Buses to return to Queen Street later in October
A reduced number of buses will return to Queen Street in Oxford when the new Westgate centre opens in October.
The Secretary of State is yet to make a decision on whether to approve Oxfordshire County Council’s proposed experimental closure of Queen Street to buses, so the county council is working closely with the major bus operators on plans that will see around half the number of buses that previously used the route return in time for the opening of the £500m shopping centre.
The county council had previously hoped to introduce an experimental traffic order that would mean no buses would travel along Queen Street. However, the final decision on the experimental order rested with the Secretary of State for Transport.
The Department for Transport (who advise the Secretary of State) consider that monitoring should be undertaken with the new centre open and with buses and pedestrians present before an experimental order is introduced.
County Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet member for Environment, said: “I am pleased that we are able to say definitively now what will be happening on Queen Street when the Westgate opens.
“Clearly the county council wanted Queen Street to be pedestrianised when the centre opened, but the main thing now is that everyone is getting behind what is actually going to happen to make it work.
“Our view was that it was best to collect data on pedestrian numbers and bus journey times during an experimental closure, but we accept the Department for Transport’s request to do this with Queen Street open to buses.
“Despite having different views on what should happen we have continued to work with the major bus companies and will continue to talk.”
Oxford Bus Company Managing Director, Phil Southall, said: "This is a positive and welcome step forward for the city and the people we serve.
"A period of monitoring with significantly less buses in Queen Street is a sensible move and we look forward to examining the findings further in the future.
"Our staff have responded quickly to the situation, worked closely with key stakeholders and taken the right steps to ensure our services will be routed appropriately when Queen Street reopens to buses.
"Bus stop allocations have also been revised to allow us to deliver the very best service to our customers to give them the best access to the City Centre as possible"
"We look forward to the opening of the Westgate and playing a key role in transporting people in and out of the city."
Martin Sutton, Managing Director of Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, said: "This is good news and we are now able to plan ahead and can give clear information about buses in advance of the new Westgate opening in a few weeks time.
"We are finalising details of routes and which stop services will depart from in the City Centre, and we will be publishing details within the next week.
"We will be running extra buses on a number of routes and we look forward to playing our part working with stakeholders and partners to make the Westgate a great success.”
Sara Fuge, Development Manager for the Westgate Oxford Alliance said: “We look forward to a clear outcome on the pedestrianisation of Queen Street in due course. We hope that buses on Queen Street won't deter new visitors to Westgate from venturing into the rest of the city.”
There will be a reduction in the number of buses using Queen Street from 55 to 29 per hour when it is fully reopened and a number of new stops are being installed ahead of the Westgate opening. The bus companies will be publicising updated information for passengers soon.
Some elements of the original county council proposals will be implemented including the bus stop Bonn Square being removed.
Taxis and private hire vehicles will not be permitted to use Queen Street after Westgate opens. New taxi ranks are being created in Cornmarket Street and Old Greyfriars Street.
There will be no changes to access arrangements for cyclists or deliveries.
The county council and bus companies will keep Queen Street under close review to ensure it is working effectively.