The Government's Oxford-Cambridge Expressway decision raises more questions than answers for Abingdon, Botley & Oxfordshire - my column for this week's Abingdon Herald.
The Government’s ‘Option B’ will see the road routed from Abingdon, south of Milton Keynes to Cambridge.
The decision about whether it will be routed to the east or west of Oxford hasn’t been made yet, and within the preferred corridor there are various sub-options for specific routes, which means we won’t know for many months or years yet where the road may lie.
A full public consultation on the exact route is expected to take place next year.
This means that huge disruption in and around Abingdon and the surrounding villages is still a possibility – and that worrying proposals to widen the A34 through Botley, potentially demolishing homes and schools in the process – is still being considered by Conservative Transport Ministers.
I’ve been vocally appalled by the lack of any public consultation until this point. It was only a massive community campaign that saved Otmoor nature reserve.
Of course, whilst the various options within this corridor are being considered I’ll be doing everything I can to protect homes, schools and the environment around Abingdon, Botley, Kidlington and surrounding communities. The Transport Minister has given me a personal assurance that he will visit in the coming weeks to speak with me and residents about our concerns.
Now, like many I question the need for this road at all – especially given the lack of ambition the Government has for improving public transport options between Oxford and Cambridge.
The re-building of the railway line between the two cities is going ahead – but the Government say it won’t be electrified meaning rail journeys could be less reliable and more polluting than they would be if the line was electrified.
If the Government have billions of pounds for this new road, why don’t they have the money to fully fund the upgrade of the Lodge Hill junction on the A34 before new houses in Abingdon are built?
Why aren’t we seeing the electrification of the Reading-Oxford rail line which was promised with such fanfare by the Conservatives but which has now been ditched. And why aren’t we properly building and integrating cycle infrastructure in and around Abingdon and Oxford?
So despite this first decision being taken on the preferred corridor, we won’t know specific route proposals for a while yet. In the meantime I’ll be doing everything I can to campaign for decent public transport, for better infrastructure locally, to improve the A34, and fight against plans that threaten or aren’t in the best interests of our area.