Development of Cambridge-Oxford corridor is urgent says NIC

Oxford skyline

The National Infrastructure Commission has published its interim report on the Cambridge-Milton-Keynes-Oxford corridor – finding huge growth potential stymied by lack of strategic planning and investment for housing, jobs and transport. "This corridor is a national asset, that competes on the world stage and can fire the British economy – but only with an integrated and ambitious strategy to deliver new homes, connectivity and opportunities can it realise its full potential," the NIC report says.

Among its recommendations the NIC is calling on government to commit £27m to 2018/19 to fund the next phase of the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway study. lt also urges a £100m commitment for pushing on with the western section of the East-West rail project in the Cambridge-Oxford corridor. 

On required governance, the NIC report says local authorities, enterprise partnerships, government departments and national delivery agencies should work together to develop joint arrangements required to deliver infrastructure and housing.

The report  has been welcomed by the England's Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance of local authorities (including Northants, Cambs, Bucks, Milton Keynes and Bedford councils), which has positioned itself as a statutory transport body in the making for carrying out the strategic planning needed.

The NIC interim report was published as leading members of the Economic Heartland Alliance joined their counterparts from Transport for the North, Midlands Connect, Highways England and suppliers at the Highways UK event, to press the need for further strategic planning and investment, a week ahead of Chancellor Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement.

"We have heard that there is very little push-back against the findings of the NIC," said the Economic Heartland Alliance's programme director Martin Tugwell.

"The critical central finding is that there is huge poential being held back by a lack of joined up strategic planning on housing, jobs and transport. The economy of the area is estimated to be worth £92bn a year. This, the report says, could increase by £85bn by 2050 at current growth rates if infrastructure spending is maintained, but it could grow by £275bn if there is a step-change in governance –through strategic leadership for joint planning of housing and infrastructure," Tugwell said.

Furthermore, the NIC report says the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge area is currently 'under delivering' housing to the tune of 8,000 homes per year in comparison to what's needed. "We would have to get an understanding of how the NIC got to its figures, but is housing being stymied by a lack of planning and infrastructure? Absolutely it is," Tugwell said.

"The central message is not to say let's go back to regional development agencies, but a lot of people have been calling for a joined-up approach to strategic planning for some time. It is very welcome that the NIC has come to the same conclusion."


Oxford-Cambridge-Ipswich/Norwich? All well and good, but what about west of Oxford? A existing loop line running from just west of Didcot Parkway Station on the Swindon line to just north of it on the Oxford line could accommodate trains from Cardiff and Bristol. Before the Beeching axe Oxford was connected in a north-easterly direction via Banbury, Woodford Halse and the Great Central line. Thank goodness we're moving away from the concept that everything needs to be London-centred and that radial routes from London are the only ones which matter.