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Plans to tackle Oxford congestion unveiled

Words: Huw Morris

Proposals to reduce congestion on all key routes into Oxford have been revealed by the local authorities.

More than 60 per cent of all journeys into Oxford are by car, with the trend likely to continue as more jobs are created by the city’s thriving local economy. 

Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council said the increased demand would overburden the transport network, leading to more congestion unless steps are taken to change how people travel.

Latest figures show the number of journeys is on track to increase by 25 per cent between 2011 and 2031. In the first half of 2019, there were 65 days when speeds on at least one major road into Oxford fell to under 5mph during the morning rush hour.

Poor public transport connectivity to parts of Oxford means some of the area’s major employment sites have no direct bus service or connection to a park-and-ride site. This means using two or more bus services, which results in long journey times. 

The local authorities want to introduce ‘bus gates’ across the city, with a section of roads confined to buses, cycles and taxis. They are also proposing high-frequency, fast bus routes connecting neighbouring towns and park-and-rides to Oxford’s eastern arc – the area seeing the greatest growth in employment.

The measures include new and improved cycle and walking routes as well as a charge for workplace parking for larger employers in the eastern arc to fund the proposed transport improvements and create a disincentive to drive to work. Discounts for the new bus services would be available for staff of employers paying the workplace parking levy.

Employers within the area covered by the levy will be within a 10-minute walk or less from the new high-frequency bus routes. The councils will exempt organisations with fewer than 11 spaces.

The cost of the levy has not been calculated but a similar tax in Nottingham is £415 per workplace parking space a year.

“History shows that every 25 years or so Oxford needs a transformative change to its transport planning,” said Alex Hollingsworth, Oxford City Council cabinet member for planning and sustainable transport.

“In 1970, plans to knock down parts of Jericho and St Clements for roads and car parks were rightly abandoned; instead, we introduced the UK’s first park-and-rides. In the 1990s, we pedestrianised Cornmarket and put the bus gate in High Street to cut congestion in the city centre.

“We need another bold step to break the slow steady spiral of congestion and decline and instead create a virtuous cycle of improvement, with better public transport, safer cycling and cleaner air on our streets.’

The councils are now asking for comments from residents, commuters, businesses, transport operators and other organisations to feed into the detailed development of the proposals.

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