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Milton Keynes Western Expansion Area public transport framework

Milton Keynes Western Expansion Area public transport framework

This project was a landmark in the development of Milton Keynes. It promoted a move away from the traditional Milton Keynes structure in favour of public transport oriented development (PTOD).

Milton Keynes urban structure bad for buses

The original grid road concept on which most of Milton Keynes was developed is fundamentally incompatible with the provision of high quality public transport. This is not because of a grid formation per se, but because of the particular configuration in Milton Keynes:

  • Grid roads spaced at 1 km intervals, which inevitably leaves a large percentage of the population further than 300 metres away from bus stops on the grid roads;
  • Grid roads that are designed for high speed traffic enclosing development "cells" that are relatively isolated. The internal road layouts within these cells are also mostly unsuited to efficient bus provision.

Breaking away from the grid

The plan for the western expansion area was based on a "city street" spine route designed to accommodate buses for direct and efficient operation, and also to be the focus for higher density development. The mix of land uses was arranged so that the most intensive activity was located closest to the bus stops.

For plans and other information on the western expansion area click here.

The masterplan and design coding for the Western Expansion Area further developed the city street and public transport corridor concepts and were adopted by the planning committee in 2008. For information on this see the Paul Drew Design website: click here.

The Halcrow report of 2005, which followed the project descibed here, also continued the "city street" principle (see pdf on the right). The eastern Expansion Area (Broughton) also includes a public transport "city street" spine, and by 2011 was under construction. This will provide a testbed to assess the functionality and popularity of this built form in Milton Keynes.

A return to the grid layout?

More recently the concept of the "city street" public transport spine, as developed for the Western Expansion Area (WEA), has fallen out of favour with Milton Keynes Council. The third Local Transport Plan (adopted June 2011), states that the "use of city streets in future Expansion Areas where planning permission has not already been approved" will not be taken forward. 

A return to the grid road system is advocated instead, even in the WEA where outline permission for about 6,500 homes was granted in 2007. The Council has negotiated with the latest consultants/developers who have agreed to reserve land to allow extension of grid roads through the development at some future date (see pdf of the agreement).

Transport structure determines the success of new development

Getting the movement and access structure of new areas right is fundamental to their success. A road network, once laid down, will endure for hundreds of years. Watling Street, for example, which separates the WEA from the rest of Milton Keynes is a Roman Road!

An article for RUDI based on this project can be viewed here.
LocationMilton Keynes England
Client(s)Milton Keynes Council, Milton Keynes Partnership
Team(s)Tim Pharoah with FaberMaunsell


Urban expansion, urban extension, growth area, expansion area, public transport planning, transit planning, public transport oriented development, PTOD, transit oriented development, TOD, Milton Keynes, western expansion area