17 December 2018

Realising the Heartland's economic potential will need investment in our road network. 

But what kind of investment should we be making if we are also looking to achieve environmental net gain?

This question comes into focus when considering the proposed new road linking west of Oxford to Milton Keynes as part of the Oxford to Cambridge expressway.  Because whilst there is no dispute about the need for improved east-west connectivity, nor in the need to invest in our roads to support growth, we do need to ask whether our traditional approach to strategic road investment is fit for purpose.

Progress with the next stage of East West Rail continues apace, with an ambition to have 'diggers on the ground' by the end of 2019.  At the same time, England's Economic Heartland is working to ensure the new railway is also a digital corridor.

Experience with the first stage of East West Rail means we can be confident that the next one is going to be a success.  Indeed we're likely to quickly find ourselves with calls for further capacity.

We will have improved east-west connectivity at a stroke and in a way that is sustainable.

The earliest that the proposed 'expressway' could open is some 10 years after the next stage of East West Rail, and some five years after we'll see rail services over the entire route between Oxford and Cambridge.

So when it comes to investing in our road network we need to ensure that it complements – rather than competes with –  our investment in rail and digital connectivity. 

We urgently need to invest in our road network – to look after our existing roads better and to invest in support of planned growth.  And we need to invest in improved connections to/from the East West Rail services

What we need is an integrated and co-ordinated approach to identifying transport investment priorities, one that connects people and places with opportunities and services.​

Martin Tugwell is Programme Director at England's Economic Heartland