Improving local roads, new buses and rail investment is preferable to the Oxford Cambridge Expressway
Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon Layla Moran writes following her parliamentary debate on the route for the Oxford Cambridge Expressway.
In September the Government announced their preferred corridor for the Oxford Cambridge Expressway. This decision left us with massive questions in the constituency I represent, Oxford West and Abingdon, around the impact on homes, schools and the environment unanswered. I can say with confidence this is nothing less than a prime example of where yet again this Government has proved unwilling to listen to local residents.
Today I brought this issue to Parliament through a Parliamentary debate, as it is not at all fair for this Government to put homes, schools and communities at risk in Abingdon, Botley and other parts of Oxfordshire at risk.
It is abundantly clear that the Government must listen to residents who have very legitimate concerns about the potential community demolition their decision could cause. If the Government chooses to expand the A34 to make way for the Expressway, one of the options up for consideration the public must be consulted first.
Moreover, the Expressway is only one of the many circumstances where the Government have made unpopular and questionable decisions about infrastructure and road building. I feel the local issue of the Expressway in Oxford West, Abingdon and Kidlington personifies the Governments all round lack of wider strategy throughout the country.
This Government should not be so ignorant to plough ahead with infrastructure investment if it is unwanted and unwelcome and instead revise its strategy. Local voices and opinions from all across the country should be at the forefront rather than aimless decision making from the Governments Transport Minister. Again, the Expressway is the beacon of exactly everything wrong with the Government's approach to infrastructure: invest money, don’t consult residents, make and unpopular decision, repeat. Something must change.
While the Governments attempts to invest and put money aside for needed investment in our roads is welcome to an extent, I cannot help but feel as though the priorities are not straight. Looking at one of the biggest issues of the day, the environment, I cannot help but feel like the Governments vision is short sighted and lacks future proofing. Climate change is already looming large and Ministers should be more willing to shift away from car usage and instead to public transport improvement.
When it comes to the Expressway in my constituency I am incredibly sceptical. Is it needed more than rail investment? Is it needed more than investment in our buses? Is needed more than fixing already derelict roads? These are all questions I think the Government should ask itself, not just on this issue, but every rare occasion the Government is prepared to invest.
My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I pride ourselves on always listening to local residents about issues that matter to them. On this occasion it is clear they have every right to demand better than what the Government is offering. I know my constituents and others around the country will never accept half-baked, ill thought through, cash offerings when it comes to roads that may destroy schools, houses and communities.
Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon