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7 February, 2020 - 12:16 By Tony Quested

Government urged to leverage economic power of East-West rail link

Oxford and Cambridge – and by dint of that the UK’s knowledge based economy – could gain further global clout if the Government leverages the potential power of the proposed East-West rail link, local professionals have stressed.

Property specialists, law firms and the influential CBI have all rallied behind the significance of the scheme but urged further and substantial investment in relevant infrastructure.

Rob Hopwood, planning partner at Bidwells, said: “The Government’s recent decision for the Arc’s East West Rail route is of huge importance for the region’s knowledge-based economy. 

“The Oxford-Cambridge Arc’s passage to economic prosperity is going to be largely dependent on the Government’s commitment to infrastructure investment. 

“The area is home to some of the UK’s largest and most influential technology and life sciences businesses, including the likes of AstraZeneca, Apple and Amazon, and making sure they have access to high-quality talent must remain a priority.

“If the region is going to compete on the global stage post-Brexit, joining up its many tech clusters will be crucial. When you look at superclusters from around the world, it quickly becomes clear that fast and affordable transport links sit at the heart of their success. 

“Take Silicon Valley for example, where the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority runs bus and light rail services that reach every corner of the tech hub with standard one-way fares costing as little as $2. The Arc must strive to replicate such successes and this is certainly a step in the right direction.”

The preferred route was announced as part of the third and final stage of the East-West rail link.

CBI regional director for the East of England Richard Tunnicliffe said: “Today’s news about a recommended route for the East-West rail route is a landmark step in the project. 

“The CBI welcomes the Government’s commitment to the East West Rail route between Oxford and Cambridge.This project will help level up the whole East of England linking us up from Reading to Norwich.

“Completing this work is utterly essential to ensure we level up the regions, and businesses in the OxCam Arc welcome the opportunities this line will provide, with access to new skills, widening market access and building on the innovation that makes this region a world leader. This vital piece of infrastructure will help unleash the full economic potential of the region.”

Brendon Lee, solicitor from Hewitsons – a major legal player across the reach of the Arc territories – says the region and the nation must cash in on this bold new move.

He said: “The decision by the Government to support the most expensive option for the preferred route of the Cambridge and Bedford section of the new East-West Rail line clearly indicates the overriding importance of the scheme in enabling and maximising new homes and economic growth in the region – in particular, unlocking sites near the potential new stations at Tempsford and Cambourne. 

“This encouraging emphasis on the housing and economic growth benefits in the Government's decision is highlighted by the preferred route being jointly announced by the Department for Transport and also, significantly, the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, who described the Oxford-Cambridge Arc as 'one of the most exciting economic growth opportunities in Europe’.”

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