The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway: An overview


Oxford-Cambridge expressway project cancelled

About the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway

The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway is a proposed grade-separated dual carriageway between the A34 near Oxford and the A14 near Cambridge, via (or near) Milton Keynes.

The proposal aims to establish this route by linking existing roads and building new ones. It aims to offer time savings for some longer journeys, for example between Cambridge and Oxford the journey time by road is expected to decrease by 15 to 20 minutes on average as traffic does not need to negotiate roads in and around Milton Keynes.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) was tasked by Central Government to explore the potential of developing the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Corridor to support economic prosperity. The NIC was asked how to maximise the potential of the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor as a single, knowledge-intensive cluster that competes on a global stage, protecting the area’s high-quality environment, and securing the homes and jobs that the area needs.

As part of their vision, they are proposing an expressway to connect the two cities, Oxford and Cambridge, and further develop economic growth. Central Government has largely accepted the NIC’s vision for supporting growth in the corridor, and as part of this Highways England were tasked with taking forward more detailed development of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway proposals.

The map below shows the area for route development.

The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway - Area for route development

Up until September 2018, Highways England was considering three broad corridors, A, B and C for expressway development (according to the map below).

The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway - broad corridors options under consideration by Highways England

On 12 September 2018, after considerable consultation and review, the government announced the preferred corridor for the new Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, accepting the recommendations of Highways England for corridor B with options for the expressway to pass either west or east of Oxford.

Here’s the map released by Highways England in September 2018.

The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway - Highways England Preferred and common corridors
B1 corridor B3 corridor Common corridor

Next steps

Following this, Highways England have been working to identify and evaluate specific routes within the preferred corridor from dozens of viable options. These options will be whittled down to about 6 that will be presented for (non-statutory) consultation with members of the public in 2019.

It is envisaged that the public will be allowed to comment on each route, and effectively vote for a prefered route (similar to the process Highways England followed for the A27 Arundel bypass). There then would follow another year during which Highways England itself will choose a preferred route. This is due to be announced in the autumn of 2020.

Once the final route has been selected, Highways England will submit all their plans to the Planning Inspectorate where an officially appointed independent Inspector will examine the plans, and will probably hold public hearings – although this may have limited opportunity for public participation.

The entire process should take no more than 14 months after which the Inspector will make a recommendation to the Minister of State for Transport. Once approved, construction of the expressway could start in 2025 for completion by 2030.

As with any other infrastructure development programme on this scale, particularly one with severe environmental and economic implications, there are ardent supporters and fervent opponents.

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