Sir – On February 24, Chiltern Railways celebrated its 100,000th passenger at Oxford Parkway station, barely four months after opening. Chiltern’s rebuilt Bicester Village station also thrives. In July, the rebuilt line will be even more popular, offering trains to London when the Great Western between Oxford and Didcot closes for a fortnight.
Even with diesel trains, rail decarbonises longer-distance transport as well as decongesting it. GW electrification will further decarbonise rail. We must expand and extend railways far more to fulfil the Paris climate change agreement and UK Climate Change Act 2008.
The Government is therefore wrong to have made the Highways Agency waste £512,000 on a study to build a Cambridge-Oxford-Chieveley “expressway”.
It says widening the A34 from four lanes to six between the M40 and M4 would cost £800 million. Vale of White Horse Council leader Matthew Barber rightly says this money could be better spent. He proposes improving road junctions including that at Milton.
Yes, on many roads the capacity limit is the junctions, not the number of lanes. But junction upgrades encourage more traffic. Soon the A34 would be as congested again, but on a bigger scale.
It would cost less to reopen railways to relieve north-south roads including the A34. Rebuilding the branch lines to Witney and Abingdon would cut traffic joining and leaving the A34. The Cotswold Line could reach the West Midlands by rebuilding two railways six miles long: from Long Marston to Stratford in Warwickshire and from Dudley to Wolverhampton.
Cancelling HS2 would save £60 billion, and for far less money one could reopen 50 miles of the Great Central Railway for 100mph trains from Marylebone, Oxford and Banbury to Rugby and Leicester, and possibly on to Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester.
Bigger roads make bigger problems. Good railways solve them.