Options for new Oxford transport arrangements unveiled

Transport experts have come up with radical ideas to tackle congestion in Oxford, which is projected to get worse unless action is taken.

The options focus on improving bus services, extending dedicated cycle-paths and increasing pavement space for everyone who lives, works and visits Oxford.

Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council commissioned the consultants’ reports after recognising that doing nothing was not an option and radical thinking was needed.

Thriving city with growing transport demands

Oxford is a successful city in a thriving county. In 2016 there were 161,300 people living in Oxford but that figure is to rise to at least 185,000 by 2036 with urban extensions potentially adding an extra 37,000.

There is predicted to be a 25% growth in city centre journeys by 2031 and the present levels already challenge the city’s transport infrastructure.

As a result, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council have been considering how best to respond to these challenges working with specialist consultants and stakeholder groups from across the city.

Councils working together

Both councils are committed to ensuring that Oxford is able to benefit from this growth – and making sure people can get around as efficiently as possible is seen as key to making this happen.

Phil Jones Associates and ITP (Integrated Transport Planning) were commissioned last year to look at ‘movement and public realm’ – or how a first-rate public realm can be achieved in Oxford city centre while also improving how people get around by bus, cycle or on the pavement.

After detailed research, and following an initial stakeholder event in October 2017, a number of initial options have now been drawn up for consideration.

Bold options

The consultants’ have outlined bold options for traffic-restricted one-way streets in the city centre which would release substantial road space for cycling and the public realm while maintaining accessibility.

These low-traffic streets would involve:

  • One-way movement of buses
  • Two way movement of cyclists, using segregated facilities
  • Significant pavement widening and public realm improvements
  • One-way movement of access traffic

The aim is to more fairly use the limited space available in Oxford city centre, with more space available for cyclists and pedestrians.

These options are being presented for debate, with no preferred option identified at this stage.

Further discussions will also be held between the city council and the county council on how these, or potentially other proposals, might be taken forward following the consultants’ report.

Ultimately the consultants’ options and any recommendations are intended to inform the city council’s emerging Local Plan 2036 and a future update of the county council’s Oxford Transport Strategy.

The options complement the proposed Zero Emission Zone and the proposed demand management options, including a Congestion Charge and Workplace Parking Levy. This reduction in demand will enable the traffic flows envisioned in the new transport options.

Longer term, the county council has proposed a range of options for getting in and around Oxford in 2050, including bus tunnels under the city centre.

County Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet member for Environment and Economy, Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The number of journeys being made in Oxford city centre are continuing to rise due to continued growth and the present levels already challenge the city’s transport infrastructure.

“The county and city councils share the same aims for Oxford when it comes to getting people around Oxford efficiently, improving air quality, reducing congestion and protecting and enhancing the city’s internationally renowned heritage and public realm

“The options would complement plans for a zero emission zone plans will see improvements in air quality in Oxford in the coming years.

“Nothing has been decided yet but any views people may have at this early stage are welcomed.”

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning & Regulatory Services, Oxford City Council, said: “Whether you live or work here or just visit Oxford, I think it is clear to everyone that we have run out of room for the volume of traffic, cyclists and pedestrians in the city’s medieval streets. With the expected growth in the population over the years ahead set to increase congestion, we will need to take action to reduce traffic in the city centre and reclaim more of its space for people.

“There are no easy solutions, which is why, working with the county council, we asked experts to come up with some bold and innovative thinking about how we might balance all the needs – reducing traffic volumes, improving bus journeys, maintaining access and increasing safety for cyclists and pedestrians. We are keen to hear views on their findings.”