The Conservative government, supported by the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, is intent on building a motorway style road between Oxfordshire and Cambridge.
They say this is to speed lorry and car journeys along the route, to bring 470,000 more people within a 45 minute drive time of the Oxford Science Park, to cater for the 40% predicted increase in traffic by 2035 and to facilitate more housing.
Liberal Democrat councillors say that investing in rail, other public transport and active transport should come first.
Liberal Democrats in Oxfordshire question the need for this Expressway because:
- All the evidence is that building more road capacity simply increases the number of cars on the roads and the number of journeys made. This is not a long-term solution to congestion and is damaging to our environment and public health
- The Expressway is not going to solve congestion or safety on the A34. The A34 is not one of the stated priorities for Highways England for the scheme. Whichever route is chosen it will bring more HGVs to the A420 and A34.
- Highways England want a strategic highway, away from local roads, with few junctions. However the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government want a road to facilitate 1 million new homes. The same Expressway can not meet both these contradictory aims.
- The years of uncertainty associated with the scheme will leave thousands of the county’s residents worried about the future of their communities, concerned about the prospect of losing homes, schools, graveyards, shops and places of worship, along with the long term impact on air quality and noise.
- There has been no environmental impact assessment and the scheme stands to destroy swathes of incredibly precious and important ecosystems that are vital in the continued existence of the county’s rare flora and fauna.
Instead of spending billions on a scheme without a clear evidence base, Oxfordshire Liberal Democrats would:
- Accelerate delivery of the East-West rail link between Oxford and Cambridge.
- Invest in infrastructure to enable more freight to be transported by rail.
- Invest in delayed and long-promised rail schemes including electrification of the Oxford line, reopening of Grove station and the Cowley branch line.
- Reduce congestion in and around Oxford by investing heavily in sustainable transport and active travel.
- Ensure the new Garden Towns between here and Cambridge have easy access to the East-West rail line and sustainable last mile transport, so workers can easily travel to work by rail.
- Engage local people from the outset on any proposed scheme.
Making it easier for Oxford and Cambridge Universities to work together, supporting new business and improving access to amenities and services are all worth doing, but there is no evidence that an Expressway is the best way to achieve that.
In fact, building this Expressway could bring more congestion, cause more pollution and divert funds away from the sustainable transport infrastructure we desperately need.