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Plans to create a ‘science highway’ bus route linking Newbury and Oxford.



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Plans are afoot to create a ‘science highway’ linking Newbury and Oxford.

Both West Berkshire Council and Oxfordshire County and City Councils are doing feasibility studies into a proposed new bus route.

The idea is being spearheaded by Newbury’s MP Laura Farris.

She says the plan will need around £150k from West Berkshire, match funded by the Oxfordshire authorities to get the scheme - to include the country’s first ever hydrogen powered bus - running.

“Wouldn’t it be great if Newbury could lead the way in this,” she said.

She wants the bus route to run between the two centres, with the Harwell Science Park central to the plans.

The 700-acre Harwell Park near Didcot is home to about 200 science and technology organisations, including £2 billion of the UK’s 'open access national laboratories' shared by scientists from across the UK and abroad.

It is also home to many companies in the UK space sector.

“We always talk about the M4 corridor as our own ‘Silicon Valley’, but we always look east /west," she added. "This is a science highway which leads from Newbury and Oxford particularly at the Harwell Science Park.

“Many people from Newbury already work there, and there will be an additional 10,000 jobs there - but the only way to get there from here is by train, via Reading, or by car.”

The campaign comes just months after the government shelved plans for an express road link between Oxford and Cambridge.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced in March the cancellation of the Oxford-Cambridge (Ox-Cam) expressway, after analysis confirmed the proposed project was not cost-effective.

Highways England had been developing potential options for a road link between Oxford and Milton Keynes. However, following close work with local partners since 2014, recent analysis shows that the benefits the road would deliver are outweighed by the costs associated with the project.

The idea that the proposed expressway linking the current A34 near Oxford to the A14 near Cambridge will be designated as A34, does not have any official status.

“I have launched a campaign to create a bus route between Newbury and Oxford with stops at the Harwell Science Park, Didcot, Milton Business Park and Abingdon along the way,” added Mrs Farris.

“I know there was once a train route that ran directly between the two towns, and later a bus route which ran between Newbury and Didcot. The last record I could find of that is from 2004.

“I have been working with West Berkshire Council, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council to look at the route, funding arrangements and feasibility.

“There is an important environmental aspect to this campaign. It will be the only form of public transport which directly links Newbury to the towns to its north, therefore an important driver to get people out of their cars.

"There is also the possibility that the bus route could use hydrogen buses – and I have begun conversations with the Department of Transport to look at this.”



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