£3.5bn Oxford to Cambridge Expressway is scrapped

Plans for a £3.5bn Oxford to Cambridge Expressway running through parts of Bedfordshire have been scrapped by the government.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 11:47 am
Updated Thursday, 18th March 2021, 3:54 pm
The Oxford-Cambridge Expressway project has been scrapped

The Transport Secretary announced the cancellation this morning (March 18), after plans were paused last March.

The Government report states that following extensive analysis of the project it would not be cost effective to continue.

Highways England were hoping to create developing potential options for a road link between Oxford and Milton Keynes. Yet, recent analysis conducted locally, by the government has led to a U-turn on the proposals.

The route would have cut into countryside north of Leighton Buzzard

The Expressway was planned to go from Oxford, via Milton Keynes, and end up in Cambridge. It would have followed the route of the East West railway and cut through countryside north of Leighton Buzzard.

It was projected to cost £3.5 billion and could have involved an additional one million homes being built.

In a statement released on the Government's website, 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."

Central Bedfordshire Council has stated that it is disappointed with the government's decision.

Councillor Kevin Collins, executive member for planning and regeneration said: “Infrastructure connectivity across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc is vital to bringing new jobs and opportunities to people in the area.

"We are disappointed that the Oxford to Cambridge expressway has been cancelled although appreciate that investing in the Expressway is not currently viable.

“We welcome the study on proposals for more targeted road interventions in the area, which will play a key role in future transport investment to support sustainable growth in the region.”

The project had been in the works since 2014, but had been protested due to its threat to the countryside.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Bedfordshire branch said it strongly welcomes the secretary of state's announcement.

A CPRE spokesman said: "Building this road would have been in complete contradiction to the government’s commitments to protecting heritage and tackling the climate and nature emergencies.

"We now hope that Robert Jenrick will similarly commit to a complete rethink of the unsustainable proposals by the National Infrastructure Commission to build a million houses in the area which stretches from Oxford to Cambridge, known as the OxCam Arc, which includes vast swathes of open countryside in Bedfordshire.

"CPRE Bedfordshirealso remains concerned about the decision to make Route E the preferred route for East West Rail. We support an electrified route B and would like to see this option be given further consideration and consultation.

"Route E will cause serious environmental pollution to town residents and lead to the destruction of the hugely important North Bedfordshire countryside and the Great Ouse Valley, opening it up to the development of new towns."