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England's Economic Heartland is working with the Government and partners to deliver East West Rail and an Oxford to Cambridge expressway - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform connectivity across the corridor.

In order to realise the full benefit of this investment it is essential that it connects with the wider transport system.

England’s Economic Heartland established the Strategic Transport Forum in February 2016 and is committed to using this as the basis for a statutory Sub-national Transport Body.

The Forum’s work to put in place the overarching Transport Strategy will be used to make the case for additional investment in support of the business investment that will deliver economic growth.

  • East West Rail East West Rail

    ​One half of the region's transport 'spine', East West Rail will see train services restored between Oxford and Cambridge, and from Aylesbury to Milton Keynes.

    The 'Western Section', from Oxford to Bedford and Aylesbury to Milton Keynes, is due to be completed in the early 2020s.

    The Central Section, from Bedford to Cambridge, is more challenging, as parts of the old Varsity Line have been built over. However, at the Autumn Budget 2017, the Government said it was aiming to accelerate the opening of this section to the mid-2020s.

    Opportunities to enhance the capacity east of Cambridge are also being explored.

    The Strategic Transport Forum believes it is essential that the Government continues to invest in developing and then delivering the Central Section at the earliest possible opportunity. Local Plans are being put in place to guide growth up to 2031 and confidence in the delivery of East West Rail is necessary in order to enable councils to plan for growth. 

    Delivery of East West Rail also opens opportunities to achieve a step-change in connectivity north-south, via Northampton-Milton Keynes-Aylesbury-Wycombe-London, including improved linkages with Heathrow Airport and Old Oak Common.

    For more information log onto the East West Rail Consortium's website

    East West Rail route map.jpg

  • Oxford to Cambridge Expressway Oxford to Cambridge Expressway


    The expressway is a key strategic transport project for the Heartland area, forming a multi-modal transport spine for the region along with East West Rail. It has been identified by the National Infrastructure Commission as an integral element in transforming east-west connectivity.

    The ambition of the expressway is to create a 'mile-a-minute' route linking Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge. The existing routes comprise sections of dual carriageway, single carriageway and urban dual carriageway of variable standards, speeds and access standards.

    Highways England has identified the main 'pinch points' causing slow journey times as being from Oxford to Milton Keynes, and on the A428 from the Black Cat roundabout (south of St Neots) to the Caxton Gibbet roundabout.

    Work on a scheme to improve the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet, creating a dual carriageway standard route from Milton Keynes to Cambridge, has been delayed to 2021/22 - which England's Economic Heartland has expressed its disappointment over.       

    In September 2018, the Government announced that its preferred corridor for the section of the expressway between the Oxford and Milton Keynes would broadly follow the East West Rail link.

    This 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. A full public consultation is expected to be held in 2019.

    Connectivity Study

    The Government has commissioned England's Economic Heartland  to study how communities not on the Oxford to Cambridge expressway itself can still benefit from it. We are working to commission this study in autumn 2018 in order that its output is available next summer.




  • Rail priorities Rail priorities

    ​Whilst East West Rail remains the number one strategic rail infrastructure priority, the Strategic Transport Forum has identified other issues of strategic importance.

    These will be developed in more detail as work on the overarching Transport Strategy is taken forward. However, based on our current understanding, the immediate strategic issues are:

    • Addressing capacity constraints between Didcot and Oxford
    • Addressing capacity constraints on routes serving Cambridge (including links into Norfolk and Suffolk)
    • Realising the opportunities to improve north-south connectivity on the Northampton – Milton Keynes – Bletchley – Aylesbury – High Wycombe – Old Oak Common/Park Royal corridor.

    Passenger Franchises

    The Strategic Transport Forum is also working with its partners to ensure the Heartland's strategic requirements are reflected in future franchises.

