Cabinet makes Oxford transport decisions

Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet has approved plans which will see Queen Street in the busy city centre largely pedestrianised as part of an experimental traffic order.

The experimental traffic order now has to go to the Secretary of State for Transport for a final decision.

Cabinet has also approved a range of permanent traffic improvements in response to a number of developments in the city including, but not exclusively, the Westgate.

Improving conditions

The permanent measures are designed to improve conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport and will stay regardless of the conclusions drawn from the Queen Street experimental order.

When open, up to 750 buses used Queen Street each day – with 55 buses an hour going down Queen Street at peak times. The proposals approved today include provisions for buses to complete their journeys without having to use Queen Street.

Objections from Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach to the experimental closure of Queen Street mean that the experimental traffic regulation order can’t be implemented without the approval of the Secretary of State for Transport.

The matter will therefore now be referred to the Department for Transport, who have indicated that it will take six to eight weeks for the Secretary of State to reach a decision.

More people coming to Oxford

County Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Everyone stands to benefit from the opening of the Westgate centre and major developments in the city – more visitors potentially means more trade, more bus passengers and a chance for Oxford to again raise its profile nationally.

“Investment and growth in Oxford means more people coming to the city and using the roads. The things we are proposing are designed to improve capacity and safety.

“The experimental order and permanent measures are in response to current and future developments in the city, not just the Westgate.

“We appreciate that removing buses from Queen Street is a big change, but we feel that we need to test what we believe will be a safe environment for the expected increased number of pedestrians expected this year and in future years.

“Only by holding a trial can we get the information we need to consider the future arrangements for this important route – by seeking to hold the trial now we are erring on the side of pedestrian safety.

“We are well aware of the concerns raised by the bus companies and others about Queen Street and we will be monitoring the trial and seeking feedback throughout.”

Six-month consultation

The experimental period acts as a six-month long consultation, after which the council will decide whether to make the arrangement permanent.

If certain organisations such as bus companies object during the experimental period then the permanent order would be decided by an independent inspector through a public inquiry, even if the county council approves it.

Businesses on Queen Street will still be able to receive deliveries during specific time periods.

All the measures approved

The decision taken includes:

· Buses no longer using Queen Street as a through-route

· Changes to the George Street/Worcester St junction

· New zebra crossings on Park End Street, New Road and Worcester Street

· A new zebra crossing on Speedwell Street and St Aldates

· Additional bus stop and layover facilities on Hythe Bridge, Park End Street, High Street, St Aldates, Butterwyke Place and Thames Street/Old Greyfriars Street

· Amendments to loading and taxi bays on High Street

· New ‘no loading, waiting and stopping’ restrictions on High Street and St Aldates.