The Arc between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge has been identified as an economic asset of international standing with potential for significant growth to the benefit of local communities and the country as a whole. Realising this potential will require new ways of working between business, local stakeholders and Government so that the benefits of growth can be delivered for local people and the country whilst protecting and enhancing the natural environment. Ensuring that the advantages of development are delivered in a way which enhances sustainability and resilience will require major innovations in networked services such as transport, energy and water.
Collaborations between UKCRIC partner universities and the Arc Universities Group (AUG)—a network of universities between Oxford and Cambridge—include explorations of railway-soil dynamic interactions (Southampton and Bristol), assessing property value as a function of new rail and road routes (UCL and the National Infrastructure Commission), substrate vulnerability to clogging in road runoff (Newcastle and Sheffield), and creating robots to conduct street works (Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol).
Rail: To support East-West Rail, a joint workshop with UKCRIC in 2019 resulted in the prioritisation of several research activities to underpin delivery of a more sustainable East-West rail link. Two of these were delivered in early 2020 via post-graduate group design projects at Cranfield University:
Solar energy for East-West Rail concluded that a maximum of 22% of the total system demand could be covered by solar sources. The analysis included assessment of the potential solar power contribution from two novel technologies; solar sleepers (particularly useful to provide electricity to the signal lights) and solar panels on train roofs.
Reducing Carbon emissions during track construction identified and quantified the various ways in which East- West Rail could achieve net zero carbon in its track capital delivery programme. The use of new construction materials and techniques as well as of recovered materials from other sectors provided novel options to reduce embedded carbon values.
Water: UKCRIC is working with the two regional water planning bodies whose geographical remits cover the Arc—Water Resources East and Water Resources south East—to identify and develop multi-sector collaborative solutions. This will ensure that the region has sufficient water resources to support a flourishing economy and thriving environment, in addition to providing water for communities.
Contributions include analysing future agricultural water consumption and assessing supply demand balances across the region’s many catchments.
Air quality: Cranfield’s rapid study of air quality throughout the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Arc utilized the data collected through their urban observatory. UKCRIC operates six urban observatories which are collecting vast amounts of open access data on parameters such as infrastructure condition, air quality, noise, and traffic flows. These facilities are designed to capture the complex interrelations and interactions of engineered systems with the environment, people and the economy. Learn more about the UKCRIC Urban Observatories.
Infrastructure planning with DAFNI: The Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC), the precursor of DAFNI developed models, scenario analysis and geospatial design methodologies that can help to explore and inform choices about how the Arc will be developed. They provided a multi-scale infrastructure systems analytics assessment based around three contrasting growth scenarios for new dwellings within the Arc, together with the development of the road and rail networks between Oxford and Cambridge (see report).