This month I have met with Ministers in Westminster to discuss two important local issues: health care and rail links.
I met with Andrew Jones the Rail Minister, alongside his officials and Network Rail and Great Western. The Minister and I led discussions focussing on improvements along the Great Western Railway line, the potential for reopening Grove Station as part of a strategic project to develop commuter stations between Oxford and Bristol, and improved connectivity between Heathrow Airport and stations to the west, so one might travel direct to Heathrow from Reading for example rather than having to into London and then back out to Heathrow. I will be looking at the East West Rail scheme and the Cotswold Line Promotion Group for inspiration on how to build a business case for improvements to commuter services between Oxford and Bristol and hope that colleagues in Parliament with stations along that route might join me.
I also met with Health Minister Caroline Dinenage. Alongside colleagues from Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Oxford Health and Vale of White Horse District Council, the Minister and I led discussions on how we could improve primary care provision in the constituency. We discussed the ongoing situation in Wantage as well as our plans to develop new health hubs, both at an improved health centre in Wantage and plans for a new health hub in Didcot.
In the constituency I have met with a number of residents and local businesses this month, including meeting with GPs in Wantage, The Thames Valley Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, residents of Alfredston Place in Wantage who are receiving poor service from their managing agent, and a visit to the Environmental Education Centre in Sutton Courtenay hosted by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust. I was also delighted to join local charity Mission Motorsport at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea to celebrate the launch of their new initiative Mission Automotive.
Highways England and the Secretary of State for Transport have been examining options for the location of the new Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, and have narrowed it down to one broad corridor. Within this, there are up to one hundred specific routes the road could take. Highways England will be engaging with communities and local organisations along the corridor throughout 2019 and 2020 before announcing their preferred route in Autumn 2020.
There is also an opportunity here to include the A420 in the plans, which would take the route to the West of Oxford and add connectivity to Swindon, a considerable bonus. I also hope that this road can help relieve pressure on the A34, which is not currently fit for purpose and badly needs better infrastructure to support it.
I’ve no doubt that like me many of you were shocked and surprised to see an article in the
6 February edition of the Herald titled ‘Oxfordshire physiotherapy private contract fiasco exposed in full.’ I have been trying for some time to lead efforts to coordinate between the different health care managers and providers, hosting roundtable meetings and leading discussions on how to move forward in providing the correct services that residents require. Therefore, I’ll continue to lobby hard locally and in Parliament for better healthcare. I am meeting Ministers in the Department of Health and Social Care to discuss these important issues and will continue to engage locally as well.
It was a great pleasure to plant a tree as part of the Woodlands Trust Commonwealth Canopy Project at the Sylva Foundation and receive a tour of their fantastic establishment. I’ve also met recently with a delegation from local parish councils to discuss improvements to the A420 and attended a working session of 'Didcot First' at Milton Park to hear updates about the local economy, businesses and community actions.