TRANSPORT Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said Oxford needs better infrastructure for it to grow.

Speaking during a visit to mark the beginning of work on the new rail link between Oxford and London Marylebone, Mr McLoughlin said he wanted to work with Abingdon and Oxford West MP Nicola Blackwood and others to find ways of relieving the congestion on the A34.

He said: “Oxford is an incredibly important city for our country and we need to improve the infrastructure around it.

“We have got to make sure we give you the right kind of infrastructure so you can grow, you can get stronger and the areas around Oxford can get stronger too.”

He said that improving other infrastructure such as the rail lines could help with congestion, but admitted: “We do need to have a look across the whole field of transport.”

He added: “We gave Network Rail a five year plan for development, we haven’t been doing that with the roads.

“One of the things George Osborne and the Prime Minister have done is actually give us a budget for the next five years for the road network.

“And so the Highways Agency now has been tasked with coming forward with plans for several of the most important routes in the country.

“The A34 is part of that, particularly going through Oxford.

“So we want to work with Nicola and others in the area, the local authority as well and see what we can do to help relieve the congestion.”

His comments come as new figures show that last year there were 88 accidents recorded on the Oxfordshire stretch of the A34, down from 94 in 2012 and 98 in 2011.

There were 138 casualties in 2013, down from 141 in 2012 and 149 in 2011.

In February, a lorry driver died on the A34 near Abingdon after police officers slowed traffic down to retrieve a dead badger.

The resulting accident caused severe traffic delays across the county.

Up to 79,000 vehicles use the Oxfordshire stretch of the A34 every day.

Ms Blackwood said: “I am delighted that the Transport Secretary has publicly committed to investing in the A34 and, along with the thousands of local residents who have signed my petition for improvements to the A34, I intend to keep the pressure up for that investment to be made as soon as possible and as effectively as possible.”

Clair Prosser, policy executive, Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The news is encouraging.

“The A34 is a strategic route and needs investment now.

“Oxford is a powerhouse for growth and congestion on the A34 is blocking expansion.

“If manufacturing businesses want to upscale their operation it is more likely they would move to the M4/M40 corridors. Businesses are constantly telling us of issues travelling this route.”