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East of England Liberal Democrats

Mayor Warns Government over Infrastructure Investment as Expressway Corridor West of Milton Keynes Announced

September 13, 2018 11:55 AM
Originally published by Dave Hodgson - Mayor of Bedford Borough

Mayor Dave Hodgson over the approach to the Black Cat Roundabout on the A421In comments following the announcement of the preferred 'corridor' for the route of part of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway road, Mayor Dave Hodgson has warned the Government that communities will not accept its demands for additional growth on the route if it cannot deliver the infrastructure to support it. His comments come after the start of work on the crucial Black Cat to Caxton Gibbett section of the Expressway was delayed by two years earlier this summer.

The expressway will be a fully dualled road link from Oxford to Cambridge via Milton Keynes and Bedford, opening up new opportunities for Bedford Borough residents and businesses. In a statement in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon, the Government announced that 'Corridor B', which was the option most closely matching the proposed East West Rail line, is the preferred corridor for the Expressway between Milton Keynes and Oxford.

The precise route within the corridor is still to be determined, including whether the road will pass to the east or west of Oxford. Further work will continue, and will include public consultation.

The expressway will include a new dualled link from the Black Cat roundabout to Caxton Gibbett, completing the dualling of the entire Bedford to Cambridge route and will also deliver the critical 'grade separation' of the M1 and A421 at the Black Cat. However, it was announced this summer that the commencement of work on that section is not expected to begin until 2021/22, a two-year delay.

Commenting in his role as Chair of the Strategic Transport Forum of England's Economic Heartland, Mayor Dave Hodgson said: "We welcome this announcement by Government, as it provides the basis for moving forward with more detailed proposals and begins to give clarity to our partners working on their growth plans. The expressway is a complex and sensitive issue and it is critical that there is now detailed consideration of the route, led by strong evidence and meaningful engagement.

"In parallel to this work, England's Economic Heartland is leading on a connectivity study so that communities not within the expressway corridor can still benefit from it. We are working to commission this study later this autumn in order that its output is available next summer.

It is vital that infrastructure which supports economic and housing growth also benefits existing residents and mitigates its impact on the environment - aspiring to the National Infrastructure Commission's aim of 'net betterment'.

It is equally vital that planned investment is delivered on schedule. The recent announcement of a 2-year delay to the delivery of the much needed A428 improvement between the Black Cat and Caxton Gibbet - which forms part of the 'expressway' between Bedford and Cambridge - was extremely disappointing. This scheme is a litmus test of how confident our residents and businesses can be in Government ensuring investment is delivered on time. Without that, it becomes much harder for our local communities to support additional growth across the corridor."

More information about the project, including a timeline and maps, is available on the Expressway section on Highways England's website, here: https://highwaysengland.co.uk/projects/oxford-to-cambridge-expressway/