CAMPAIGNERS are pressing the Government to extend its £3.5bn proposed fast road between Cambridge and Oxford to Swindon, claiming it could cut the overall cost of the scheme.

The Expressway Action Group, which represents villages in Oxfordshire, is demanding a public inquiry into the route, which it believes should pass north of Oxford and involve upgrading the existing A34.

It is also calling for the A420 to be upgraded, effectively linking the expressway to the M4 at Swindon and a major manufacturing area with employers like Honda, Intel and Dyson.

The group’s co-ordinator Peter Rutt said: “We want Government to look at this opportunity and ask Highways to model Swin/Ox as part of their overall Expressway study, because it could make a big difference to all our communities and deliver a better national asset.

“This is also why we want a public inquiry as planners are being rushed to make conclusions without having time to openly and democratically explore all the options.”

The group is concerned that a route that takes traffic south of Oxford is set to be recommended and fears it means higher costs, fewer opportunities for job creation and the loss of an opportunity to link up with the A420 and the route to Swindon.

“All we are being offered are consultations which really are just sops to keep us quiet. It is quite clear they intend to only have a full debate when they have already chosen the actual corridor the Expressway will take,” said Mr Rutt.

“This is not democracy in action. The EAG’s 30 parishes all want a transparent process with all corridor independently examined.”

The group points out part of the A420 are already dual carriageway and improving the road would encourage HGVs and other traffic to head that way rather than going via Newbury and the A34 because it would be almost 20 miles shorter and avoid some of the busiest sections of the M4.

It would offer a direct and fast link between the M11 and the M4, less pollution for the West Country, fewer vehicles on the M4 between Swindon and Newbury and access to large new housing developments which were more affordable than Oxfordshire.

But the group is concerned that the brief for the project does not include a study of the A420 and a possible link to the expressway.

“We encourage the Department for Transport to consider the economic, transport and housing gains this could deliver, & to ask highways to include the A420 Swin/Ox upgrade in their expressway best options study as a matter of urgency,” said the group in a statement this week.

A Highways England spokesman said: “Highways England has been given £27 million to fund development of the options for an expressway to better link Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge.

“This will enable the options for this expressway to be developed in greater detail, including further analysis, environmental surveys, stakeholder engagement and a consultation that will be open for all of those with an interest in this work to take part in to help shape our decision.”