As we reach the second anniversary of those tragic accidents on the A34, I wanted to update you on what has been happening. The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway project is gathering momentum and a decision will be announced later this summer on the ‘corridor’ that this new route will take between Milton Keynes and Oxford. This will be followed by a public consultation on the preferred route within this ‘corridor’. You can keep up to date with progress on https://highwaysengland.co.uk/projects/oxford-to-cambridge-expressway/.
In my discussions with Highways England and Ministers, it is clear that the original idea that this Expressway should start at Junction 13 of the M4, close to Newbury, is the right one. If, for any reason, it was to go ahead without added improvements to the A34, this would only make the current problems with this road much worse. I have written to the Minister stressing the need for this and have had his assurance that the long-term future of the A34 will be taken into account.
In the shorter term, it was a major achievement by all parties to succeed in getting the Safety Review of the A34 commissioned from Highways England. As you will no doubt already know, this came up with several sensible and achievable recommendations. There have been junction improvements and other works already carried out further north of here and we are on the verge of seeing an announcement that works will happen in West Berkshire too. These include improved signage and reconfiguration of both laybys and junctions, some of which, as the Review made clear, around Beedon and East Ilsley, are below the safety standard required for roads of this kind.
I’m assured that Highways England’s consultants have done their bit, the feasibility work has been completed and it’s now a question of finalising approvals by the various departments involved. Frustrating though it seems, progress is being made, if slowly, and I am determined not to let this drop. I hope to be able to update you with some more information soon.