A MAJOR new road cutting through the Oxfordshire countryside would probably not be built if a majority Conservative government returns to power on December 13, the transport secretary has said.

Grant Shapps announced that the Oxford to Milton Keynes section of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway would be ‘reviewed as a priority’ today while visiting Oxford West and Abingdon on the campaign trail.

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Mr Shapps said: “I have been receiving representations, not least from this constituency, to say actually is this the right plan? Do the costs stack up? Is it really going to be providing the benefits which were though originally?

“That’s caused me to go back and have a review of it, and actually I don’t think the benefits are there.”

He added his ‘hunch’ was there were no longer any benefits to the new road, and he realised popular opinion on the scheme had shifted after a survey of more than 1,000 residents had been presented to him by Oxford West and Abingdon Tory candidate James Fredrickson.

Oxford Mail:

Grant Shapps and Oxford West and Abingdon Conservative candidate James Fredrickson.

Mr Shapps added a delayed public consultation on the Expressway, which had been demanded by former MP Layla Moran, would probably not take place if the road was under review instead.

He said the expressway was 'perhaps an idea for yesterday rather than tomorrow', and said money saved from it could go towards the East West rail and cycling schemes.

The announcement comes after the Conservatives pledged to launch a programme to reverse the Beeching railway cuts, initially backed by £500 million.

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Layla Moran, Lib dem candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon called the Expressway announcement ‘hollow electioneering by a desperate Conservative Party.’

Oxford Mail:

Layla Moran.

Ms Moran said: We don’t need a pointless government review, we need an urgent public consultation to give residents the opportunity to not go ahead with this disastrous motorway altogether, as I and the Liberal Democrats have been saying since day one.

“The Conservatives have had almost a decade in government to invest in sustainable transport infrastructure such as rail and cycling schemes, and they have completely failed to do so.”

What have other politicians said about the Expressway review?

Anneliese Dodds, Labour candidate for Oxford East said: “We need a cast-iron guarantee from the conservatives that they will scrap the expressway plans, not just review them.

“And we need East-West rail to be electric, and for new homes within the arc to be genuinely affordable and include many social homes.

“It is a shame that the Conservatives have not been willing to listen about these issues so far but I will keep campaigning on them.”

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Allison Wild, the Brexit Party candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: "Now the General Election has been called we are witnessing a deliberate but predictable obfuscation with the Conservative government saying 'a majority Conservative government will review the Oxford to Milton Keynes and M1 section of the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway.'

"This gives our constituents no reassurances whatsoever and smacks of political opportunism. No doubt, on December 13 it will be business as usual and this costly, environmentally destructive project, with its inevitable cost overruns, will proceed at pace, without the public scrutiny that a project of such magnitude deserves.

Oxford Mail:

The expressway has previously been touted as a solution to traffic on the A34.

She added: "A priority should be improving pre-existing road networks that we have already contributed handsomely to through our income and road taxes, which would have a direct impact on the safety and quality of life for our constituents.

"With fatalities on the A34 becoming almost weekly tragedies, improvements on this major route would have immediate benefit in our area."

The Expressway

At a meeting on Tuesday, November 5, Oxfordshire’s county councillors voted in favour of a motion to send a letter to the government, announcing they would not support the Expressway.

READ AGAIN about the county council meeting here

The motion made by Labour councillor John Sanders said the planned Oxford to Cambridge Expressway ‘flies in the face of Oxfordshire’s commitment to reduce the use of the car.’

The motion explained car use needed to be reduced to tackle the climate emergency.