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Roads to Nowhere

Oxford-Cambridge expressway? No thanks!

Campaigners have launched a new petition against the controversial expressway plans.

All three proposed routes will damage the countryside and public health, while doing nothing to meet the pressing transport needs of Oxfordshire, as Antony Melville of Oxford Bioregion Forum explains. 

It is hard to identify who owns or is really backing the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, other than the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council Ian Hudspeth and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond. It is part of the plan for a big boost to the “knowledge economy” in an invented zone called the “Oxford to Cambridge arc”, which passes through Milton Keynes, and comes with an aspiration to build 1 million new homes (i.e. 70 per cent increase on the current total of 1.3 million), in the next 12 years. As ever there is very little consultation; in the case of the road the only consultation is the choice of the route (by this July), between three proposals.

Two of these cross Otmoor (pictured), a magnificent wild space part of which is owned by the RSPB (who staunchly defended it from the M40 30 years ago), and part by the MOD, which is usually good news for wildlife. The third route involves widening the A34 West of Oxford – the only one openly opposed by Ian Hudspeth who rules out any increase of traffic on this massively congested road. This suggests he is aware of the well-attested truth that new roads create new traffic.

Given that the proposal to reinstate the rail link between Oxford and Cambridge, and provide a rapid and regular service along the “arc”, has enough traction to look likely to happen, that should take care of most of the face-to-face meeting needs of the actors in the knowledge economy. The continuance of the road project is one of the main threats to realising the rail link.

The remaining logic of the road comes down to housing, with talk of five new towns along its route. Yes indeed, that raises the spectre of 1 million homes being built to be car dependant, with the prospect of 1 million or more extra cars on the road. The knowledge economy is supposed to achieve the magic of growth decoupled from carbon emissions, and maybe Mr Hammond imagines that electric cars come with no carbon emissions and no particulates. Perhaps he forgets that they have to be constructed; meanwhile petrol and diesel vehicles are still to be allowed on the roads till 2040. This means the road will violate the Climate Change Act and our commitments under the Paris agreement.

A petition against the road crossing Otmoor has already attracted 4500 signatures, and an anti-expressway group has been formed in Abingdon to stop it taking that route. 

But it is time to stop the road taking any route at all, so please sign the petition and ask everyone you know to join you. This road is not a done deal!

The petition text reads

“We, the undersigned, request the cancellation of plans for the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway and an urgent review of the associated development plans.  All the 3 proposed routes will damage our countryside and health while doing nothing to meet the pressing transport needs of Oxfordshire.

To: Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP.

We request that you state publicly that the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway will not be built.

An Oxford-Cambridge Expressway should be refused because:

  • New roads increase traffic, and air pollution.
  • All three proposed routes will do significant and irreversible damage to the Oxfordshire environment
  • More cars means more emissions for the next two decades; this road will therefore seriously impede fulfilment of the Climate Change Act, and obligations under the Paris Agreement.
  • This road will encourage the building of new car-dependent housing, much of it likely to be London-focused, generating more traffic and more damage to health.

The immediate and cheaper alternative is the reopening the Oxford to Cambridge railway link and this should be operational before any plans are made for new road developments.

Road traffic pollution costs lives and puts vast strain on the NHS. We owe it to the next generations to ensure this road is not built, and request that you as our representative put that into effect.”


Campaign for Better Transport is opposing plans for a new Oxford-Cambridge expressway. 

Please add your voice by signing the petition here