Road plans released for A1 east of England and 'brain belt' routes

The government has announced its latest Road Investment Strategy (RIS 2) reports which outline its plans for for the A1 east of England and the Cambridge to Oxford expressway.

The first Road investment strategy (RIS 1) covered investment in England’s motorways and major roads (the ‘strategic road network’) during the 2015 to 2020 road period. This was the initial step in a long-term programme to improve England’s motorways and major roads. The process is repeatable and work is now underway to develop the second RIS - known as RIS 2 - covering the second road period post 2020.

 RIS 1 was announced by the government in December 2014. It outlined a multi-year investment plan including over 100 major schemes funded by £15.2bn of public money. RIS 2 will be developed over the coming years so that work on delivering long-term roads improvements can continue beyond 2020. There are a number of steps that need to be completed leading up to 2020, which will be done in three phases can be summarised in three phases - research, decision, and mobilisation. Currently in the research phase, the final reports are anticipated to be completed in the next six months.

The plans for the A1 east of England and the Cambridge to Oxford expressway are outlined below.

A1 east of England strategic study: interim report

As the interim report, the key reasons for improvement were highlighted and the report outlines the options going forward.

The report highlights that the A1 is a strategic route through what is the highest performing economic region outside of London. It is also optimal for improvement as it is already known for the poor driver experience in terms of quality and reliability of the journey route, as well as a lack of connectivity that would be needed to support growth. All of these areas would be improved on with potential investments, says the report.

Despite the potential such improvements would yield however, the report also reveals potential negative impacts on local residents and communities. Principal among these is that the A1 is unacceptably close to the location of residents, and cuts off communities along the route. This can have a negative impact, the report says, due to unpleasant environmental conditions, potential noise level increases with a rise in traffic, as well as many general potential negative impacts on the quality of life for those living in the surrounding area, including access to jobs, services or wellbeing. 

Oxford to Cambridge expressway: interim report

The interim report examines the options available to strategically connect by road the cities of ‘the brain belt’. Similar to the interim report on the A1 east of England, the report is intended to guide future decisions.

Due to the lack of current transport connectivity in this area there is a relatively low level of long distance travel along the principle east-west route. Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge continue to grow as functioning economic areas making this route ideal for both regional as well as sub-regional reasons. 

Martin Tugwell, programme director for the Strategic Alliance said: “England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance has welcomed the publication of Highways England’s initial report into the need for an expressway between Oxford and Cambridge. The Strategic Alliance’s recent submission to the National Infrastructure Commission examination of the potential of this corridor highlighted the importance of the expressway as a means of increasing connectivity of key employment sites and supporting delivery of planned housing. 

"Highways England’s work supports the Strategic Alliance’s key message that investment in strategic transport infrastructure is central to improving economic productivity across the heartland area. The Alliance welcomes the recognition in the report that strategic transport infrastructure investment across the heartland area also benefits the national economy by improving linkages from the Midlands and North to/from markets elsewhere in the UK and beyond. 

"The Strategic Alliance will continue to work closely with Highways England and its team to use the study to identify opportunities for improvements that will see the expressway concept benefit not only connectivity between Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge, but more generally contribute to improved connectivity across the heartland area.  This is likely to feature in the Alliance’s submission to the next Road Investment Strategy period.”

Download the interim report of the A1 east of England strategic study here.

Download the interim report of the Oxford to Cambridge strategic study here.