A40 in West Oxfordshire: Congestion

Part of Petition - Maximum Sentences for Child Cruelty Offences – in the House of Commons at 8:48 pm on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney 8:48 pm, 8th January 2019

My hon. Friend is right, and I entirely support her campaign to ensure that our important services are outside the centre of Oxford whenever possible so that that journey is not necessary. However, sometimes it is, and the A40, like other major roads, is sometimes impassable owing to congestion that poses not just an obstacle to business and public services but, in some instances, a safety threat to residents. That is clearly unacceptable.

I want to make a couple of points before, very gratefully, I allow the Minister to respond. I have spent much of the debate discussing the investment that I want to see in direct upgrades on the A40, but we must not forget—I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds for his foreshadowing of the points that I now wish to make—the contribution to be made by West Oxfordshire’s railways in tackling A40 congestion. It is in everyone’s interests for fewer cars to use the A40 whenever possible, but we can see the modal shift that we need only if our railways can offer a feasible, practicable and reliable service as an alternative. If that is to happen, there is an urgent need for the remaining sections of the Cotswold line to be doubled, which would enable more frequent and more reliable trains to travel from Hanborough to Oxford.

I will continue to campaign for the reopening of the Cowley branch line for passengers, with a regular shuttle service to Hanborough, but if we improved bus and cycle links to and from Hanborough, we could create a public transport hub in West Oxfordshire, taking cars off the A40 and reducing congestion throughout our area. I want people to be able to leave their cars behind, and to use buses, trains and bikes whenever possible so that there is more room on the roads for those who must use cars. We need to build a truly integrated transport network in West Oxfordshire that will meet the needs of our area and enable residents and businesses to thrive in the years ahead.

For decades, congestion on the A40 has been one of the biggest issues facing West Oxfordshire, and I am determined to tackle it. We are moving in the right direction, with opportunities for investment from a number of central Government funds, so there is more cause for optimism than there has been for decades, but there is still much work to do if we are to deliver the improvements that are needed. Let me stress to the Minister that, as we have heard from everyone who has spoken in the debate, this is not just a matter of minor inconvenience for us; it is a blight on the lives of commuters, and a millstone around the necks of our businesses. It is vital that we work towards, and ultimately achieve, a final fix for the A40, because only then can West Oxfordshire, and the surrounding areas, achieve their full potential.