As the six Districts consider a government deal recommended by Oxfordshire Growth Board, could commonsense yet prevail for the A40? We share the correspondence below.
11/02/2018 Supplementary Question
It would be courteous of me to thank the Growth Board for their response, but I find myself severely disappointed by the negative approach adopted.
The problems of traffic on the A40 and access to Oxford, as well as its role as a national ‘trunk’ road, requires an innovative blue sky thinking approach today; tomorrow with the 16,000 plus new houses to be built by 2031 in the Carterton - Witney - Eynsham corridor, no loop roundabout road from the A40 to the A44, a Park and Ride at the wrong end of where the congestion is and able to accommodate only some five per cent of daily passing traffic, the prospects of the current plans achieving an improvement to the flow on the A40 are nil.
Clearly the West Oxfordshire economy is throttled by the current situation. Your response indicates to the residents of Oxfordshire that you are not really interested in solving the current A40 problems for now or the next decade.
Would the Growth Board therefore at least support a comprehensive and constructive review of the most effective possible options to this major bottleneck, which is such a nightmare in the lives of local residents, and through traffic equally, since the present plans merely spend public money through government funding without any prospect of it achieving any improvement to the flow of the A40?
The A40 Project to which the question refers was approved by the County Council prior to the existence of the Growth Board, and is now a confirmed and funded project, subject to the submission and approval of the final Business Case.
The Dukes Cut proposal (A40 - A44) scheme is a separate proposal under consideration as part of the wider growth and infrastructure planning for Oxfordshire.
The reinstatement of the old rail line as a transport corridor has also been previously considered. However, the County Council’s assessment is that this would be an extremely challenging and very costly scheme, primarily because the previous rail alignment (which was only a single track) has been built over at several locations. Consequently, it is not a priority for rail development or investment for either the rail industry or local authorities within the current planning framework. Instead, other investment that would support the A40 transport corridor - for example to further enhance and upgrade the Cotswold Line - is being taken forward. There will be a joint analysis of rail development opportunities in the Central Oxfordshire area as part of the next phase of the infrastructure studies that we are undertaking.
I represent the division of Eynsham, which covers the A40 from Barnard Gate to Cassington. This section of the main road to the west from Oxford is subject to constant daily traffic jams on a rush hour basis and often more – and a source of constant and exasperated complaints from local residents. Eynsham Parish Council is strongly in support of this solution.
Plans to install a Park and Ride at Evenlode for 500 vehicles (and maybe extended to 1,000, I understand) and a bus lane on the north side to Duke’s Cut have been proposed, although not finally funded; there is also a declared wish to extend the dual carriageway from the Witney by pass to the Park and Ride and further to mirror the aforesaid bus lane on the south side. None of this has been consulted with local residents, nor has the HiF bid, currently awaiting a decision from Government, been consulted on. The total bill for these plans amounts to some £250 million plus to be spent on the A40. In addition the housing planned in the Carterton - Witney - Eynsham corridor will ensure that any improvement to the access to Oxford via the A40 will be negated by the volume of traffic increase from that housing. In short, these taxpayer funds are in danger of being spend with no effect to the flow of traffic on the A40 and therefore will be money down the drain.
The argument is given is that all this has already been consulted; however the documentation, some three years ago, accompanying this discussion, some three years ago contained a serious error in that it claimed that traffic going straight through on the A40 was less than 20 per cent, when the actual figure is estimated at double that; there is an argument to say that plans based on wrong data will inevitably produce the wrong solution.
The first ‘improvement’ to this road should be a new road joining Duke’s Cut to the Loop roundabout to carry all traffic heading north before meeting the Wolvercote and Cutteslowe roundabouts and that is now needed urgently.
As the total funds reflect the almost identical estimated cost of a light railway/ Wuppertal option/ tram predominantly along the old railway line from Carterton through Witney and Eynsham to Oxford (perhaps via Long Hanborough), surely that should be pursued in preference as it would draw passengers off the A40 and negate the necessity of spending any money on that road.
Was this seriously considered before you in the Growth Board approved the A40 plans and the HiF bid and if not, will you now do so urgently as this is the only way the current and future problems of the A40 will be met?