Welcome to Gavray Drive, Bicester’s very own road to nowhere. It is fairly wide and could be a fast road, but remains fairly quiet. Popular with learner drivers it doesn’t go anywhere much and doesn’t have any addresses. Yet it does have an interesting name. Gavray is a village in Normandy, France. But why is a road in Bicester named after a Norman village? The reason is not obvious but it relates to twin towns. Bicester has four twin towns – Canton des Essarts (France), Neunkirchen Seelscheid (Germany), Czernichow (Poland) and most recently in 2009 Novi Ligure (Italy). However, Gavray is not one of them being twinned with the neighbouring village of Launton.
Twin Town Conundrum
Parts of the ring road are named after two of Bicester’s twin towns, even if the connections are a bit confusing. The A4421 dual carriageway section by Langford Village is named both Neunkirchen Way and Seelscheid Way (opposite carriageways have different names so it is perhaps fortunate there are no addresses)! The newest section of the B4030 by Kingsmere is named Vendee Drive (after Canton des Essarts, which happens to be in the Vendee region of France).
But Gavray Drive doesn’t link to Launton although it probably should. Could its name be a clue to future plans? The road looks far more important that it really is but ends at a gate with some palisade fencing next to a railway line.
When the Gavray was built in the 1980s, my understanding is that it was due to be linked to Launton Road. There would likely have been a level crossing similar to the one at Charbridge Lane. But British Gas, who owned the land on Launton Road where Jubilee Close and Aldi are now, didn’t want to sell and a connection was never made.
But there must surely have been some plans and some costings, even if way out of date by now. So why, when land at Launton Road and Gavray Drive came up for development, did none of the authorities think to get those plans out? At the very least, the planners could have either safeguarded a route for a road (maybe on a different alignment), or made the developers provide some money towards linking the roads.
No Joined-up Thinking
The planners haven’t helped by allowing Wickes, Aldi and new housing developments along that part of Launton Road without a plan to connect Gavray Drive. No joined up thinking – literally! Had the roads been linked, the railway would have had to replace the level crossing with a bridge – at their expense. Now there is a railway junction – Gavray Junction – at the end of Gavray Drive. This is where the west to south chord railway line that opened in 2015 leaves the Oxford to Bletchley line. It joins the Chiltern Main Line at Bicester South Junction providing a new through route to London Marylebone.
As it is, Gavray Drive is the road to (almost) nowhere. It has been pretty much left to rot over the years and was probably the worst road in Bicester, little better than a farm track with potholes and a road surface giving a journey like a roller-coaster. Meanwhile a tunnel to replace the level crossing at London Road now looks likely to cost in excess of £60 million.
I still think there is space to put in a bridge that would link Gavray Drive to Launton Road. There is a gap between Aldi and Wickes and the land off Gavray Drive has not been built on – yet. But it would need some strategic planning and joined up thinking as there are plans for housing where a road could go.