Why the Expressway Hasn’t Really Been Cancelled – But Morphed

The Minister has said the Oxford Cambridge Expressway has been cancelled. We have been here before in terms of the long term ambition of the DOT. In the 1980s at the LPI for the Aylesbury bypass the DOT witness said they had no plans for an ‘expressway’ from Oxford all the way to the East Coast Ports, just a series of local improvements. Then was produced a map the DOT had submitted to Brussels showing just such a route. The bypass examination collapsed.

The DOT has dropped the full expressway because most of it is already built or planned, the A428 and A421 improvements all the way from Cambridge to Milton Keynes. Talking of an Oxford-Cambridge Expressway scared the horses and got the Nimbys out. The missing link is Milton Keynes to Oxford and South of Oxford. This survives.

We will continue to work on more targeted, localised road improvements to boost transport in the region, …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.

It would have been premature to decide on any roads in this area separate from proposals for growth and proposals for public transport. The timing of the connectivity study alongside the first stage of the Arc framework is no coincidence. There are big decisions. If MK is to grow to half a million do you continue to route traffic through it or rather South or North of the Town. What about growth around Aylesbury and possibly a Garden Community at Clavert. Do you need a new Thames Crossing South of South of Grenoble Road to ensure bypass traffic is not overly focused West of Oxford which causes major congestion. The expressway proposal was always a blunt hammer that would have encouraged sprawl. The proper approach for the Arc framework is to focus growth at Zero Carbon transit served locations and only develop strategic roads to deal with residual traffic. Yes there will be some induced traffic however the research shows this to be around 1/3rd, less in new communities, so 2/3rds will be effective at removing traffic from 18th century standard country roads. It all depends whether better network connections can shorten forced extended journy lengths because of existing poor connectivity.

There is more than one strategic east west route between Oxford and MK, one via Bicester and one via Aylesbury. A new town at Calvert for example would require strategic connections to its North and South. So we need to get away from the thinking of one single east west expressway West of MK. Rather route improvements along two existing A Road corridors are more likely than a Greenfield Route along its whole length (always the most expensive option).

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