Latest score: Cambridge and MK 1, Oxford and Bucks 0

So, the Expressway is ‘cancelled.’ It would appear the Western Arc politicians have been successful in delaying a much-overdue sensible conversation about future strategic growth again which could have happened in the context of the Expressway – particularly if it was well integrated with E-W Rail to support new and existing communities – which was the big opportunity some years ago.

DLA’s work and think pieces across the Arc (one such hypothesis pictured above) highlighting the opportunity of a Strategic Integrated Land Use & Transport Plan will look very different in this ‘new context’.  The opportunities for growth locations will greatly reduce, or in some/many cases disappear.  Some growth will still happen, but the pattern of this growth will be a continuation of ‘sustainability appraisal-driven edge blobbing’ without investment in the strategic infrastructure to deliver the overall growth.  What will the politician’s response be when communities, businesses, towns and cities are missing out on the economic opportunities, and suffering from the increased traffic on the local network because the strategic infrastructure has not been improved?

East West Rail connecting to Milton Keynes/Bletchley is essential and great, but not THE answer to help deliver good strategic growth across the Arc: EWR Company must also engage with Local Authorities in delivering integration with land use planning and wider transport schemes beyond what happens ‘along the track,’ not just delivering a train line that gets from A to B.  We’ve ended up with a new shiny station at Winslow, but no growth of any scale to maximise the benefits of investment.  A draft Allocation and OPA at Salden Chase straddling the border of Bucks and MK and alongside EWR, now languishing in the development management process but without the originally planned station in the scheme?  An opportunity to integrate EWR with allocated growth at south east MK by relocating a heavily constrained station at Woburn Sands 400m down the track, but until latterly no recognition of the opportunity for a rail/public transport interchange?  The list goes on as you move further east…hopefully the East West Rail Company’s ongoing review (due to report any day) will pick up on these opportunities, or is that too much to ask?  Is it really that difficult to integrate the planning and design of infrastructure and development?

The queues will continue through the villages and towns along the A-routes from MK to Oxford and all the places in between.   Meanwhile, the eastern half of the Arc is going great guns to deliver both the road and rail infrastructure, designed so it’s integrated with development to maximise the benefits within the Greater Cambridgeshire area at least.

And for MK sitting squarely in the middle – well, what an opportunity! Fantastic existing infrastructure and connectivity, westward rail being delivered; planned improved connectivity to Cambridge; and a deliverable MRT concept rapidly gaining momentum to underpin its planned growth to 2050 and beyond. Bring it on.