Safety on the A34
Safety improvements on the A34 remain a top priority and the anniversary of those tragic accidents on the stretch of this road by East Ilsley was a chance to review what has been achieved so far.
Having met first this time last year with the A34 Action Group, I followed this up with fellow MPs, Ed Vaizey and Nicola Blackwood, by lobbying the Roads Minister and holding a debate in Westminster Hall. This resulted in a commitment from the Roads Minister to commission a safety review from Highways England. Meetings followed bringing together key stakeholders including Thames Valley Police, local businesses, local Councils and Parish Councils, and the Road Haulage Association. At the end of November, Nicola and I met the Chancellor who then confirmed funding worth £50m as part of the 2015-20 Road Investment Strategy, of which £25m was allocated for A34 ‘technology enhancement’ – vehicle detection loops, CCTV camera and driver information systems – between the M4 and the M40, and £25m for improvements previously agreed to the Peartree and Botley junctions at Oxford. The confirmation in the Autumn Budget of funding for the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway was further welcome news as this scheme is generally recognised as offering the long-term solution to the problems of the A34. Works will start from Junction 13 of the M4 and will include upgrading the A34 to the north of this.
Highways England presented a first draft of its safety review at Westminster in April. Although the A34 was found to be statistically no more dangerous than many other similar roads, this did acknowledge the particular issues on the stretch by East Ilsley and, importantly, it recognised the huge economic impact caused by hold ups and collisions, given the increasing importance of the road as a major north-south transport link. The follow-up meeting with Highways England was due to happen in June but was postponed due to the election. Working with Ed Vaizey, MP for Wantage, and Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, and other MPs whose constituencies are affected by the A34, we have now secured a date to meet in October.
There is a combined will across all agencies to address this problem. A lot has been done to firm up and bring forward funding commitments, all boring but essential parts of the process. I want to assure you that this has not dropped off the agenda. I will keep you updated on progress.