The Oxford to Cambridge Expressway: Tackling England’s Economic Heartland's 'Achilles heel'

July 19, 2018

Immense are located in the centre of England’s Economic Heartland - an area dedicated to maximising economic growth, supporting new and growing businesses and exploiting its potential as the golden triangle of the UK for tech and innovation. England’s Economic Heartland (or EEH) is made up of a voluntary partnership of councils and local enterprise partnerships, representing the key growth corridor from Oxford, through Milton Keynes and across to Cambridge. Whilst it is largely a successful and prospering economy, the region does have one distinct area which is shackling its success and it is looking to tackle: its 'Achilles heel' - the poor east to west road network.

Currently the road network between Oxford and Cambridge is hugely inefficient, slow and continuously blocked by traffic. There is no dual carriageway or motorway which runs directly between Oxford - Milton Keynes – Bedford – Cambridge and the poor transport links are holding back the growth potential for the counties. Traditionally the road and rail networks have been developed in response to the economic needs of London and have not kept up with or hugely considered the growing influence and economic development of the EEH counties. The road grids are largely radial from London and therefore neglect the east – west axis. Furthermore, because of the lack of advanced road structure from east to west, the interaction and connectivity between the regions is underexploited.The Oxford to Cambridge strategic study: stage 3 report shows that there is very limited overlap between Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes when it comes to work catchment areas. The individuals living in these areas are therefore largely unlikely to commute outside of their locality.

The solution?

Better rail links and the introduction of an east to west expressway will create a multi modal transport spine for the area, with the aim to develop a direct ‘mile a minute’ route between the main regions. The new road is expected to hugely reduce journey time between Oxford and Cambridge and in turn will bring both cities within a 45-minute drive from Milton Keynes. Work is due to start taking place in 2020, with the expressway tackling a predicted 40% increase in travel demand on the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge corridor by 2035.

With such a large transport overhaul there will always be hurdles to overcome to ensure maximum impact and efficiency. One of the key challenges for EEH currently is deciding on which route the new expressway will take. One of the most effective and risk-free ways of assessing changes in the roads is to simulate the road networks. Immense have been commissioned by EEH to develop an easy-to-use simulation tool to support such decision-making and explore implications of new proposals across the area. The simulation software platform will empower EEH partners to ask their own 'what-if' questions and explore the impacts of development proposals, infrastructure changes, and new mobility services on the transport network. By envisioning the future mobility needs across the region, EEH can make great, informed decisions to the benefit of residents and businesses alike. Furthermore the simulations Immense are creating for EEH are accessible and reusable, not only do they give the users the tools to make informed objective decisions on current issues, they are also capable of being built upon to ask future questions of the area. These technologies and simulation assets can then go further, enabling a wider range of authorities, citizens and businesses to enhance their decision-making by testing in a digital world prior to any physical build.

The new expressway will be a catalyst for boosting connectivity and inter-regional interaction as well as encouraging new investment and business in the area, which will in turn help to promote economic growth. Furthermore, strategic performance will improve as the expressway will relieve strain on local road and provide opportunities for future housing and communities through easier commuting. The region's potential is world class and having a high-quality transport network could really tackle EEH’s 'Achilles Heel'.

Find out more about how Immense is helping EEH with its simulation software here