    Key issues currently being addressed are:

    • East Midlands franchise: There is deep concern at the proposed reduced level of service to/from Bedford, Luton and Wellingborough put forward as part of the consultation. More information.
    • West Coast Partnership: The Strategic Transport Forum is pressing for there to be a fundamental review of how capacity on the current West Coast Main Line is used following the opening of HS2: in particular there is a need to improve connections between Milton Keynes and Bletchley, as well as potentially using some of the capacity on the West Coast Main Line to enable Northampton – Milton Keynes – Aylesbury – Old Oak Common/Park Royal service
    • Great Western. There is a need to review the way in which the franchise is specified to take account of changes arising from the introduction of Crossrail (Elizabeth) line services and proposals for Heathrow Expansion and the regeneration of Old Oak Common/Park Royal.

    The Forum is commissioning a short piece of technical advice which will consider whether the current rail passenger franchising map adequately supports the strategic objective of improved connectivity across the Heartland.  The concern is that the current approach to franchising is too heavily influenced by services to/from London. 

    EEH Strategic Rail Investment Priorities - Dec 2017 (PDF 255KB).pdf

  • Road priorities Road priorities

    ​While the expressway remains the number one strategic road infrastructure priority, the Strategic Transport Forum has identified other issues of strategic importance.

    These will be developed in more detail as work on the overarching Transport Strategy is taken forward. However, based on current understanding, the immediate strategic issues are:

    • Ensuring that the Department for Transport's RIS1 (Road Investment Strategy, for the period 2015-2020) commitments, such as the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet scheme, are delivered in full.
    • Ensuring that investment priorities identified as a result of the strategic studies undertaken as part of RIS1 are programmed in RIS2 (post 2020) and taken forward into delivery - while a new study focussing on Cambridge should also be undertaken.
    • Ensuring that any additional investment priorities are determined on a joint basis between Highways England and the Strategic Transport Forum.

    Strategic Studies

    Alongside the expressway, two other strategic studies which affects the Heartland region have been carried out by the Department for Transport. These schemes should be taken forward for delivery from 2020.

    • A1 East of England: Highways England continues to consider the options to address to improve the section between the M25 (Junction 1) and Peterborough (Junction 17). This 62 mile stretch of road comprises three distinct sections: the A1(M) from Junctions 14-17 built to a high standard (11 miles); the A1(M) from Junctions 1-10 still at motorway standard but more variable in layout (25 miles); and, in-between, a 26 mile section of the A1 with five roundabouts, numerous unnumbered junctions and accesses, which is of variable layout and quality, with settlements and housing in close proximity. The Starategic Transport Forum is of the opinion that whilst there is a need to address current deficiencies there is also a need to consider opportunities for planned growth along this corridor that are being brought forward the Local Plan process.  In taking work on this corridor forward it is important to also consider the linkages with the expressway work. It is essential that consideration of improved connectivity is not limited to a single corridor.  It is on this basis that the Forum supports proposals to improve connectivity from the A5o5 to the A1(M) by extending the A5-M1 and M1-A6 routes across to the A505, and consider it to also be a priority for the Heartland.
       A1 East of England Strategic Study (PDF 17MB)
       A1 and expressway final stakeholder reference group presentation Oct 2017 (PDF 4MB).pdf

    • M25 South West Quadrant: The strategic study appraised options for improving the performance of the transport network across all modes in and around the M25 South West Quadrant. It recommends that the focus of future work should not be on widening the existing road. Instead, attention should be given to how to reduce pressures and provide parallel capacity to relieve the motorway network. It said this should work first to find alternatives to travel, or to move traffic to more sustainable modes, but added that the volume of travel means that road enhancements are also likely to be needed. M25 southwest quadrant strategic study (PDF 4MB)

    Cambridge Strategic Study

    Given the scale of economic opportunity in and around the immediate Cambridge area, the Strategic Transport Forum is promoting the need for a new strategic study for the RIS2 period, one specifically targeted at looking at the longer-term requirements of the Major Road Network supporting the Cambridge economy. If commissioned as a priority at the start of the RIS2 period it may be appropriate to identify some initial funds to enable implementation of the funding at the tail end of the RIS2 period.

    Additional investment priorities - Major Road Network

    A key driver for identifying additional investment priorities will be the identification of the Major Road Network. These are strategically important local authority A roads which deserve special recognition because of their importance to the economic wellbeing of regions and the country as a whole (in October 2016 the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund made the case for the MRN, which the Government has accepted. You can read their report here).

