John has welcomed the announcement today by the Transport Secretary that he would review, as a priority, the Oxford to Milton Keynes and M1 section of the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway. The review is expected to mark the end of the project for the Expressway.
If elected with a majority Government, and thus in a position to do so, the Minister said that the Conservatives will look at alternative plans to the scheme because that scheme lacks local support.
The East West Rail link in the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Arc is already being driven forward and the Minister said that the Department would examine ways to accelerate plans to reopen what was known as the "Varsity" railway. He also said that they would look to tackle congestion ‘pinch points’ on local roads and support cycling schemes.
John said: “This is good news. As I have said recently, my concerns on this proposal have been growing as the evaluation has proceeded. My doubts were holding sway and one of the key ways of tackling this project is to question its fundamentals as I and colleagues along the Arc have been doing. There was always a fine balance against financial and environmental costs with concerns on the impact on the constituency. I have always said that I did not support the project blindly and have a tried to be objective. This review will enable this project to be ended and I welcome it.”
Grant Shapps said: "The Conservatives believe in protecting our countryside. If re-elected the Conservatives will review as a priority this scheme to ensure that it is still worth going ahead. We will not allow the scheme to proceed if there is not a strong case that it will boost jobs, prosperity and has local support.
If a majority Conservative government is elected, we will develop this important strategic corridor which will be a driver of future prosperity, investing in the new East-West Rail link, local roads and new cycling schemes.”
Most of the eastern part of the route, between the M1 and Cambridge, already exists. The upgrade to the last remaining single-carriageway section, between Caxton Gibbet and the A1, will proceed as planned. However we will examine how we can accelerate other transport schemes, including looking at plans to reopen the "Varsity Line" between Oxford, Bicester, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge, now known as East West Rail.
We also back new cycle schemes in places like Oxford and Milton Keynes.
The announcements comes after the Conservatives pledged that, if elected, they would launch a programme to reverse ‘Beeching’ cuts, initially backed by £500 million.