County council’s first thoughts on Oxbridge Expressway
As the highways authority, Oxfordshire County Council was asked for its views on the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway. As the submission says, until Highways England publishes a preferred route we cannot make a formal response on the proposal. However, in December 2017, the council formally called for a public inquiry into the need for the road and the impact of route proposals.
The county council’s initial response to Highways England sent in April 2018 is:
We welcome the further development work and engagement taking place on the Expressway project and the opportunity to give views to Highways England.
At this stage, Oxfordshire is not able to indicate a corridor preference, given that the technical and other supporting work required to inform the decision on a preferred corridor is not yet complete. Nor is it possible therefore, for these reasons, to provide a formal council position.
We support the strategic objectives and purpose of the Expressway project, recognising the opportunity it brings to support and enable growth and development, enhance connectivity and take forward innovation and smart technology on the Oxford to Cambridge corridor. However, following detailed discussion on the project between officers and members, we believe there are some important principles which, in addition to the published assessment criteria, should be integral to the corridor selection and decision-making process. In Oxfordshire, these include:
1. Ensuring that the Expressway corridor does not increase pressure on the existing, already overstretched strategic highway network. Specifically, the Expressway must not use the section of the A34 through central Oxfordshire (broadly defined as at least the section between the Lodge Hill junction, north of Abingdon and the Bicester Road junction, east of Kidlington). This section is where the A34 currently operates as both a regional/national strategic route and a local distributor route (forming part of the Oxford Ring Road) and it is essential that the new Expressway infrastructure provides a completely separate strategic route to avoid this conflict of use;
2. Ensuring that the Expressway corridor (or subsequently identified route) minimises the impact on the existing highway network, i.e. it should not use existing local road networks or draw significant strategic traffic directly into local road networks / highway infrastructure which would not be able to cope – the ring road around Bicester for example;
3. Ensuring that the Expressway is developed separately alongside locally planned highway enhancements such as Culham river crossing.
It is clear that, even taking these principles into account, there remain a number of corridor options and variants in Oxfordshire, including options west and east of Oxford City, and it is important that these are all fully and transparently considered through the assessment and decision-making process. This includes taking into account how they would fit in with corridor preferences elsewhere on the Expressway corridor, for example in Buckinghamshire.
Further information is available from the Highways England website.