A BOOST of £35m has been awarded to Oxfordshire County Council to help combat congestion on the A40 between Oxford and Witney.

The Government grant is expected to pay for most of the project, costing at least £40m, to improve journey times.

The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) will now work with the council to put forward a scheme.

LEP chief executive Nigel Tipple said: “It is likely to be a public transport-led bus solution, not rail.”

With the money secured, Mr Tipple suggested a guided bus system was one option that will be examined with bus companies.

It will be part of the Oxford Science Transit Scheme, designed to connect Oxford with science, research and business centres.

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Stagecoach Oxfordshire managing director Martin Sutton 

Stagecoach Oxfordshire managing director Martin Sutton said the company would ideally be looking for “a long stretch ... separating buses from the general flow of traffic” in a scheme similar to that it has operated in Cambridge since 2011.

Mr Sutton said: “The two things customers in Oxfordshire want are quicker journey times and greater certainty in arrival times.

“The guided busway has been hugely successful in Cambridge.

“The key is separating buses from the general flow of traffic.”

But the Witney Oxford Transport Group, which has been campaigning for better links along the route west of the city, warned it would be “ill-advised” to decide on a transport type without a new study first.

Spokesman Maurizio Fantato said: “This money is a positive step, but by no means a solution in any stretch of the imagination.

“We are keen for new transport links between Carterton, Witney and Oxford and that could be a guided busway, a tram or rail.

“But it would be ill-advised to recommend transport without an appropriate study.”

However railway specialist Jonathan Roberts said rail was likely to be ruled out.

Mr Roberts said: “With £40m you have to be talking about funding for bus priority.

“If you introduced rail, you would have to multiply that figure by 10.”

The Oxfordshire LEP has said single and multiple bus lanes will be looked at between Oxford and Witney.

They are also considering a tidal flow lane, for buses travelling into the city in the morning and heading out in the evening.

A £36m scheme to link the centre of Oxford with Redbridge and Pear Tree park-and-rides was proposed 15 years ago, but was dropped due to environmental concerns.

County council leader Ian Hudspeth said the improvements to the A40 would tie in with other schemes, including improvements to the Woodstock and Banbury Road roundabouts in Oxford.

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