Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge are three of the fastest growing economic areas in the county, with local authorities planning for substantial employment and housing growth to support continued and predicted economic development.
However, connectivity between the east and west is currently poor and interaction between the areas has, as a result, been restricted. In December 2014 the Government published the first Road Investment Strategy (RIS1), underpinned by legislation, to transform the highways network. As part of the largest road investment for a generation, 6 new strategic studies were commissioned to explore options around the strategic road networks emerging challenges and to inform the second Road Investment Strategy. The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway Strategic Study was one of the studies commissioned.
In summer 2016 Government published the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway Strategic Study Interim Report. It outlines the high level case for a strategic link to connect the cities of ‘the brain belt’ and will inform further work to be carried out to develop the options for intervention.
The report reaches four main conclusions:
- The primary study area east-west road route linking Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge is of variable standard.
- The route provides an important regional and sub-regional function, linking the fast growing Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge functional economic areas.
- Due to the current lack of east-west transport connectivity, there are low levels of strategic long distance movements along the primary east-west route within the study area.
- Sections of the route interchange with and form important strategic routes for freight traffic.
In the 2016 Autumn Statement, Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced the allocation of £27 million of capital development funding to move the project forward, in line with the National Infrastructure Commission’s Interim report into the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor.
The Oxford to Cambridge expressway strategic study: stage 3 report, published at the end of November 2016, identified three main Expressway options, deemed beneficially suitable to take them forward to the next stage of assessment. This will consist of a more detailed qualitative and quantitative assessment of the short listed Expressway schemes and will assess the value for money, environmental, transport, and economic impacts of the Expressway interventions to be reported in a Strategic Outline Business Case. This stage will also include further analysis of the potential interaction between the short listed Expressway schemes and East West Rail to better understand the complementary benefits both schemes could provide.
Plans for the Expressway have now advanced. The preferred route announcement for the A428 is expected to be made in early 2019 with further public consultation on the proposed route next year.