THE Expressway between Oxford and Cambridge will likely be scrapped in the budget announcement at the start of March, according to an Oxfordshire MP.

John Howell, Conservative MP for Henley, said he thought an announcement on the future of the major new road would be made on March 11 as the government set out its spending commitments for 2020/21.

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Mr Howell said: “This was announced way back in the election campaign that it was being reviewed, and my understanding is that we will have an announcement in the budget.

“I am anticipating that the decision will be taken to scrap it.”

The Henley MP made similar comments in his most recent newsletter to constituents.

Oxford Mail:

John Howell MP. Picture: UK Parliament via Creative Commons Licence CC BY 3.0.

Mr Howell was involved in a series of public seminars on the Expressway in 2018 alongside Milton Keynes MP Iain Stewart.

Mr Stewart, appointed as the government’s champion of East-West links between Oxford and Cambridge, told a public meeting in his constituency on Friday, February 7, that the new road network would likely be scrapped.

And Labour MP for Cambridge Daniel Zeichner, was recently told by the Prime Minister in parliament to expect an announcement on the future of the road come the budget.

Mr Zeichner described it as a ‘20th-century roadbuilding solution to a 21st-century challenge’, and asked whether the PM would confirm it had been scrapped.

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Mr Johnson’s reply was: “I must ask the honourable gentleman to wait and contain his impatience until the budget, when he will learn more about the national infrastructure plan.”

In November, Oxfordshire County Council wrote a letter to the government to say it would no longer support the Expressway, adding that investment should go to more environmentally friendly ways to travel, like the planned East-West rail link between Oxford and Cambridge.

Oxford Mail:

The Expressway mapped. Picture: DfT.

This followed a vote in the council chamber when a majority of councillors threw their support behind scrapping the Expressway.

OCC leader Ian Hudspeth said he would wait and see what the budget held in store for the future of the planned road, following the review announced during the 2019 General Election campaign.

Mr Hudspeth said: "We will have to see what [the outcome] is and if there is any proposal to improve the A34 which is the most important issue for residents of Oxfordshire in this.

"Once a month there is a major incident on it which gridlocks not just Oxford, but Oxfordshire."

Mr Hudspeth said the section of the road at Botley was the most-concerning, as air quality there was poor, and traffic jams in the area often led to problems across Oxford and in surrounding areas including Kidlington and Yarnton.

He added that if the Expressway were scrapped it would not have a knock-on effect for the Oxford to Cambridge Arc plan.

This is a separate government project to the Expressway which could see 1 million new homes built in the counties between the two cities, to support tech and science businesses in the region.

During the 2019 General Election campaign, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps visited Oxfordshire to announce the section of the Expressway between Oxford and Milton Keynes would be reviewed if the Tories were re-elected.

At the time, he said is 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 was presented to him.

As rumours of the Expressway being scrapped began to circulate, Oxford's two MPs said a firm announcement on its future was needed.

Oxford Mail:

Layla Moran MP. Picture: UK Parliament

Layla Moran, Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: "Rumours that the Expressway will be cancelled are no substitute for a formal announcement from the Government.

“Despite promising a ‘review’ during the General Election, when they realised just how unpopular their plans were, the Conservatives have refused to give any more details of when a decision will be made."

She also advocated replacing the road with a 'fully electrified East-West Rail.'

Oxford Mail:

Anneliese Dodds MP. Picture: UK Parliament

Anneliese Dodds, Labour MP for Oxford East said: "I share my constituents’ concerns about the Expressway. We need a firm commitment that it is off the table -- so far, all government has committed to is a ‘review’. We need investment in sustainable modes of travel, and any new homes to be genuinely affordable - and I will continue to campaign for these locally and nationally."

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The No Expressway Group, a campaign objecting to the road, is due to hold two events in Westminster on February 26.

Campaigners will walk from the Houses of Parliament to deliver petitions of more than 15,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street demanding that the government scraps its expressway plans.

NEG will also be holding a drop-in event in parliament for MPs and peers.