At the AGM I gave an update on the proposed Expressway between Cambridge and Oxford. This new type of ‘smart’ expressway will feel more like a motorway with signage on a blue background and some ‘Smart’ motorway features. It will have emergency refuge areas, a variable speed limit, active traffic management but no hard shoulder.
In November 2017, the National Infrastructure Commission published its report “Partnering for Prosperity” which talks about designing transport to unlock major housing growth. The report says that for the arc from Oxford to Cambridge to maximise its economic potential… “current rates of house building will need to double – delivering up to one million new homes by 2050″
Opportunities for growth include expansion of Milton Keynes to a population of 500,000 and development between Bicester and Bletchley, unlocked through the combination of East West Rail and the Expressway, with the potential to grow to city-scale.
Key to this Expressway is closing a 30 mile gap in the national strategic road network between the M1 at Milton Keynes and the M40. On 12 September 2018, the Government announced the preferred corridor for the Expressway from the M1 at Junction 13. It would broadly follow the route of East West Rail via Winslow and likely pass south of Bicester to the M40 and continue eventually to Oxford and Abingdon.
The preferred route could be announced in 2020 – the first time the public get to have a say. The Expressway could cost £3.5bn and open by 2030.
It strikes me that there is no debate and no joined-up thinking on whether this motorway-on-the-cheap is a good idea, let alone whether a million homes is even feasible. Are there enough water resources to support another 2.4 million people regionally? Another 300,000 homes in Oxfordshire in the space of 30 years would more than double the existing housing stock, built up over hundreds of years! Councils have already been asked where they might put these extra houses. Local Wildlife Trusts say that the corridor selected is possibly the worst option and have launched a Judicial Review. Covering the countryside in concrete could be a catastrophe.