The government’s Department for Transport has published a set of investigation results which explore possibilities of linking existing roads between Oxford and Cambridge via Bedford and Milton Keynes, improving journey times by up to 30 minutes.
Currently it takes on average more than two hours to reach Cambridge by car from Oxford. There is no direct train route and the only direct bus, the X5, takes nearly four hours. In March of this year, Lord Adonis, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, received backing from the former Chancellor George Osborne for the funding to construct a direct rail line between the two cities.
The new study emphasised the value of a “knowledge economy” which is comprised of highly skilled workers who need close geographical proximity or good transport links in order to collaborate. It predicted that congestion along existing roads from Oxford to Cambridge could increase by around 40% by 2035, resulting in even longer journey times.
However, Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at the University of Oxford opposes the plans in the repot on environmental grounds, arguing instead for improved rail links. He told Cherwell, “Building more roads leads to more road congestion and more firms choosing to move freight by road rather than rail, all of which increases carbon pollution.”
“40,000 people a day drive over the green belt to Oxford. Adding more cars and lorries to that suggests a lack of imagination to me. But building more homes on the edge of Oxford so people don’t have to drive from Milton Keynes and then use the park and ride would be far better.”
He also highlighted the a problem of road protestors slowing development work, “one thing they should do if they really do plan to build link roads and widen other roads is factor in the costs of the expected road protestors. Road protestors in the 1990s made schemes such as this uneconomic. It is possible that the new generation will be far more pliant than mine was, but I would expect widespread protest on environmental grounds. The route they are suggesting lies between two of the most famous road protests in the UK.”
Bridget Fox, from the Campaign for Better Transport, criticized the plan for not properly considering the needs of cyclists and bus users. She said in a statement, “Oxford and Cambridge have pioneered transport policies based on providing alternatives to car dependency. To build new road connections drawing more traffic into the area risks undermining their achievements.”
Oxford University news and information office and the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program have been contacted for comment.