Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor

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The Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor (formerly the Oxford-Cambridge Arc) is a notional arc of agricultural and urban land at about 80 kilometres (50 miles) radius of London, in south central England. It runs between the two English university cities of Oxford and Cambridge via Milton Keynes and other settlements in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, at the northern rim of the London commuter belt. It is significant only in economic geography, with little physical geography in common.

The original Oxford to Cambridge (O2C) Arc initiative was launched in 2003 by three English regional development agencies (RDAs), EEDA, EMDA and SEEDA. The aim of the initiative is to promote and accelerate the development of the unique set of educational, research and business assets and activities that characterise the area and in doing so, create an “arc” of innovation and entrepreneurial activity that would, in time, be ‘best in the field'.

In November 2017, a report for the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) noted that "in 2014, the Gross Value Added (GVA) of the "corridor" was £90.5bn (2011 prices); by doubling housebuilding rates in the area, and delivering East West Rail and the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, this [would] increase by £163bn to a GVA of £250bn".[1]


The Corridor is a major centre of the UK's high tech manufacturing and research industries. It is serviced by four international airports (Stansted, Luton, Heathrow and Birmingham), all located just outside the Arc itself. Cranfield Airport and Cambridge Airport take executive jets. Cambridge Airport is an important centre for aircraft maintenance.

Other major industries include agriculture, tourism, construction, entertainment, education, retail and finance. A high proportion of the population commutes daily to London. Commuting and business travel within the arc is relatively difficult in the absence of important east-west infrastructure.[1][a].


The National Infrastructure Commission projects that the corridor will become host to major hi-tech industrial developments and will be the site to one million new homes by 2050.[3]

To facilitate this development (and wider national infrastructure needs for outer orbital routes around London), two major projects are underway or planned. Work has begun to extend East West Rail from Bicester to the West Coast Main Line at Bletchley (Milton Keynes); onward extension to Cambridge is planned. Concurrently, detailed route options planning has begun on the Oxford-Milton Keynes phase that is to complete the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway (linking the A34 with the A14).

Local issues[edit]


Plans are well advanced for incineration of waste and other combustibles with some power generation to become established near Bedford. The UK Environment Agency has granted a permit to Covanta Energy Limited to operate what will be the UK's largest waste incinerator at Millbrook,[4][5] and further incinerators are planned at this former landfill site.[6] Given the aversion of the public to live and work near waste and other incinerators, these developments may be problematical for other types of development in this segment of the "corridor".


The Corridor has a major university sector with 20,000 workers as part of the knowledge economy: Oxford University, Oxford Brookes University, Buckingham University, The Open University (HQ Milton Keynes), Cranfield University, University of Bedfordshire, the University of Cambridge, and the Anglia Ruskin University at Cambridge.


The Corridor is one of the most ethnically diverse regions of the UK. Bedford, roughly central to the Corridor and with a population of 100,000, is home to native speakers of over 100 languages, a figure which rivals London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. The Corridor has the fastest growing population of any of the similar regions within the UK; several of the major towns, most notably Bicester and Milton Keynes, are set to double in size over the coming few decades,[7] and others, such as Cambourne, have been built from scratch since the late 1990s. The rapid expansion of the population, coupled with a rise in wages locally, fuelled some of the steepest house price rises in the UK over the period 1995-2005.[citation needed]

Politically, the Corridor is largely a Conservative stronghold, with only the urban constituencies returning Liberal Democrat or Labour MPs.


The region is well served by major radial routes from London (the M40, M1, A1(M) and M11 motorways, and the West Coast Main Line, the Midland Main Line and the East Coast Main Line railways). However, routes around the arc are poor, with a disjointed and overloaded road network (A428, A421/A422 and A43) and a fragmentary railway line (remnants of the former Varsity Line).

A twice-hourly express bus service, route X5, is operated by Stagecoach UK Buses between Cambridge and Oxford, serving the more important of the settlements below en route but taking 3 hours and 40 minutes to travel the 85 miles (137 km).

In November 2017, in its report on the Corridor, the NIC called for the railway line between Bicester and Bletchley to be reopened by 2023 and Bedford/Cambridge by 2030, and for the development and construction of a new grade separated dual carriageway between the M1 and Oxford by 2030, as part of the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway.[1]

Major settlements[edit]





‡ Places served by X5 route.
† Places planned to be served by East West Rail.
. As of January 2018, the route (if any) of the Oxford Cambridge Expressway west of the M1 is undecided.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ As of February 2019 the proposed Oxford–Cambridge East West Rail service runs only between Oxford and Bicester. Of the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, the existing A428 road is expressway standard (grade separated dual carriageway) only between Cambridge and the A1198; the next section to the A1 near St Neots is a typical rural road. (On 18 February 2019, Highways England announced final route selection to replace the single-carriageway section from Caxton Gibbet to the A1, with construction to begin in 2022).[2] The route resumes as an expressway between the A1 and the M1 at Junction 13. From there to the outskirts of Oxford, the route remains to be determined
  1. ^ a b c National Infrastructure Commission calls for major investment in transport links between Oxford and Cambridge Transport Xtra (Mark Moran), 17 November 2017
  2. ^ "Route unveiled for major new road and junction at Black Cat". Highways England. 18 February 2019. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Oxford to Cambridge expressway strategic study: stage 3 report" (PDF). UK Department for Transport. 28 November 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  4. ^ "Permit No EPR/WP3234DY" (PDF). Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Decision Document" (PDF). Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  6. ^ "Millbrook Power project". Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  7. ^ xMilton Keynes set to double in size swelling population to half a million Sally Murder, Milton Keynes Citizen, 23 January 2018

External links[edit]