Alongside the Autumn Budget 2017, and following the National Infrastructure Commission’s recent report1, the government has published a paper2 on its overarching vision for the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor to stimulate economic growth in the national interest.
The paper notes that the government will respond in full to the National Infrastructure Commission’s report, including any formal endorsement of their recommendations within 6-12 months. In the meantime, recognising that the private sector will play a significant part in delivering this vision, it is inviting stakeholders from across the region to engage with it over the next 12 months to turn this high-level vision into a strategy that is capable of being delivered. For the corridor to meet its full potential, there will need to be an integrated programme of infrastructure investments, housing and business growth.
As a taster of things to come, the Government’s initial response to the NIC Report includes:
- A housing deal with Oxfordshire, committing to a target of 100,000 homes in the county by 2031 in return for a package of support for infrastructure and economic growth.
- A government commitment to match funding (up to £5million) of contributions from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Greater Cambridge Partnership and AstraZeneca for the development of a Cambridge South train station, with construction to start as early as “the early 2020s” (the NIC report suggests delivery by 2022).
- A government commitment to co- fund a study into the Oxfordshire Rail Corridor, specifically the need for a station at Cowley. The NIC report highlights this as an area that needs public and private input to deliver passenger services between Oxford and Cowley not later than 2019 to support housing and employment growth in this area now.
- The provision of funding to Network Rail to deliver the second phase of the western section of the East West Rail (from Bicester to Bedford and Milton Keynes to Prince Risborough) with a view to running the first passenger services in 2023 and completion by 2024.
- The commissioning of further reports on rail growth in Cambridgeshire towards 2043 which will extend to across East Anglia, Norwich and Ipswich.
- A commitment to developing an east- west expressway between Oxford and Cambridge with key elements to be built between 2020 and 2025 (this is Highways England’s second Roads Investment Strategy period). This includes a commitment to accelerate development, detailed design and option selection (with the decision on the final corridor to be made by summer next year) for the ‘missing link’ expressway between the M1 and Oxford, with a view to this being up and running by 2030.
- A committment to build on the Government’s recent investment commitments to developing driverless vehicle testing infrastructure between Culham Science Park in Oxfordshire and Millbrook in Bedfordshire.
Ultimately, the Government’s ambition is to build 1 million new homes in the Oxford – Milton Keynes- Cambridge Corridor by 2050 and to boost the region’s economy at the same time (with a particular focus on the technology, artificial intelligence and life sciences industry). The National Infrastructure Commission suggests that with the right interventions, the annual output of the corridor could be £163 billion higher than in 2014. This can only be achieved if growth is effected in a joined-up way. It would appear that in the medium to long term, there will be plenty of opportunities for the private sector in this corridor and the government is giving interested stakeholders the opportunity over the next 12 months to shape how and when this is achieved.
1 Partnering for prosperity: a new deal for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes – Oxford Arc, National Infrastructure Commission, November 2017.
2 Helping the Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Oxford corridor reach its potential.