CASH to help congestion on the A34 could be on the way after the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed to discuss the issue with an Oxfordshire MP.
George Osborne promised to meet Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood after she raised it in the House of Commons.
The A34 has previously been branded one of the worst roads in the country, with records showing decades of congestion, accident blackspots and numerous safety campaigns.
Up to 79,000 vehicles use the Oxfordshire stretch of the key link road every day and motorists are constantly facing miles of gridlocked traffic and delays to their journeys.
As children went back to school yesterday, traffic backed up along the A34 past Radley and up to the Pear Tree interchange because of the continuing roadworks at Kennington roundabout, where Oxfordshire County Council is creating a “hamburger” junction.
Ms Blackwood has previously called for “urgent” investment and in March was promised by the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin that the Government recognised the need to improve the infrastructure.
This week she questioned the Chancellor about specific funding to open up the Lodge Hill junction of the A34 to southbound traffic. Vale of White Horse District Council wants to build 610 new homes in North Abingdon, which could bring an extra 900 cars to the area.
Yesterday, Conservative MP Ms Blackwood said while she’d be specifically raising plans for a diamond junction – which has slip roads in both directions leaving and getting on to the dual carriageway – at Lodge Hill, she would also be raising concerns about the need for investment along the A34 generally.
She said: “The focus of the meeting will be the specific problems in Abingdon. I don’t think development is sensible without a diamond junction at Lodge Hill so we will make the case for that in particular but also for improvements on the A34 as a whole.
“We need housing growth but we need the infrastructure to support it and we want improvements as quickly as possible.
“There are barriers to widening the A34 at Botley and Port Meadow and there are improvements that can be made without doing that. All the junctions in my constituency need addressing, so we need to work on Marcham and Pear Tree.”
Responding to her question in the Commons, Mr Osborne, pictured, said: “We are making an enormous number of improvements to the UK road system and spending more on transport and road improvement than the previous Government.
“We are also investing in science, and I remember making a useful visit with my honourable friend to her constituency to see the results of the money that we have contributed to Begbroke Science Park. I will certainly have a meeting with her about the A34.”
Plans are already in the pipeline to improve the Milton and Chilton interchanges, while the Kennington works include the creation of a slip road from the Southern Bypass on to the A34.
Matthew Barber, the leader of Vale of the White Horse District Council, said plans for the diamond junction were being drawn up and he said early indications were that the scheme would be feasible.
City council leader Bob Price agreed that work to improve the A34 would need to happen swiftly to help Oxfordshire’s economy. He said: “If we are to achieve economic growth and the business that we want to see in Oxfordshire then the A34 and A40 have very significant contributions to make.
“The A34 is one of a series of traffic problems that the city and city area faces and it is particularly bad for traffic coming in from Abingdon and the South.”
Jack Godfrey, a director of Stanford in the Vale-based haulage firm J Godfrey & Sons, said: “There is so much traffic that goes on the A34 it is unbelievable. Our drvers try to avoid it but there is nowhere else to go because of weight limits. Over the year it probably costs us £5,000 in wasted time.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “Nicola and I have spoken about this. The A34 affects us all in Oxfordshire and I strongly support any improvements which can be secured, and will do all I can to help.”
A date for the meeting has not yet been set.
What has been done already
- Work on building two north-facing slip roads at the Chilton Interchange is set to start by the end of the year
- Turning the Milton Interchange into a hamburger roundabout is also set to begin by December
- The Highways Agency has been working to improve traffic flow at the Wendlebury Interchange near Bicester by widening the lanes and including sensors
- Oxfordshire County Council is currently building a slip road from the Southern Bypass straight on to the A34 southbound.
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