Road link said to be crucial to unlocking 150,000 new homes
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has pledged that an incoming Conservative government will put a major road scheme seen as vital to the delivery of the one million-home Oxford-Cambridge growth arc under immediate review.
Shapps announced that the cost-benefit analysis of the £3.5bn Oxford Expressway scheme was in doubt, and that the scheme would only go ahead with local support.
He said: “If re-elected we will review as a priority this scheme to ensure that it is still worth going ahead. We will not allow the scheme to proceed if there is not a strong case that it will boost jobs, prosperity and has local support.”
In the event of the scheme not going ahead, he said the commitment to developing the Oxford-Cambridge Arc remained, but that it would have to rely upon a new rail link and “local roads and new cycling schemes.”
Much of the local opposition to the scheme has been predicated on the fact it is seen as unlocking major housing sites, including for new towns of anything up to 150,000 homes.
The National Infrastructure Commission in 2017 said the Expressway would provide a “step change in connectivity” and was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for the region, which, alongside a new East-West rail link, “must be built as quickly as possible to unlock land for new homes” in order to deliver the scale of growth envisaged under plans for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.
Local Conservative MP John Howell welcomed the review and said the announcement of the review “is expected to mark the end of the project for the Expressway.”