A MULTI-MILLION-pound funding boost has been criticised for being too ‘car-orientated’ at a time when local authorities are seeking to cut back on carbon emissions.

Work to make ‘vital improvements’ on the A40 is set to begin in the New Year following a £35 million cash boost was given by The Department of Transport.

The funds were given to build improved infrastructure to ease congestion on the busy road and improve bus services in the area - this includes an 850-space park and ride facility built to the north-west of Eynsham.

The government said that the improvements to the road will allow for the construction of over 4,800 homes in the area and boost the local economy.

Earlier this year, West Oxfordshire District Council was successfully given a £250,000 grant from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to help fund a new housing development.

Salt Cross Garden Village, a key part of West Oxfordshire's 2031 local plan, will see 2,200 new homes and a new science business park built north of the A40, near Eynsham.

There are also plans in the making to create the 'Oxford North' development, which would see 480 new homes, and 4,500 jobs for the city on the fields centred around the A40, A34, and A44 north of the Wolvercote Roundabout.

The multi-million transport grant is part of the A40 Transport Package hopes to create a shift to more sustainable forms of travel and 'build back greener' following the pandemic.

Environmental campaigners, however, have said the plans do not fit with the council’s climate change agenda.

David Young, a member of POETS, said: “Inevitably the proposals have been designed some time ago, in part attempting to cater for the many car-orientated developments to the west of Oxford, being built as part of Oxfordshire’s dash for growth at any cost.

“The bus priority afforded will stop well before the Wolvercote roundabout.

“The County Council some time ago missed the opportunity to provide a much more convenient cycle route from Eynsham via Botley. All Oxfordshire Councils say they are signed up to the Climate Emergency but are yet to realise that serious cutting back of carbon emissions is simply not compatible with growth at recent levels, and future transport budgets must prioritise active travel and public transport over private car journeys”.

Accompanying the Park and Ride, two new bus lanes will be created along the carriageway, which will take bus-users eastbound from the new park and ride to just before the Dukes Cut, and westbound on the approach to Cassington - the government said this will significantly improve bus journey times.

It aims to cut congestion by encouraging people to stop using their cars for the whole journey and use bus services instead.

The proposed work would also see a three-meter-wide path for cyclists and pedestrians along the route of the A40 from Witney to Oxford, replacing the existing path.

Oxfordshire County Councillor Dan Levy also echoed concerns that the plans, which have been in place for quite some time, will not help the county reduce its carbon footprint.

He said: “The County Council is building the new A40 facilities because it was mandated as part of the housing deal that was put together by the previous County administration, the districts and city, and the government won’t let us do something better.

“It isn't what we would have designed if we had been in control of the council before, because we don't believe that building road is the way to ensure effective travel and reduce our carbon footprint.

“However, as part of the scheme there will be improvements to existing bike lanes and bus services, but it is a very expensive way to achieve these improvements.

“We could have done so much better than this.”

Mr Levy added that residents in Eynsham do not believe that the plans would deliver any ‘great improvements’ to congestion, primarily because of the two new developments being implemented nearby.

He continued: “Unfortunately the new scheme runs right into the Oxford North scheme, with a new set of junctions on the A40.

“Oxford City Council is prioritising employment over solving the housing crisis at Oxford North, and piling cars onto a road network already at breaking point.

“At Barton Park the City has built a development whose residents don’t feel safe leaving their homes. We need homes: but they must be the right homes in the right places, with genuinely sustainable infrastructure delivered first. In Eynsham, the wider A40 is going to be a real barrier between the older village and the new Garden Village on the north, with school pupils expected to cross the dual carriageway at traffic lights.”

The scheme will cost a total of £49.3 million, with the remaining funding coming from the Oxfordshire Growth Deal, Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership as well as private developer contributions.

The works will start in 2022 and are expected to be completed by mid-2024.

Transport Minister Baroness Vere said she was ‘thrilled’ to announce the investment to help residents who had ‘suffered from traffic and congestion along the A40 for too long’.

She added that the scheme will help provide ‘more frequent and more reliable bus journeys’, as part of the National Bus Strategy.

Oxford City Councillor, Alex Hollingsworth, who is Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Delivery, said: “The Oxford Local Plan provides both for nearly 11,000 new homes by 2036, and sets out to meet the high demand for R&D lab and office space needed to provide sustainable employment close to existing public transport routes and stations – which Oxford North clearly is.”

“Before the planning application was submitted our officers held discussions with Oxfordshire County Council to prioritise infrastructure needs – primarily transport improvements – and these are now being delivered.”

A spokesperson for Oxfordshire County Council said: “A council spokesman said: “The wider A40 improvements programme aims to improve journeys along the A40 for all forms of transport while helping to encourage a shift to more sustainable forms of travel.

“By building improved and safer infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians on the A40, along with a four-mile east and westbound bus priority corridor, we’re seeking to offer local residents real travel choices.

“A new shared-use pedestrian and cycle path along the A40 at Duke's Cut will link to the Oxford north and Wolvercote roundabout and will also connect directly to the National Cycle Network (NCN5) off-road pathway and the Oxford Canal towpath, giving pedestrians and cyclists a safe, direct and low-traffic route into Oxford.

“The project seeks to improve air quality by reducing CO2 emissions in the region by encouraging local residents to use multi-modal forms of transport.

“The Eynsham Park and Ride is designed to encourage local motorists to park their cars in favour of more sustainable bus journeys and will contain dedicated cycle storage and electric vehicle parking bays for those who already use sustainable transport options.”