CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed a report suggesting a new £3bn Oxford to Cambridge expressway will not plough through green belt land.

Three routes are being considered for the expressway – two of which would create new roads south of the city running through green belt land.

But the National Infrastructure Commission report into the Oxford to Cambridge corridor, published last Friday, said the expressway should be ‘closely linked’ to East-West Rail, giving hope to villagers across South Oxfordshire.

The Expressway Action Group – which contains representatives of 23 villages and parishes in the county – welcomed the comments in the 91-page report.

The group’s co-ordinator, Peter Rutt, said: “There is a lot to digest but we particularly welcome the commission’s findings that the expressway route should be closely linked to the East-West Rail Link via Bicester, Bletchley and Bedford.

“The implications of the report clearly favour a route along an improved A34 to Bicester to maximise transport improvement, and help to minimise the immense damage to the environment, green belt, rural villages and communities, which a southern route across open country would cause.”

The first option, which campaigners say the report recommends, would upgrade the A34 and junction nine of the M40 and then run past Bicester towards Milton Keynes.

The second would mean a new road, which would leave the A34 near Abingdon then run through 10 miles of the green belt south of Oxford.

The third option would mean a new road south of Oxford, running through Thame, Haddenham and Aylesbury.

The route has not been finalised, as Highways England pointed out last month that it is too early into work to know whether the options are viable.

That led to criticism from campaigners, who said they wanted be given the chance to give their views over the three options.

At that time Mr Rutt said: “Oxfordshire deserves to be consulted on a project which would massively affect its residents’ quality of living.

"Without a full public inquiry to examine the environmental, housing and amenity impact of each Expressway route, we could end up with the worst of all outcomes. “

An agreement on the final route could still be some way off, as the National Infrastructure Committee called for it to be finalised by 2025, and built by 2030.

An expressway is different to a motorway because it links two specific destinations.

A report last November found the expressway could reduce journey times between the M4 and M1 by 40 minutes.