Getting ready for the new Oxford Westgate
The following is part of a joint press release issued with The Crown Estate, Landsec, Oxford Bus Company, Westgate Oxford, Stagecoach in Oxfordshire and Oxford City Council
12 October 2017 – The Westgate Oxford Alliance, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council and bus operators Oxford Bus and Stagecoach have taken a collaborative approach to Oxford travel over the development of Westgate. Today, they reveal a sustainable approach to travel which focuses on consumer experience and minimising disruption to the city centre for visitors, residents and commuters, as the first day of opening approaches on 24 October 2017.
Over several years, transport and access has played a major role in the development of Westgate starting with the Alliance’s in-depth Transport Assessment. This formed part of the Outline and Reserved Matters application which helped to understand the unique aspects of Oxford’s road network, together with the Highways Authority.
The planning of new bus priority routes and stops are the result of a close working relationship between the parties, established during the design and planning phase. This collaboration has continued as preparations for opening take place, with all parties working to encourage the use of local bus and Park and Ride services and increase the proportion of people walking, cycling and using public transport.
Research has also been carried out on many different aspects of accessing Westgate Oxford, the results of which have informed a strategy to improve aspects of the Park and Ride as well as other transport and access initiatives.
Measures include new centre opening times, with the shops at Westgate opening from 10am until 8pm to help spread the impact of shopper traffic and avoid a clash with those commuting earlier in the day.
Park and Ride
Led by Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council, improvements to five of the city’s Park and Ride stations (Thornhill, Redbridge, Seacourt, Peartree and Oxford Parkway) will allow for easy travel into Oxford to experience a full day out, both at Westgate and in the rest of the city.
The improvements include a single ticket solution to cover parking costs and the bus fare when coming into the city centre. The single fare ticket, costing £6.80, will cover parking for one car plus two adults and three children traveling by bus. Tickets will be available from new ticket machines being installed at all sites making it quicker and more convenient to travel. However, customers will still be able to purchase a separate ticket for their parking at the existing standard tariffs.
More broadly 11 new bus stops will serve Westgate and the City. New shelters will drop off and pick up visitors on the new public realm along the bus priority route at Norfolk Street, Castle Street and Speedwell Street.
The recently introduced Park and Ride buses with their distinctive purple P&R branding have informed the design of new signage making it easier for visitors to identify their stops. Park and Ride buses have also been fitted with new screens to give information on the stops along the routes.
Those making their way into the city centre on two wheels can enjoy the use of one of 1000 new bike spaces at Westgate Oxford, available for visitors and shoppers in addition to cycle parking for staff. This will include a Cycle Hub on Old Greyfriars St to provide safe, secure indoor cycle parking. Access to
Westgate Oxford by bike will be easy from all directions and parking spread around the site. Cycle stands will be actively managed to ensure they are kept free from abandoned bikes.
Ahead of opening, a new look Westgate Oxford website will provide transport information and animations including an easy-to-use journey planner. There will be live updates on car park capacity, bus timetables and Park and Ride information.
A staff intranet will make information available on travel options for centre management staff and those working in the stores and restaurants.
Visitors can find further information about getting to Westgate Oxford before the launch of the new website here: https://westgateoxford.co.uk/your-visit/getting-here1
Parking and Signage
Newly installed County Council variable message signs before the Park and Ride sites will display the number of parking spaces available within the city centre. There will also be additional temporary signage on the roads to help new visitors find their way over the launch period.
Where car use is still preferred by shoppers, electric vehicles will be accommodated with 50 charging stations. The car park will have individual bay markers to make finding empty spaces quick and easy.
The Oxpens car park next to the ice rink will also be open for visitors to the city centre until December 2018.
There will be new real-time information screens allowing people to find out the timings of their bus and train journeys from inside Westgate. There will be screens at Middle Square adjacent to Westgate Social and on the roof terrace. There will also be additional screens on Castle Street and Norfolk Street. Customer relations staff inside Westgate will also have access to this information.
Meet-and-Greeters will be at Westgate and at the Park and Ride sites to help those visitors making the journey to Westgate for the first time with information on bus stops, routes, timings and other journey planning queries. The Park and Ride bus drivers have also been trained to help them answer passenger queries on Westgate.
A good working relationship has already been set up between the Centre Management, more specifically the car park manager and those at the County Council’s traffic control room, so that there are open channels of communication to allow any useful messaging to be shared with shoppers or those planning their journey on the website. County Highways will have staff at Westgate on the opening to assist with easy management of traffic.
Owen Jenkins, Director for Infrastructure Delivery at Oxfordshire County Council said: “How people travel to and from Westgate Oxford is going to be critical to its success. We have therefore supported its opening by putting in place a number of key measures, particularly those that encourage sustainable transport use.
“These include promoting public transport use with new bus stops beside Westgate, improving the visibility of Park & Ride with new signs, promoting cycling to the centre, and introducing electronic signs on the highways with changeable messages advising drivers of traffic flow and parking availability at the centre.”
Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Oxford City Council’s Board Member for Planning and Regulatory Services, said: “When the new Westgate Centre opens, visitor numbers will increase and many will be first time visitors to the city. It is essential that we make every effort to ensure that everyone has a positive experience.
“To ensure that Park and Ride remains a more attractive option than parking in the city centre, we’ve worked with our partners to implement a single ticket solution for the Park & Ride sites, which will be operational in time for the opening of Westgate Oxford.”
Phil Southall, Managing Director, Oxford Bus Company said: "The Park & Ride service operating from five sites around the edge of the City is the gateway to the city and these services complement our extensive local network, offering a value for money way to visit Oxford.
"Recently we invested almost £8m to ensure our fleet of buses remains market leading for our passengers, providing innovative new features and enhanced comfort. The Oxford Bus Company is proud to be playing such an important role in this exciting time for the city."
Martin Sutton, Managing Director, Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, said: "Buses have a vital role to play in getting people into the City and to Westgate Oxford, and we are delighted to have been able to work closely with partners to achieve a range of transport solutions. Stagecoach has recently invested £7.8m in 35 new double deck buses with the latest low emissions engine technology, WiFi, USB and contactless payment, to provide more seats on the busiest routes. We have also invested in improvements to our longer distance Stagecoach Gold services with extra evening, Saturday and Sunday buses to make it easier to access Westgate Oxford for an evening out or a weekend visit. We look forward to playing our part enabling people throughout Oxfordshire to visit Westgate Oxford and contributing to the City's continued success."
Sara Fuge, Development Manager for the Westgate Oxford Alliance said: “Oxford provides the perfect day out for visitors and we’re excited that Westgate will soon form part of that. We have been working closely with both the County and City Councils and bus companies for several years to create practical and sustainable travel options for visitors to the city, ensuring they are convenient and attractive to staff and visitors to Westgate. We will continue to work closely with each other on travel matters post opening.
“Part of our plans for launch have been to test the new Park and Ride services with local families to ensure they meet the needs of visitors heading in to the city centre. We expect our plans to continue to evolve following the opening of Westgate in October, and based on feedback we receive from visitors and retailers, to ensure we continue to promote a range of options for all.”
Main image: Bus stops in the city centre.