Connectivity studies identify interventions for boosting economy and cutting emissions

December 14th 2022

Potential interventions to improve the transport system across the Oxford-Milton Keynes and Peterborough-Northampton-Oxford corridors have been identified in England’s Economic Heartland’s first two connectivity studies, published today.

Produced after extensive stakeholder engagement and compliant with DfT transport appraisal guidance, the studies provide clarity on investment opportunities which EEH and its local authority partners can now seek to progress.

Based on the policies and principles of EEH’s transport strategy, the interventions are aimed at increasing economic growth while reducing emissions to net zero by 2050. They include measures to ensure the right traffic is on the right roads, support the uptake of EV vehicles, boost rail connectivity and increase use of active travel and public transport, while reducing the impact of freight on the environment and communities.

The recommendations in the Milton Keynes-Oxford study include:

  • Bus-based mass rapid transit systems in Oxford and Milton Keynes combined with inter-urban bus priority measures connecting places such as Aylesbury, Banbury, Bicester, Brackley, Buckingham, Silverstone and Winslow.
  • Infrastructure to realise the full potential of East West Rail such as the Aylesbury link, the Oxford North junction upgrade and the Bletchley north-east chord, together with investment in the stations which it will serve.
  • Work to improve safety and resilience on strategic highways together with targeted improvements on key east-west links such as A421, A41 and A418.
  • An active travel network including new links between Banbury and Bicester and Thame and Leighton Buzzard.

For Peterborough-Northampton-Oxford they include:

  • Bus-based mass rapid transit systems in Oxford, Peterborough, and Northamptonshire combined with inter-urban bus priority measures connecting places such as Bicester, Brackley, Corby, Kettering, March and Wellingborough.
  • Making the most of East West Rail interchange opportunities while reopening lines including from Peterborough to Corby; Northampton to Market Harborough; and the development of a mass transit corridor between Peterborough and March.
  • Improved walking and cycling infrastructure as part of inter-urban active travel network.
  • Highway improvements to enable access by all modes to development, including a new road which will relieve traffic from the north of Northampton and surrounding villages and the A509 Isham bypass; also measures to improve reliability and safety including A605, A45, A509, A43, A34 and A1139.
  • Measures to optimise freight on rail and HGV lanes on selected strategic highways.

When tested using a strategic land use model the packages of interventions resulted in an increased use of rail, bus and active travel in their respective study areas.

Alongside outputs from other technical work, the recommendations will be considered for inclusion in EEH’s revised investment pipeline, which will act as a concise, evidence-based way of communicating regional priorities.

A third connectivity study covering Swindon-Didcot-Oxford is anticipated to complete in early 2023. Two further studies – ‘Thames Valley-Bucks-Milton Keynes-Northampton’ and ‘Southern east-west corridor’ – will also be commenced in this financial year.

Chair of England’s Economic Heartland, Cllr Richard Wenham, said: “The connectivity studies provide a balanced package of potential improvements across public transport, active travel, freight and highways to boost economic growth and sustainability along two strategically important corridors. They are a vital part of our evidence base and will support future planning by EEH and local authority partners.”