HS2, The Pan Regional Partnership and Transport

Update 2023 – Since the 2019 update the government officially cancelled the expressway although there are concerns that it is still being built ‘by stealth’ where various road schemes across what is known as ‘The Arc’ are being aligned to form one continuous road.

However the concept of an ‘Arc’ has remained in one guise or another throughout this period, being re-branded several times. We’ve had ‘The Knowledge Arc’, ‘The Science Arc’, ‘The Green Arc’ and now we have ‘The Pan Regional Partnership’ which essentially does everything that the previous incarnations planned to do but with the exception of the proposed 1M houses.

It’s clear though that most of the previous ambitions remain, particularly those where property developers are able to make huge profits out of the scheme. If the number of jobs and industrial sites materialise it’s pretty obvious that the huge number of houses in ribbon developments will re-emerge and we’ll be back to the same situation again.

The government’s current support extends to £2.5M for the initial development of the idea and there are few local authorities now interested in being involved. Notably Cherwell District Council has signed up to be a part of it, although that was done in isolation by the Conservative dominated Executive who are led by barry Wood who has himself been at the forefront of all of the incarnations of the Arc project.

Currently only Cherwell, West Oxfordshire and the County Council have expressed an interest in being part of the latest scheme, although the County has serious reservations and may ultimately not take part fully. If there’s a change of control on Cherwell District Council I think there will be a move to withdraw from it there as well.

This is essentially the plan that will not die. But it’s lifespan is likely to be limited to the length of the current Westminster government and the amount of support that local authorities in Oxfordshire provide which, after the 2023 elections may be rather diminished.

Update 2019 – The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway is the latest government headline transport project which is likely to have a massive impact on the lives of people in North Oxfordshire.  As with HS2 it’s going to require the destruction of large areas of green belt, the compulsory purchase of homes as well as costing many billions of pounds.  In the case of the Expressway we also have the issue of a massive increase in transport emissions allied with an almost doubling of the population of Oxfordshire as an additional 200,000 houses are built along the Oxfordshire stretch of the motorway, on top of the 100,000 houses already committed to under the Oxfordshire local plan.

The Green party is absolutely opposed to this project as are many local councils.  Oxfordshire County Council and the City Council have both passed motions opposing the development, whereas Cherwell District Council has refused to do the same.  I and my council group colleagues brought a motion to the full council in October this year calling for opposition.  This was blocked by the Conservative members of the council who instead offered a motion calling for the council to keep and “open mind” about the project.

My mind is not open about another massive motorway being pushed through our countryside, destroying several ancient woodlands and smoking up the sky with increased emissions that will have a hugely detrimental effect on air quality and the health of our citizens.

The Expressway is also completely at odds with any aspirations to deal with the dangers of climate change and totally incompatible with any council that has passed a climate emergency motion (as Cherwell has).

As your MP, I will absolutely oppose the Expressway as an unnecessary, unneeded, and outdated edifice.   Instead I will push for the completion and improvement of the East/West Rail link and, as with HS2, advocate better uses of the money being earmarked for these projects, such as upgrades to existing rail networks and public transport, especially rural bus services.

You can read more about my opposition to the Expressway here

Having once in principle been in favour of HS2 as it potentially could reduce domestic flights, the Green Party is opposed to this vanity project dreamt up by Labour and wholeheartedly adopted by the coalition government.

Even at the predicted astronomical cost of £80 billion  – and that was before a single track has been laid – Dr. Richard Walling, Director of the free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, (not a natural bedfellow of progressives!) says it not only defies economic logic but will irreparably damage beautiful countryside, reduce house values and “be unbelievably costly to the tax payer while delivering incredibly poor value for money”.

The idea that such an immense project and eye-watering budget is worth it to shave 15 minutes off the journey time to Birmingham (and vice versa) ignores the changing work patterns in modern culture.  Most trains these days have free WiFi and those visiting London or Birmingham for business can quit easily work on the train.  Alternatively they are taking advantage of high speed broadband at home or in the office and working from there, using video conferencing or email.

Yet HS2 is now underway and destroying the countryside as it goes. The predicted budget has now ballooned to well above £100bn as the first phase is already well over budget and is likely to increase further.

One of the biggest infrastructure shortcomings in the UK today are areas where broadband provision is pitifully inadequate.  Just a fraction of the budget proposed for HS2 could provide fibre optic connectivity to every corner of the nation.

Train fares in the UK are some of the highest in Europe. We will bring the railway network back into public ownership to ensure we have better services and lower fares. This will provide a real alternative to those wanting to leave their car at home.

We will divert money currently being wasted on huge road projects and put more of the UK’s transport budget into public transport, especially local schemes for bus travel and cycling. We will subsidise existing public transport to make fares cheaper and invest in a better and more co-ordinated public transport system

This will strengthen communities, reduce crime, improve the health of the population and reduce traffic fatalities and create jobs.


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