Changes to Oxford’s bus network aimed at securing services

The result of a major review of Oxford’s bus network, carried out to secure services in the face of an unprecedented set of challenges, has been announced today (Thursday 25 November).

Oxfordshire County Council worked closely with Oxford’s main bus providers on the review, which was prompted by lower than usual passenger numbers, reduced government funding, and a national shortage of driving staff. It looked at how best to balance the available resources with the areas of greatest need.

As recommended in the government’s national bus strategy, the council worked proactively with operators to identify opportunities for greater efficiencies through the reduction of unnecessary duplication, with the aim of placing the network on a more secure financial footing while minimising impact on passengers. The changes will come into effect in the new year.

Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said: “The bus companies have done astonishingly well to maintain services during these unprecedented times, but government decisions and the pandemic have created a perfect storm and our local operators have had to act. They need to counter the reduction in government funding, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on passenger numbers, and the challenging situation for recruitment of bus drivers.

“We are pleased to have been able to get the parties together to sort out a coordinated approach to tackle these issues facing the bus companies. Public transport is key to our plans to get more people out of their cars. That is why we need to first get the network on to a more secure financial footing while we try to secure £56 million from the government’s national bus strategy fund to improve services in the long term.”

Among the most significant changes will be a more integrated approach to services on the main radial corridors from north and south Oxford, with a single operator providing the principal bus services to Kidlington (route 2) and Rose Hill (route 3). Routes to the city centre from Littlemore and Greater Leys will also be consolidated to provide a more sustainable level of service better matched to passenger numbers.

The dedicated park and ride 500 service from Woodstock and Oxford Parkway will no longer run. However, Stagecoach service 7 will divert into the park and ride site to provide the same frequency. Additional services operate from bus stops on Oxford Road every few minutes for most of the day, a short walk from the car park.

Services between Oxford, Abingdon, Harwell Campus and Wantage will also change, with new Thames Travel routes X1 and 34 replacing Stagecoach service S8 and 34.

There will also be an improved Stagecoach S9 service between Wantage and Oxford with an increased frequency during the daytime, in the evenings and on Sundays. This follows significant housing development in the area and a tendering process overseen by the county council.

Phil Southall, Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company, said: “We very much appreciate the proactive approach taken by Oxfordshire County Council in seeking to support operators to stabilise the bus network in the county in what continue to be very difficult times for the public transport industry. The changes announced today will secure the future of many important routes and will also see several new journey possibilities opened up for bus users.

“Three in four bus users in Oxfordshire have now returned to travelling by bus after the COVID-19 restrictions have lifted, and we are looking forward to seeing more customers returning in the new year, as well as to welcoming new customers to our services in the near future.”

Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director of Stagecoach West, said: “We are encouraged to see more of our customers return, however we have to be realistic and address the effects that COVID-19 has had on how and when our customers travel into and around the city.

“Stagecoach is very much still in support of the Oxford SmartZone scheme to provide flexibility of ticket offering for customers. We have welcomed the opportunity to engage with Oxfordshire County Council to consider and agree alternative solutions to how we operate our routes. We will be sad to say goodbye to some of our most loyal customers and know that our drivers will be equally disappointed as they have been proud to serve our customers in the areas we will no longer be operating in.”

Most changes will take place from 2 January 2022. Further details of the review, including timetables, maps and information on any ticket changes or refunds that may be required, can be found at the operator websites:

The council’s public transport team is also available to respond to queries at public.transport@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Click Sign up to hear from us and receive the latest news and updates thanks to our fortnightly newsletter, Your Oxfordshire.