Bus companies raise concerns over plans to remove Oxford bus lanes in favour of cycle lanes

·3-min read
Cycle lanes in Oxford. Picture: Richard Cave
Cycle lanes in Oxford. