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Budget's Oxbridge corridor plans laid out

east west rail route clearance

Further details of the government’s plans for the East West Rail and Oxford to Cambridge expressway have been revealed in budget documents, following the chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement that it will fund the schemes.

In a four page supplementary document to the Budget, Helping the Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford corridor reach its potential, the government set out its overarching vision for the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor.

In the document it said “key elements” of the expressway will be built in the second Roads Investment Strategy (RIS) period, from 2020 to 2025, and it is to accelerate development work, option selection and detailed design on the “missing link” between the M1 and Oxford allowing it to open by 2030.

The government has also commissioned a connectivity study, which will be undertaken by local partners England Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance, to look at the linkages between the expressway and surrounding employment areas which are going to deliver growth.

Following the recommendations set out in the recent National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) report, the government has also promised to provide funding for the entire western section of East West Rail with services running by 2023. It also said it would “seek opportunities” to accelerate delivery of the central section between Bedford and Cambridge, aiming to open in the mid-2020s.

The amount of funding for the two sections is yet to be defined, but England Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance programme director Martin Tugwell said the amount would be “significant”.

“This is a great first step to see the commitment taken through from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) recommendations and responding in a way that is giving funding for key infrastructure,” said Tugwell.

But he also said the new rail and road infrastructure was only the beginning, and it should be a part of a wider strategic infrastructure plan including new digital and utility technology.

Tugwell said the region had the opportunity to “double if not triple” the size of the UK economy over the next 20 to 30 years but only if the investment in the physical infrastructure was matched by upgrades to other utilities such as power, water and digital infrastructure.

“This is just a start,” said Tugwell. “We will need to have more investment in transport infrastructure and we need to make sure that that investment is integrated in the digital and wider strategic utilities infrastructure. That’s where we need to get to.

“It’s a great first start and we’ll look forward to continuing to work with government to take forward that agenda to the benefit of the economy and UK plc.”

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