, alongside delivering the transformational East West Rail

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced the cancellation of the Oxford-Cambridge (Ox-Cam) expressway, after analysis confirmed the proposed project was not cost-effective.

Highways England had been developing potential options for a road link between Oxford and Milton Keynes. However, following close work with local partners since 2014, recent analysis shows that the benefits the road would deliver are outweighed by the costs associated with the project.

Building on the insight already developed by Highways England, the Department for Transport (DfT) will now investigate the need for more targeted road interventions in the area, recognising the vital role that transport investment has to support sustainable growth in the region, as noted by the National Infrastructure Commission. The DfT will work closely with Highways England and England’s Economic Heartland as the sub-national transport body to develop a study on proposals that will also support the spatial framework.

The East West Rail scheme remains central to providing critical infrastructure within the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, with it not only improving connectivity, but also bringing new jobs and opportunities to people in the area. In January, the Government announced a £760 million funding commitment to deliver the next phase of East West Rail, which will create 1,500 skilled jobs and reinstate direct rail services between Bicester and Bletchley for the first time since 1968.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is home to cutting-edge research, globally renowned science and technology clusters and some of the most productive places in the country – we want to make sure it has transport fit for such an important region.

"Our analysis shows the expressway cannot deliver such links in a way that provides value for money for the taxpayer, so I have taken the decision to cancel the project. But we remain committed to boosting transport links in the area, helping us to create jobs and build back better from coronavirus (COVID-19).

"We will continue to work on more targeted, localised road improvements to boost transport in the region, alongside the transformational East West Rail, in which we have invested £760 million to deliver the next phase."

Mayor Dave Hodgson, Chair of England’s Economic Heartland (EEH) Strategic Transport Forum, said: "This is a welcome announcement that provides clarity to those planning for the region’s future between Oxford and Milton Keynes.

"As our Transport Strategy sets out, delivery of strategic schemes, including East West Rail and mass transit systems, such as those being developed in Cambridgeshire and Milton Keynes, alongside harnessing smart technologies and targeted investment in the road network, are all essential if we are to ensure economic growth while achieving net-zero emissions.

"Work on EEH’s Oxford to Milton Keynes connectivity study begins in March 2021. We will work with partners and Government to explore the connectivity needs of this important corridor and identify the solutions required to support sustainable growth for the long term."

In February, the Government launched the process for developing a long-term Oxford-Cambridge Arc: spatial framework, including transport policy, for local and national planning, and to inform investment decisions so that together, the Government, local authorities and communities can unlock the long-term potential of the area sustainably, improving the arc as a place to live and work.

In response to the statement from the Transport Secretary on the cancellation of the Oxford-Cambridge expressway, Councillor Susan Brown, the Leader of Oxford City Council said: "I welcome the announcement that the Government’s proposed East-West Expressway has now been cancelled. The Government should be focused on investing in more sustainable transport.

"We will be watching to see if the money set aside for this unwanted scheme will be put into East West Rail, which with the right investment can provide fast, fully electric transport linking the major employment hubs across the Oxford Cambridge Arc.

"Connectivity across the Arc is vital for its future economic growth, and with more than half of people working in Oxford and Cambridge commuting in from outside those cities, people will continue to rely on their cars until the transport network offers them a better alternative.

"We must start investing in transport that provides viable door to door journeys by connecting rail, buses, cycling and walking routes. That means a strategic approach across the whole region.

"The replacement of Oxford Station and expansion of rail capacity throughout Oxfordshire will become more important than ever, East West Rail should extend westwards beyond Oxford to Swindon and Bristol, and eastwards beyond Cambridge to Norwich. The Government still has a way to go to show their vision on this.

"Councils across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc have been arguing that the short-sighted cuts made by Government earlier this year to the project need to be reversed."