Track and signalling

25.02.19

‘Clearer vision’ and improved joined-up working needed to deliver growth in Cambridge-Oxford arc, NIC says

The potential of the highly-anticipated Cambridge-Oxford arc project could be stunted if the government does not provide a “clearer vision and better joined-up working” to maximising the output of the corridor, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has claimed.

The project, which unveiled the five route options for public consultation for the new rail line between Bedford and Cambridge last month, raised the doubts of the NIC in key areas including the progress of the responsibilities of local authorities to develop long-term transport strategies surrounding the East West rail route.

In its Annual Monitoring Report 2019, the commission noted that there has been several successes in the project, including the progress on the East West Rail and Oxford Cambridge Expressway transport schemes, as well as the business case for the central Beford-Cambridge section of the railway.

However, the NIC argued a number of “key dates” are at risk of being missed in 12 months, including the development of a spatial vision for the arc.

The report also recommended improvements to the integration of housing developments and transport schemes surrounding the rail route.

“The commission remains concerned about the overall level of integration between the planning of new housing and transport schemes to ensure that both East West Rail and the Expressway unlock sites for the new development,” the report said.

Amongst its ‘risks and challenges’ for the arc project, the NIC added: “There have been no requirements made of local authorities to develop long-term transport strategies to complement strategic east-west connections and enable the development of the arc’s towns and cities, nor has government moved to establish pipelines of long-term infrastructure projects, conditional upon housing delivery milestones.”

The NIC also highlighted other areas of concern such as the progress on governance arrangements recommended by the commission – labelled as “minimal” to this point – as well as the government missing the recommended target date of summer 2018 to establish an arc-wide ‘Strategic Partnership Board.’

In its recommended priorities for 2019, the commission wants to see more progress on the integration of housing and transport around the arc, and calls on the government to finalise and agree “robust governance structures” for the arc – including the appointment of an independent chair and ministerial champion.

In our upcoming edition of RTM (hitting desks on 26 February) Stephen Barker, engineering director at the East West Rail Company, tells more on what 2019 has in store for the scheme. Click here to subscribe for free!

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