England’s Economic Heartland Transport Strategy

Hulton Park

8th March 2021

England’s Economic Heartland has published its Transport Strategy for the region, covering the OxCam Arc area and stretching beyond to Swindon.

CPRE Oxfordshire welcomes commitments to low carbon transport, reducing the need to travel and rural mobility hubs. While there is no direct reference to the Expressway, there are various indications of road improvements through Oxfordshire, including Swindon to Bicester and Oxford to M40 junctions.

England’s Economic Heartland’s Transport Strategy: Connecting People, Transforming Journeys, can be read in full here.

CPRE Oxfordshire has identified the relevant points below.

Policy 14. Taken forward by our programme of connectivity studies, we will identify proposals that strengthen east/ west connectivity within the following areas: • Oxford-Milton Keynes • Peterborough-Northampton-Oxford • Oxford – Didcot – Swindon • Watford-Aylesbury-Bicester-M40 • North Northamptonshire • Oxford – M40 junctions.

155. The opportunities mapping also highlights the strategic importance of improving connectivity between Oxford and Swindon to the benefit of the economies of both centres, with improvements to both rail and road corridors required.

156. The output of the Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Study has made the strategic case for investment. We are supportive of its recommendations to strengthen connectivity on the North Cotswold Line and of the need for improvements to suburban rail services centred on Oxford, including the upgrade of the Cowley Branch Line for passenger use, as well proposals for a new Grove Station.

158. A key strategic priority is the need to improve connectivity between Oxford and Milton Keynes. This has been identified as the first of the connectivity studies to be commissioned, a reflection of the strategic importance of this issue for the region as a whole.

Policy 15 We will work with Government, Network Rail, Highways England, public transport operators and Oxfordshire County Council to develop a long-term solution to challenges on the Didcot – Oxford – Bicester/ Banbury corridor.

164. • Swindon/Didcot – Oxford – Bicester/Banbury: this corridor forms part of the Southampton – Oxford – West Midlands corridor, the significance of which is exemplified by the pressures placed on both the rail corridor and the A34 corridor. A long – term solution to the challenges of supporting the economic opportunities within Oxfordshire is required, one that also accommodates longer-distance movements.

Policy 24 We will support investment in the Strategic Road Network and Major Road Network where this meets one or more of the following criteria and is consistent with wider environmental objectives: a. Protects and enhances the existing infrastructure asset b. Delivers a solution to an identified problem on the existing infrastructure asset c. Enables access to new economic opportunities and/or housing growth. d. Enables delivery of sustainable transport linkages such as public transport and active travel improvements.

Policy 27 Working with partners and operators, we promote the development and delivery of high-quality public transport and segregated mass transit systems. Initial priority will be given to supporting the delivery of Mass Rapid Transit in the following locations: • Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro • Milton Keynes Rapid Transit • The A414 corridor in Hertfordshire • Oxford sub-urban network – Bus rapid transit and Cowley branch line. Where further transit systems are identified, we will work with partners to maximise their potential and deliverability.

Policy 29 We will work with partners to develop tailored solutions for our smaller market towns and rural areas that improve access to services and opportunities, including options for centres of mobility.

205. With 34% of the Heartland’s population living in small market towns and their hinterlands, connectivity for our rural communities is a strategic issue.

206. In our rural areas, a frequent and conventional bus service is becoming increasingly difficult to provide. However, the wider social and economic benefits of local and regional bus services make it essential that we continue to work with Government, local partners and the EEH Bus Operators Association to create an accessible and future-ready bus network across the region. Innovation and digital solutions have a key role to play in bus and coach services of the future.

207. Connectivity for our rural communities face several challenges, including: • Access to digital connectivity, which is critical for businesses, yet the cost of its provision in rural areas can be a barrier to making the investment required to provide expected levels service • The digital economy, which is encouraging new business models for consumer goods and new ways of accessing services and facilities, can add to the pressures facing retail services in our small market towns • Traditional business models for providing public transport in rural areas are increasingly unsustainable, leading to the reduction, and in some instances, removal, of services.

208. When considering the connectivity needs of our rural communities, context is important. Where a town acts as commuter settlement for a larger regionally significant hub this results in a concentrated flow of movements that are predictable and capable of sustaining local public transport services. A similarly sized town that is free-standing is more likely to perform as a sub-regional centre for its rural hinterland. The resulting pattern of movements is more varied and disparate, making the case for traditional solutions harder to sustain.

209. Although the scale of their application will be different, the concept of ‘mobility hubs’ offers the opportunity to concentrate demand for travel in ways that support connectivity to adjoining urban areas or areas of economic opportunity. Mobility hubs in rural areas will need to reflect the needs of the community and can help support the provision of other services by offering a focus for concentration of demand at one point. However, the creation of mobility hubs in rural areas will also provide access to facilities and local services that could help reduce isolation and the need to travel.

210. Investment in digital connectivity in rural areas will enable businesses to operate more efficiently and provide opportunities to conduct business remotely, thereby reducing the need for travel. In addition, digital connectivity offers the potential for innovative solutions to be developed where there remains a need to travel. Where there is a travel need that is to be met, opportunities to make provision for and encourage the use of low-carbon travel choices should be prioritised.

Policy 31 We will work with relevant Sub-national Transport Bodies, as well as Network Rail and Highways England, to prioritise the development of proposals that enable improved connectivity along the key inter-regional corridors: priority will be given to identifying solutions to future needs on the following corridors: • Swindon/Southampton – Reading – Didcot/Oxford – West Midlands • London – Watford – Luton – Bedford – Northampton-East Midlands.

Policy 35 We will work with Highways England, local highway authorities, local planning authorities and the freight sector to ensure that strategic corridors for road freight and logistics are fit for purpose: priority will be given to the following corridors: • The M25/M1 • The A34 and M40 north of Oxford • The A1 corridor (north of Huntingdon) • The A14 • The A508 into Northampton.