Westgate Centre car park to close at times of congestion

The Westgate Centre car park will be closed when it approaches full capacity to reduce congestion in Oxford city centre in the run-up to Christmas.

Oxfordshire County Council has introduced a temporary traffic regulation order (TTRO), which means the 1,000-space shopping centre car park can be closed when it becomes 90 per cent full, or the traffic queues on Thames Street or Oxpens Road, approaching the entrance, reach 10 minutes or more. The TTRO came into effect when lockdown measures were eased on Wednesday 2 December and shops, restaurants and some pubs were allowed to reopen under tier 2 restrictions.

Councillor Liam Walker, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Highways Delivery and Operations, said: “Over the past few months we have been working closely with the Westgate Centre to look at implementing some measures to help with reducing congestion in the city centre during the peak times.

“We recognise that visitors to the Westgate are also visitors to Oxford but we want them to have a better experience that doesn’t involve them sitting in long delays or congestion.”

This time last year, city centre traffic was subject to disruption as vehicles queueing to get into the Westgate Centre car park when it was already full caused heavy congestion. On some occasions, journeys from West Way in Botley to Thames Street were taking more than 40 minutes.

These measures were put into action last week and had a positive impact on reducing congestion in the city centre. They have been reviewed and dynamic decision-making has been introduced, based on congestion and overall parking capacity in the city.

To reduce congestion in the city centre during this busy period, Oxfordshire County and Oxford City Councils have joined forces to provide free parking at the city’s five park and ride sites until Sunday 27 December. Visitors will be able to take advantage of the offer at Redbridge, Pear Tree, Seacourt, Thornhill and Oxford Parkway.

All Park and Ride buses are deep-cleaned daily and customers are required to wear a face covering whilst on board, unless they are exempt. Seating is also reduced to ensure effective social distancing.

The bus journey time between Seacourt P&R and Westgate is only 10-15 minutes, even taking into account congestion, given the inbound bus lane on Botley Road. Any risk of exposure to Covid-19 is therefore extremely low, as has been suggested by industry research.

Since July, Government reversed its general advice against using public transport as restrictions on the retail and hospitality sectors began to be progressively released.

Oxfordshire County Council is also encouraging people to drive to the Park and Ride sites and then cycle or walk to their destination where possible, although this option is not suitable for everyone.

When the decision is made to close the Westgate car park, it will remain shut for at least four hours, and will only reopen if it is no more than 80 per cent full, and traffic delays on the surrounding road network are no longer than five minutes.

Cllr Walker added: “By putting stronger measures in place for when the Westgate car park is full we hope this will help to reduce delays and visitors will instead be encouraged to make use of the free parking we are offering at the park and ride sites in December.”

Motorists will be kept up to date with car park closure developments through the @OxonTravel Twitter account, media updates and signage at 11 locations around the city. The TTRO is expected to remain in place until early in the new year.

Anyone with mobility impairments can use the disabled parking bays situated at off-street car parks around the city centre, with additional disabled parking bays in Albion Place, St Ebbes Street and Littlegate Street.