The Thames Valley area

The Thames Valley Area - context for risk evaluationlogo


The Thames Valley comprises a geographical area covering the unitary local authorities of Berkshire and Milton Keynes, and the county and district local authorities of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. It has over 2 million residents, with significant ethnic minority populations and a high concentration of universities and colleges creating a seasonal student population.


The Thames Valley consists of several cities, towns and villages, and rural countryside of woodlands, heaths, downs and agricultural land. In general terms the area is more urbanised in the east, more rural in the west and north. The area is one of the driest regions in the UK and thus vulnerable to water shortages. Conversely the Thames and a large network of other river systems are historically prone to flooding, which remains a significant risk for many parts of the area.

Source: Environment Agency


The Thames Valley is a major economic centre, both within the UK and Europe. Economic activity is largely focussed on high-tech services and knowledge-based industries, including telecommunications, software, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, R&D, business services, distribution, and retailing. Most major international corporations are represented in the area, and it also has a strong entrepreneurial culture with a high density of businesses per capita. Whilst economic resilience, innovation and adaptation are key features of the Thames Valley's economic and business activity, in common with other economic centres it remains susceptible to national and global economic disruption.

Source: Thames Valley Economic Partnership


The area has a large concentration of key transport infrastructure serving the Thames Valley, London and cross-country routes. Major motorways and trunk routes include the M1, M3, M4, A329 (M) and M40, and the A40, A34, A5 and A4. A significant majority of rail routes to the south, west, midlands, and north of the UK transit through the Thames Valley. The area borders Heathrow Airport and a number of flight paths transit overhead the region. As a result of the concentration of transport infrastructure, disruptions caused by accidents, weather or other reasons can have a significant impact on local communities.

Several canals, including the Grand Union and the Kennet and Avon, cross the area. The main use of the canals and the River Thames is leisure.

The area contains major retail and leisure sites, in addition to tourist attractions of world renown such as Windsor Castle and Oxford, which attract large gatherings of local people and visitors.

The Thames Valley contains a number of military and other government sites.