County Council’s Cabinet postpones bus gates for Oxford city centre

In a decision taken by Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet, the proposed temporary city centre bus gates will not go ahead. Plans will focus instead on the proposals to address congestion and promote active travel choices under the council’s wider transport initiatives.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet considered the proposals, taking into account the range of views expressed in the recent bus gate survey and recommendations by county council officers.

The recommendation by the county’s transport planning officers is not to proceed with the two new temporary bus gates at present but to focus instead on other projects which will have major benefits to the city of Oxford.

What is a bus gate?

A bus gate is a form of access restriction or traffic filter that allows only buses, cyclists, emergency vehicles and other limited exempt users to access certain key roads between particular times of day.

Bus gates do not prevent access to areas of the city; their aim is to encourage modal shift to public transport, walking and cycling and to reduce the amount of traffic using the city centre as a through-route.

Bus gates have for some time been in operation in Oxford, including at High Street, George Street and Castle Street.

Proposal discussed by Cabinet

The proposal discussed by Cabinet was centred around plans to install temporary bus gates at:

  • Hythe Bridge Street or Worcester Street, between Frideswide Square and Beaumont Street
  • St Cross Road or South Parks Road, between Parks Road and Manor Road

The proposal for temporary bus gates was made early in the summer as part of measures put forward to assist Oxford’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and allow more road space for cyclists and pedestrians.

This was a measure put forward in addition to those Oxfordshire County Council has now successfully implemented to benefit active travel for residents under the first round of the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund.

The county council invited the public and stakeholders to take part in an online survey on the proposed temporary bus gates which ran between 28 July and 9 August 2020. In total, an exceptionally large response was received, with 7,266 completed surveys submitted. Officers and councillors from Oxfordshire County Council have thanked the public for the responses and the insightful feedback that was gained from them.

Developing other plans for Oxford

Extensive technical work (including traffic modelling), public and stakeholder consultation is planned over the next few months to progress and refine the proposals in Connecting Oxford for permanent bus gates, a workplace parking levy and specific measures to increase bus services.

Oxfordshire and Oxford City Councils will also progress the Zero Emission Zone proposals which were delayed by Covid-19.

In addition to Connecting Oxford and the Zero Emission Zone, the county council has extensive plans for sustainable active travel schemes in the next three years, amounting to an investment of £44.5 million. Oxfordshire County Council is also awaiting an announcement about the next stage of the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, which includes the county council’s bid for seven Low Traffic Neighbourhoods for Oxford.

The further schemes include:

    • £9.1m for Botley Road (Growth Deal/National Productivity Investment Fund/Developer Funding)
    • £12.5m for Woodstock Road (Growth Deal)
    • £10.6m for other cycling schemes in the city (Growth Deal)
    • Improvements to the A40 and A44 to assist travelling into the City by sustainable means
    • £339,000 for nine new Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) across the city to be decided this year to remove commuter parking from residential areas, with a further 17 zones in development (From a variety of funds)

Cllr Yvonne Constance, Cabinet member for Environment and Transport said:

“The current priority for the county council is to keep residents safe and to use our resources in a considered, effective and appropriate way to address both the pandemic as well as reducing congestion and improving air quality for Oxford in the longer term.”

“The Cabinet took into consideration the spectrum of views expressed in the bus gate survey as well as the detailed assessments and conclusions made by county council officers. I can assure residents and all stakeholders that in taking this Cabinet decision, Oxfordshire County Council remains wholly committed to improving transport by reducing congestion and emissions and it is important to address both in the most effective ways possible.”

“We are also working closely with Oxford City Council on the next generation of measures to improve transport in the city under the Connecting Oxford proposals. These will address issues of public transport and congestion reduction for the long term and will involve full consultation with residents, business and stakeholders to ensure the proposals are the right ones for the city. The need the city has is for permanent schemes which are fully consulted and assessed in preference to a temporary plan delivered in a rush."