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​We have a 'once-in-a-generation' opportunity to deliver major east-west transport improvements which will act as the catalyst for economic growth on a transformational scale.​

The Economic Heartland's potential is hamstrung by poor east-west connectivity. That's why the development of East West Rail and the East West Expressway, creating a 'multi-modal transport spine' along the Oxford to Cambridge corridor, is vital to realising huge economic growth. However, we are also identifying other opportunities to improve transport infrastructure throughout the Heartland, with investment leveraging significantly greater return to UK Plc.

On this page you can also find out about our progress on an over-arching Transport Strategy for the region, and how we're becoming a Sub-national Transport Body.

  • 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 is due to be completed in 2022, with the Aylesbury to Milton Keynes link following two years' later.

    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.

    Read our summer 2017 consultation response

    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

    UPDATE April 2018

    England's Economic Heartland chairman Cllr Martin Tett has written to the Secrretary of State for Transport outlining concerns over the approach to engagement and failure to fully take into account the wider transformational agenda, such as East West Rail, housing growth and other projects.

    The letter said: "We appreciate that the expressway is a complex and sensitive project. However, that emphasises the critical importance of meaningful engagement with the key stakeholders. Our collective experience to date has been to leave us feeling that the approach is little more than a ‘tick-box’ exercise, with no sense that our views are either heard or acted upon. If we are to successfully deliver this significant highway investment it has to be developed collaboratively. That requires a fundamental change by the project team as to how they engage with key stakeholders. We are also concerned that Highways England’s approach with the ‘expressway’ study fails to take into account the wider transformational agenda."

    It added: "We share your commitment to ensure that the work to identify strategic transport priorities is taken forward at pace. However it is critical that work on individual elements firmly sits within the wider strategic context. For that reason we question whether the evidence base exists to enable a preferred corridor for the ‘expressway’ to be identified this summer."

    Letter to Secretary of State on expressway April 2018.PDF


    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.

    A scheme to improve the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet, creating a dual carriageway standard route from Cambridge to Milton Keynes, is expected to commence in 2020, subject to a final decision by the Secretary of State. You can find out more about the scheme here.

    Work is also continuing on identifying a solution between the M40 (Oxford) and the M1 (Milton Keynes).

    Highways England has identified three route options for a new road (see map below):

    • Option A: To the south, via Aylesbury, linking to the M1 south of Milton Keynes.
    • Option B: Central, following the East West Rail line.
    • Option C: To the north, roughly following the existing A421 to the south of Bicester and via Buckingham to the east of Milton Keynes.


    View full-sized map

    You can read Highway England's strategic study here: Oxford to Cambridge Expressway strategic study stage 3 report (PDF 2.4MB)

    England's Economic Heartland's role

    England's Economic Heartland is a full member of Highway England's 'strategic stakeholder group' for the expressway, which reports to the overarching project committee. The Strategic Transport Forum will receive regular reports on progress with the study.

    A critical issue is ensuring that the expressway proposals support economic and housing growth proposals, with emphasis on ensuring the earliest possible identification of preferred routes in order to assist with the preparation of Local Plans.

    The Transport Forum has identified a number of strategic issues that they want to have considered further in developing an agreement on the expressway's strategic objectives, including:

    • Between Oxford and Milton Keynes there is a need to consider whether the 'expressway'  is a single or multiple routes – patterns of planned growth emerging in Local Plans might favour the latter, whilst the former approach would still leave a need to invest in connectivity to/from the single route.
    • Notwithstanding the planned investment in the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvement, development pressures and opportunities between Milton Keynes and Cambridge are such that the study must consider the need for further improvements to this section too.
    • Whilst the study is primarily about improved east-west connectivity, the study team will work with the Strategic Transport Forum to ensure that opportunities to improve north-south connectivity are also realised, reflecting the importance of supporting economic growth across the whole of the Heartland area.

    Connectivity Study

    At the 2017 Autumn Budget on November 22, the Government announced that it would commission England's Economic Heartland  to study how communities not on the Oxford to Cambridge expressway itself can still benefit from it. We will be releasing more information about this connectivity study, which forms part of our over-arching Transport Strategy, in due course.

    A1 and expressway final stakeholder reference group presentation Oct 2017.pdf

  • 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)

  • 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 early 2019.

  • 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 

  • Traffic and transport map Traffic and transport map

    Powered by, the map provides information across England's Economic Heartland on roadworks and other planned traffic disruptions, live traffic from Google, bus stops and train stations with live departure times and other information relevant to road and public transport users.

    You'll find it here.

  • Transport Strategy Transport Strategy

    ​(Read our transport strategy blog for the latest updates)

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

    It will identify priority schemes for investment in the Heartland region, which will support planned economic and housing growth.

    The Heartland's Major Roads Network (MRN) will be identified. The MRN will sit alongside the Strategic Road Network and be eligible for funding from the soon to be established National Roads Fund, while Sub-national Transport Bodies will play a 'key role' in managing them (see Major Road Network consultation, Transport Investment Strategy and Rees Jeffreys report for more information on the MRN).

    A connectivity study, looking at how communities not on the Oxford to Cambridge expressway itself can still benefit from it, will form part of the strategy, following an announcement at the Autumn Budget 2018.

    The strategy will emphasise how local connections within cities and towns can be improved, ensuring smoother journeys from transport hubs to jobs and homes (the 'first mile/ last mile' approach).

    A draft strategy will be ready for consultation in late 2018.

    Evidence gathering to provide a single overview of planned growth and infrastructure proposals across the Heartland took place during late 2017/ early 2018. 

    The resulting databank, ProjectView, gives all local partners – local transport authorities, local planning authorities and local enterprise partnerships – access to a consistent starting point when considering opportunities for growth. Integral to the databank is an interactive mapping capability that will show how the timing of future growth relates to future infrastructure.

    It was specifically designed to enable partners to update and amend the baseline information as it changes over time. 

    The evidence base will also consider a baseline of transport users' views, while a new policy modelling tool is being developed to enable the political leadership to consider the longer-term implications of planning for growth.

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