Park and Pride: Golden moment for Redbridge Park and Ride

Fiftieth anniversary celebrations for country's first permanent park and ride which opened in Oxford in 1973

A park and ride bus from 1978. Picture Oxford Civic Society

Oxford is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the country’s first permanent park and ride site.

On Monday, 10 December 1973, Redbridge began operating with a car park and dedicated bus service. Although experimental park and rides had been set up earlier – including one in Oxford at the Forte Motor Lodge on the A34 in the 1960s – Redbridge was the first permanent example of the pioneering transport management system.

Previous proposals for easing Oxford’s traffic congestion had included an inner relief road through Christ Church Meadow, which was rejected after a campaign opposing it. There were also calls for a giant commuter car park on Port Meadow, connecting to a water ferry on the Oxford Canal, but this didn’t materialise into a plan.

The success of Redbridge inspired Oxfordshire to create the largest park and ride system in the country, with 5,900 parking spaces at five sites on the outskirts of the city.

Oxford Parkway and Thornhill park and rides are run by Oxfordshire County Council, while Pear Tree, Seacourt and Redbridge are all operated by Oxford City Council.

The golden anniversary comes at an exciting time for the county’s bus industry, as the first of 159 electric buses start arriving as part of an £83.8 million deal – many of which will serve Oxford using the park and rides.

Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport Management, said: “It’s almost unthinkable now to imagine Oxford without its park and rides. They have become part of everyday life for so many people, providing a convenient and economical way to travel into the city centre and Oxford’s hospitals.”

This 371 bus was new in 1967 and would have been operating when the park and ride at Redbridge opened. Picture Oxford Bus Museum

Park and ride in numbers

  • Oxford Bus Company uses 28 buses each weekday on the three park and ride services it operates
  • These services (300, 400, 700) collectively travel 1,057,000 miles each year
  • They carry around four million passengers annually
  • Stagecoach runs up to 240 trips a day to and from Oxford Parkway Park and Ride and Oxford city centre, on routes 2 and 2A
  • In addition, it runs up to an extra 236 trips a day stopping just outside on Banbury Road on routes S4, S5 and S7, connecting Oxford Parkway with Oxford city centre
P&R plaque

Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Planning and Healthier Communities, Oxford City Council said: “Oxford has a proud history of leading transport innovations, and I am delighted that we are able to celebrate 50 years of park and ride services in our city. Our park and ride services have evolved over the years to cater to the changing needs of users. Imagine the number of car journeys into the city that have been saved over 50 years! 

“By using the park and ride service instead of driving, commuters and visitors are helping to reduce congestion on our roads, improve our air quality and support a faster, more reliable bus network.”

To continue to make the park and rides the first choice for visitors, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council, Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach introduced a joint ticketing and parking offer in 2022. Parking for up to 16 hours and return bus travel for one person costs just £4, while for two people it is £5.

With both options, up to three children under 16 can travel for free. The deal proved so popular that it was recently extended until April 2024.

Unlike many other park and rides around the country, Oxford’s are thriving again following the impact COVID-19 had on the bus industry and user numbers are close to pre-pandemic levels.

Luke Marion, Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company, said: "Myself and the team at Oxford Bus Company are very proud to have been involved in operating Oxford's world-leading park and ride system continuously for the past half a century. There have been major changes in the vehicles and technology we use on the service since it started 50 years ago, and the introduction of the new fleet of electric buses to the service is the latest step in this continuing evolution.

“With today's levels of traffic congestion, the park and ride is more important now than it has ever been. We look forward to developing the service further over the years to come, to support the continued development of our city.”

Redbridge itself has evolved and last year became home to Energy Superhub Oxford, Europe’s most powerful electric vehicle charging hub. The charging hub at the Abingdon Road site offers fast and ultra-rapid charging for 42 vehicles and is powered entirely by renewable energy.

Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director of Stagecoach West, said: “We’re delighted that Stagecoach have played our part in the longevity and success of the world’s first permanent park and ride scheme and to be able to toast its success over 50 years. It’s great to be part of a collaborative group of partners who have worked together to present the customer proposition for existing and new customers.

“We’re excited to take this as an opportunity to look forward to the introduction of the new electric vehicles on to the park and ride routes in 2024, along with the continuation of the combined parking and bus tickets, taking the scheme to another level and providing affordable and sustainable travel options to our residents and visitors."

Ian Green, Oxford Civic Society (OCS) Chairman, said: “Fifty years ago, persistent pressure and well-argued advice from OCS was instrumental in the council's decision to introduce the park and ride scheme. Oxford was only the second city in the country to do so and Redbridge was the first such site to be made permanent.

“The job of better managing traffic in our city is far from finished and we are proud of the vital role the park and ride sites continue to play.”