On the futility of dualling roads

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More road building?

At long last our politicians have awaken to one of the major problems affecting our District: there can be no further economic development around Witney/Carterton unless something is done to alleviate congestion on the A40 to to Oxford.

In between the totally insane (like providing monorails or cable cars) there has been some decent debate too, but it’s disappointing to hear that our own MP has come out in favour of ‘dualling the A40’. (Note that in his maiden speech in 2001 Mr Cameron said “I will always support moves to examine reopening our railway to Oxford and extending the line to Carterton…”)

You don’t need to be a transport engineer to understand that even if you quadrupled the A40 you would only just get to the Wolvercote roundabout and then abruptly stopped there.  Any solution, no matter which, is only as good as its weakest link.  In the case of transport in and around Oxford the city itself is that weakest link.  Whether because of historical neglect or bad planning – there is no time to discuss this matter in such a short blog – you can’t easily drive through the city of Oxford, in fact not even around it. So what would be the point of attracting even more car traffic to it (as this is what dualling roads create, by the way)?

No, what we really need and deserve is something much more intelligent and cost-effective.  We don’t need a bigger road, we need an alternative.  We need to offer people the ability to commute knowing that their journey will take a set amount of time, every day and regardless of weather or anything else, except real force majeure.  We need to enable people to reach the main hospital on time for their appointment and without having to park there. We need to be able to connect with the rest of the country. We can achieve these many goals through fast and efficient public transport, but not of the kind that has to share the same space with cars as this would be pointless.

A few weeks ago we met up with representatives of the CPRE.  One of them, a retired architect, had spent some time planning a number of alternative tram/trains routes joining the Cotswold line from the north of Eynsham with a number of ‘hubs’, or convergence points, where commuters from neighbouring villages would drop their cars or get off local buses, or bikes, and jump on the tram/train to Oxford and beyond.  This is the kind of solution we need (but extended to Carterton of course).  A solution that encompasses multi modal transport, not just a single one.  For those who live in rural areas cars are still essential, but they should not be used to reach congested urban areas.

So the argument for dualling the A40 is a specious one.  We have no time here to discuss evidence, cost benefits and so on  though in the short span WOT has existed we have already amassed a vast amount amount of information.  All we need now is the support of the people of our District and to get a few heads around the table, with an independent study aimed at joining up the dots, as well as using new evidence to back up our argument.  This is what we at WOT are now fighting to achieve.  As we say in our publicity – doing nothing is not an option.

This blog was written and edited by Maurizio Fantato and it therefore expresses his own views and not necessarily the official ones of WOT

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Press release January 15

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Imaginative ideas to reduce gridlock on A40

Witney, 16 January 2014

Local councillors and transport campaigners in Oxfordshire are backing plans for a new investigation into the growing problem of gridlock on the A40.  Bus and rail supporters have joined forces with politicians at the launch campaign of the Witney Oxford Transport (WOT) group, held in Witney on Wednesday 15 January in a packed auditorium at the High Street Methodist Church.

They’re demanding a formal assessment of alternative routes – including the possibility of re-opening a disused railway.  Witney’s growing population and the expansion of RAF Brize Norton have added pressure to the already congested A40.

The launch meeting of WOT ended with a unanimous call for a new study of the problems and possible solutions. Among the ideas being considered:

1. A Metro-style commuter train service between Cowley and Witney using existing lines and a section of disused track axed during the Beeching era of the 1960s.

2. A guided busway – a new concrete road exclusively used by buses. A similar system has recently opened in Cambridge.

3. A revolutionary “Tramtrain” service where European-style trams operate over existing and formerly abandoned rail lines.

Hugh Jaeger of the transport campaign group Bus Users UK said: “We are completely open-minded about the alternative, but one thing is absolutely certain – we can’t afford to do nothing.”

ENDS