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The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has announced that, if elected, a majority Conservative government will review as a priority the Oxford to Milton Keynes and M1 section of the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway.
The Conservatives will look at alternative plans to the scheme that lacks local support. We are already driving forward East West Rail links in the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge arc and will examine ways to accelerateplans to reopen what was known as the "Varsity" railway. We will also invest in local roads, tackle congestion ‘pinch points’ and support cycling schemes.
On a visit to Oxford today with local Conservative candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, James Frederickson, Mr Shapps said:
"The Conservatives believe in protecting our countryside. The benefits of this project were always finely balanced against its costs, both financial and environmental. If re-elected we will review as a priority this scheme to ensure that it is still worth going ahead. We will not allow the scheme to proceed if there is not a strong case that it will boost jobs, prosperity and has local support.
“If a majority Conservative government is elected, we will develop this important strategic corridor which will be a driver of future prosperity, investing in the new East-West Rail link, local roads and new cycling schemes.”
Most of the eastern part of the route, between the M1 and Cambridge, already exists. The upgrade to the last remaining single-carriageway section, between Caxton Gibbet and the A1, will proceed as planned.
We will examine how we can accelerate other transport schemes, including looking at plans to reopen the "Varsity Line" between Oxford, Bicester, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge, now known as East West Rail.
We also back new cycle schemes in places like Oxford and Milton Keynes.
James Fredrickson added "Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey. We recieved well over 1000 responses, It was this data that convinced the Secretary of State to scrap the expressway plans. Not only is this great news for local residents living under the blight of the Expressway proposals but this decision frees up the money to invest in the east/west rail and cycling infrastructure"
The announcements comes after the Conservatives pledged that, if elected, they would launch a programme to reverse ‘Beeching’ cuts, initially backed by £500 million.