CONCERNED residents were told to ditch 'blue-sky thinking' over planned upgrades to the A40 - despite claims the £180m changes will make 'little difference'.

Villagers grilled county council representatives at a packed public meeting in Eynsham on Friday, with proposals for a park and ride, new bus lanes and dual carriageway extensions coming under scrutiny.

Many people left the meeting unconvinced that the scheme will ease congestion between Witney and Oxford, with 3,200 homes set to be built in the area in the next 12 years.

Read also: £180m plans unveiled to fix congested A40

Several residents reiterated their support for a Witney to Oxford railway, but Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for environment, said this was unrealistic.

She told the meeting: “The question is how best to use the funds that are available.

“I know there’s blue sky thinking about a light railway, but we don’t have the funds for that.”

She added: “There’s not a bottomless pot of money. We’re using the funding we can get hold of to improve things now.”

Read also: Councillors reject call to back Witney to Oxford rail line

Friday's meeting focused on phase one of the A40 proposals, which include a park and ride north west of Eynsham, an eastbound bus lane between Eynsham and the Duke's Cut canal bridge, near Wolvercote, and two sections of westbound bus lane.

Cycling and walking improvements were also included in the plans, which were submitted last month with a view to work starting as early as next spring.


Eynsham Parish Council chair, Gordon Beach, led the panel and was joined by Ms Constance, the county council's A40 project sponsor Raymond Cheung, and Charles Mathew, the county councillor for the division.

Mr Mathew said: “A40 bus lanes and dual carriageways will make little difference, therefore sums of up to £200m should be directed to better results.

“The current situation is untenable, let alone when 3,200 houses are built.”

He added: “The future of the garden village will depend on access.

“Let’s not waste taxpayers’ money on supporting the insupportable, but on blue sky thinking for the future.”

Read also: 'Listen to residents' views on garden village' - councillor

The 3,200 homes will be comprised of the 2,200-home Oxfordshire Cotswolds Garden Village, north of Eynsham, and 1,000 houses west of the village.

Up to 32,000 cars use the A40 every day, with business leaders describing the daily congestion as a barrier to economic growth in West Oxfordshire.

But many residents derided the upgrades as a 'waste of money', despite Ms Constance explaining more improvements would follow.

She said: “This is a first step we ask you to accept that it should be allowed to take place in order to make immediate improvements.”


The location of the park and ride also came under fire, with some residents arguing it should be nearer Witney to reduce the number of people driving to the facility.

Eynsham Parish Council raised this point in its online objections to the application, adding that a Witney to Eynsham bus lane should be installed first.

In March, the county council submitted a bid for £102m from the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which would deliver the next part of the scheme.

Read also: £102m bid could help deliver A40 upgrades

This includes extending the A40 dual carriageway from Witney to the proposed park and ride and extending eastbound and westbound bus lanes.

Mr Cheung admitted the plans had to stick to 'very narrow guidelines', but Nigel Pearce, a member of the Eynsham Planning Improvement Campaign (EPIC), said this was little consolation.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “It was good of them to come along but nothing is going to change.

“I don’t feel it's being looked at imaginatively. Working within certain limits is very frustrating but this isn’t being sufficiently questioned.

“For the people at the sharp end, this is a punishment. The garden village has been dumped on Eynsham."

The scheme forecasts 18 bus services per hour by 2031 and is designed to prevent drivers from west of Eynsham travelling to Peartree park and ride.


Hugh Jaeger, chairman of Bus Users Oxford and Witney Oxford Transport Group officer, supports the first phase of the scheme but has concerns over further upgrades.

He said: “Bus Users Oxford has always said bus priority, including bus lanes, would help the A40 between Witney and Oxford.

“We think the bus lane from Eynsham to Dukes Cut would be a good investment.

“However, our concerns are that the phase two proposals involve dualling the A40 between Eynsham and Witney, instead of adding bus lanes.

“This will increase car traffic near Eynsham and the B4044 and worsen the congestion they’re trying to solve. It’s going in the right direction but has to go further.”

Mr Beach told the meeting Witney MP Robert Courts declined an invitation to attend, but the MP said he had a 'long-standing prior diary commitment'.

Mr Courts revealed he intends to host an engagement exercise and public meeting on the garden village and A40 'in the near future'.