Expressway Plan May Be Dumped
Rumours in political circles are that the planned Oxford to Cambridge Expressway may soon be abandoned. John Howell, Conservative MP for Henley, recently said that he was "anticipating that the decision will be taken to scrap it". An announcement may be made in the Budget on 11 March.
In November Oxfordshire County Council wrote to the government saying that it would no longer support the expressway and that it favoured more environmentally-friendly ways to travel such as the planned rail link between Oxford and Cambridge. They are also keen to see improvements to the A34 around Oxford.
OCC leader Ian Hudspeth said that dropping the expressway would not affect plans to create a "tech arc" between the two cities and build up to a million new homes. However many have asked where the people will come from to occupy these homes and where they will find jobs.
At the same time the government may be backing away from the proposed third runway at Heathrow following the decision by the Court of Appeal that the plan was unlawful as it breached carbon dioxide reduction plans. It will not be supporting any appeal to the Supreme Court by the airport owners. Boris Johnson's spokesman said: "Parliament has voted in principle to support a third runway at Heathrow, but in order to proceed Heathrow must demonstrate it can meet its air quality and noise obligations, that the project can be financed and built and that the business case is realistic." Rough translation: "You're on your own, mate."
Update 12 March on the position following the Budget statement yesterday. BBC News reports as follows:
Work on the Oxford to Cambridge expressway has been "paused".
The Department for Transport and Highways England said they will "undertake further work on other potential road projects" between the two university cities instead.
They said that work would seek to reduce congestion in other areas between them.
Labour's Anneliese Dodds criticised the "woolly" announcement and said the government's intentions remain unclear.
The expressway has been a key plank of infrastructure plans since 2017.
At the time, the National Infrastructure Commission said the new road and the East-West Rail project had to "be built as quickly as possible to unlock land for new homes" in the area known as the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.
The rail project is widely supported and work on it continues, but the road has been labelled potentially "catastrophic" by campaigners who worry about environmental damage.
The government said it hopes the new work - announced in its Road Investment Strategy 2 - would "alleviate congestion around the Arc's major economic centres, such as Milton Keynes".