    The MRN will form a middle tier of roads sitting between the national Strategic Road Network and the rest of the local road network. A proportion of the National Roads Fund will be allocated to them.

    The work to identify the Heartland's major road network forms part of the development of the overarching Transport Strategy. Without prejudicing the outcome of this work, corridors that have been identified as potentially being of strategic significance, on the basis of their contribution towards enabling the delivery of planned growth, include:

    • The A43/A45 corridor 
    • The A505 corridor
    • The A47 corridor
    • The A14 (Thrapston and Brampton)

    Highways England network

    In addition, in terms of Highways England's network issues that should be identified as being of strategic significance include:

    • Improvements to the M1 corridor where these are required to enable delivery of planned growth, focusing on
    1. Junctions on the M1 – in particular Junction 14 and Junction 10A
    2. The southern section of the M1 (into Hertfordshire)
    • Improvements to the junctions on the M11 corridor

    EEH Strategic Road Investment Priorities - Sept 2017 (PDF 231KB)

  • Freight Freight

    The freight and logistics needs of businesses in and around the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge growth corridor will be the focus of a major new study commissioned by England's Economic Heartland.

    The study will examine freight's impact on road and rail corridors both now and in the future. Pinch-points which may benefit from investment will be identified along with a range of other considerations.

    Its findings, recommending measures to capitalise on short to long term opportunities, will inform England's Economic Heartland's over-arching Transport Strategy, due to be published in draft form next summer.

    Businesses are being invited to input into the study, which will cover the area from Swindon across to East Anglia, and Northamptonshire down to Hertfordshire. Engagement with Local Enterprise Partnerships is already underway.

    The study is the first piece of work to be commissioned through England's Economic Heartland's Strategic Delivery Partners group, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.  The East West Rail Consortium is also contributing towards the cost of the paper, which will be produced by WSP and Jacobs with specialist input from Transport Systems Catapult.

    The impact of economic and housing growth will be a key consideration, as will a review of emerging technologies that may bring new more efficient approaches to the sector.

    There will also be analysis of the opportunities for transferring goods from road to rail, including the movement of construction materials. Special consideration will be given to East West Rail's freight potential.

    Mayor Dave Hodgson, chair of England's Economic Heartland's Strategic Transport Forum, said: "We all rely on freight in one way or another, either as businesses or consumers, so the health of the sector is paramount to the health of our economy. With the right investment in infrastructure our economy could double or even triple in size. That's why this study is so important.

    "We'd really welcome business input into the study – please do get in touch with us. We need to understand your needs both now and in 10, 20, and 30 years' time to make sure we plan accordingly and ensure the smooth passage of goods throughout the Heartland."

    A number of workshops and interviews will be held, inviting a range of sector experts to contribute to the study. These will build, where possible, on existing networks and forums.

    For more information about the study, contact Antony Swift at

  • Strategic Transport Forum Strategic Transport Forum

    ​The Strategic Transport Forum for England's Economic Heartland allows partners to work together with one voice when formulating and executing the transport infrastructure strategy for the entire region with representation from district to national levels.

    More information and agenda papers can be found here 

  • Transport Strategy Transport Strategy

    ​The Transport Strategy will be the blueprint for future strategic transport investment across the Heartland area.

    A draft strategy will be ready for consultation in 2019.

  • Sub-national Transport Body Sub-national Transport Body

    ​The Alliance is developing a proposal for a Sub-national Transport Body (STB), which would be empowered to ensure local priorities shape national investment programmes. 

    The Government says STBs will be given 'unprecedented access' to decision-making on national investment strategies. They will have a 'key role' in advising on the allocation of monies from the National Roads Fund (established from 2020/21), for the more significant local authority owned roads, in support of economic growth.

    STBs would also provide the leadership identified by the National Infrastructure Commission as being essential to providing a single voice on strategic transport infrastructure requirements in the region.

    Over summer 2017 an initial round of engagement with potential partners and interested stakeholders was positively received and will form the basis for taking forward the work to develop a specific proposal.

    This will be taken forward by the Strategic Transport Forum over the period to 2019.

    Lead officer - Antony Swift (