Azara Blog: Someone wants a motorway from Cambridge to Oxford

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Date published: 2011/04/16

The Cambridge News says:

The Government has been urged to build a new three-lane motorway dubbed the "Brain Belt" which would link the university cities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Tory peer Lord Wolfson told the annual conference at the British Chamber of Commerce that the Government should link the two famous academic cities by road.

The proposed motorway would affect one million people living in Cambridge, St Neots, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Bicester and Oxford and cut the three hour journey in half.

Lord Wolfson claims his plan would release pressure on London house prices and attract wealth away from the over-crowded capital.

He said: "Long before he became Prime Minister, David Cameron asked me why Britain didn't have a Silicon Valley.

"Half jokingly, I replied if the idea were mooted in Britain it would never get planning permission.

Lord Wolfson is obviously a bit of a comedian, and likes to get the chattering classes chattering. Anyone in Britain who suggests that any road be built anywhere in the country at any time immediately gets jumped on by the usual academic middle class suspects claiming the world will be at an end if any road is ever built anywhere under any conditions. And Cambridge is full of academic middle class suspects, and so the reaction from the Cambridge News readers was obvious (and could have been written by a robot): mass hysteria all the way around, as well as the usual crackpot suggestion that instead what we really need between Cambridge and Oxford is to re-open the railway line that was closed down in 1967.

Needless to say, the inter-city road system in England could be improved, but the business case would have to be ridiculously overwhelming to even have a chance of overcoming the middle class NIMBYs and their fellow travellers. And the best option (in order to counteract the hysterical reaction from the usual suspects) would be to widen existing roads, for example to complete the dualing of the A428 west of Cambridge.

Wolfson is correct in one regard. Silicon Valley works because there are millions of people living there, all within 50 or 60 miles of each other and with relatively easy road connections. So if you leave one job to join a start-up and it fails then you can relatively easily get another job, which encourages risk-taking. (Well, of course there is also now plenty of venture capital there.) To some extent this happens in the M4 corridor because of Heathrow, but it is hard to see it happening along the M11 corridor because there are not enough people and the ruling elite would almost certainly never allow planning permission for it to be otherwise. The academic middle class do-nothings have far too much power in Britain.

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