OXFORDSHIRE's 'alliance' with other counties to boost economic growth has been expanded to include five new areas.

The county council last year revealed it had created 'England’s Economic Heartland' with Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire to bid for more funding for transport schemes from the government.

It has seen them set up a new body – the 'strategic transport forum' – to plan major road projects together.

And this morning the local authorities have announced they will also be joined by Cambridgeshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Bedford and Central Bedfordshire in their lobbying efforts.

According to the councils, the area they cover has an economy of £87bn and improvements to infrastructure could grow the figure by another £17.4bn.

Oxfordshire County Council deputy leader Rodney Rose said: "When you consider that nearly every piece of cargo being brought into the UK will have to travel across areas represented in England's Economic Heartland at some point on its journey, you begin to understand the huge economic significance to Oxfordshire and further afield of getting our planning right. 

"By working together, we can approach the government with one voice and present a clear business case about the transport infrastructure needs of drivers, businesses, residents and visitors not only in Oxfordshire but also for those located near us and represented in this alliance."

Jim Harker, chairman of the Strategic Transport Forum and leader of Northamptonshire County Council, added: "This is a significant step for the Strategic Alliance. 

“The transport network across England’s Economic Heartland is critical to the continued economic success of an area that generates a return to the Exchequer; they are also the arteries along which the lifeblood of much of the UK economy flows.

"Our economic success brings with it many challenges – increased congestion affects both businesses and residents alike. 

"So it is absolutely essential that we continue to make the case for investment in our transport networks and our services. "

The newly set-up transport forum will meet for the first time on February 12, the councils added.