Oxford

Autonomous cars included in Didcot garden town plan

Garden line Image copyright South Oxfordshire District Council
Image caption The £35m route for autonomous vehicles would link the town centre to the Harwell and Culham campuses.

A dedicated road for driverless cars forms part of a £620m masterplan to transform Didcot in Oxfordshire.

Although the "garden line" would initially be a walking and cycling route, it could be used for autonomous vehicles from 2026.

It is one of a number of infrastructure proposals revealed by the plan, which also includes a new railway station.

The measures are to accommodate more than 15,000 new homes due to be built as part of the Didcot garden town plan.

Garden town status, which opens the door to government support, was awarded to Didcot in December 2015. Towns where more than 10,000 homes are being built can apply.

As well as long term projects like the route for autonomous vehicles, Didcot's plan outlines a series of "early priorities" which the council said could be achieved in the "few years following 2017".

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Media captionDriverless cars have been tested on some roads in England

They include a town and region-wide strategy for cycling, improving public spaces in the town centre, a public art strategy, and a science and arts festival.

The garden line linking Didcot's town centre to Harwell Campus and Culham Science Centre would require £35m if it was to be used by autonomous vehicles.

The UK government has committed about £100m in total towards autonomous driving projects and has said it wants Britain to "lead the way in developing" the tech.

A number of trials in the UK have also been carried out, but the vehicles are yet to become a common feature of England's roads.

Image copyright South Oxfordshire District Council
Image caption The proposed garden line would be used by autonomous vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists

John Cotton, South Oxfordshire District Council leader, said the investment planned would "transform" Didcot.

"We want to make sure we are in a fit state to cope when Didcot is a bigger town in the next 10 or 20 years," he added.

More than 10,000 of the 15,050 homes set out in the garden town bid already have planning permission, or consent in principle.

Valley Park near Harwell would receive the greatest number of homes, with 4,254 earmarked for the area.

South Oxfordshire District Council and Vale of White Horse District Council have started a consultation on the masterplan, which will conclude on 31 July 2017.

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