'A MONUMENTAL disaster' and a 'dagger stabbing at the heart of Oxfordshire' were just two of the phrases used last night to describe the government's final route plan for the £3.5bn Oxford Cambridge Expressway.

After months of waiting, the Department for Transport revealed its preferred option yesterday – 'Corridor B' – but campaigners said the news did little to allay fears or tell residents exactly what will happen.


A,B,C - The three possible corridor routes mapped

The government claims Corridor B – which would see a road pass either to the north-west or south-east of Oxford then north to Bicester and beyond – 'outperforms the other options by providing better links to jobs, education, leisure and health services'.

Oxford Mail:

Many have welcomed news that the expressway will avoid RSPB Otmoor nature reserve, but details of exactly where the road would eventually be built still remain unclear.

And wildlife campaigners say the route of Corridor B would include significantly more sites of scientific interest and nature reserves.

Oxford City Council Labour leader Susan Brown said the announcement 'does little' to answer the many concerns surrounding the development and labelled the planning process 'opaque.'

She added: "It remains wholly unclear which side of Oxford the final route will take, let alone how the Expressway might help reduce the congestion on the overstretched A34 and A40.”

Oxford West and Abingdon Lib Dem MP Layla Moran added: “This decision on the corridor of the route leaves the majority of questions we have about the impact on homes and the environment in Botley, Abingdon and the surrounding areas unanswered.

"Building a new motorway is the wrong approach.”

Oxford East Labour MP Anneliese Dodds echoed the worries and called for the government to prioritise rail electrification instead.

Following the Highways England review, the plans will be put to a full public consultation next year, ahead of a scheduled opening in 2030.

Steve Dawe, communications officer of the No Expressway Alliance, said: “We expect campaigning and legal challenges to follow this decision.

“The main argument for building the Expressway is to open up new land for housing along the route. Building homes for car-borne commuters in the countryside will do nothing to meet Oxford’s desperate need for low cost homes for local people.”

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, labelled the plans ‘a monumental disaster and act of environmental sabotage'.

He continued: “The expressway itself is a wrong-headed and profoundly irresponsible pursuit that will put more cars on our roads, spewing out toxic fumes, and do so at the expense of our precious environment. All at the cost of several billion pounds of taxpayers' money.

Oxford Mail:

In an Oxford Mail poll earlier this year asking readers which route option they thought was best, Corridor B finished dead last, with just six per cent of nearly 850 readers supporting it.

The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust said it was ‘profoundly concerned’ yesterday, labelling Corridor B ‘the worst of the three options’.

It outlined a host of environmental concerns with the plans and said Highways England had so far ignored a legal requirement to commission a Strategic Environmental Assessment.

Oxford Friends of the Earth also waded in to say the proposals would increase congestion, destroy irreplaceable nature sites and landscapes, increase air and noise pollution, undermine attempts to tackle climate change and divert billions of pounds which could be better spent on transport such as better rail links.

The organisation’s Chris Church said: “This is a dagger stabbing at the heart of Oxfordshire. There is no ‘least worst’ route and no need for this road. The plan will not solve the transport problems facing Oxfordshire and will generate more traffic congestion.”

Oxfordshire County Council said it was 'very disappointed' at the lack of clarity but the government has defended the proposals.

Roads Minister Jesse Norman said: “This expressway will enhance both transport connectivity and growth across the region.”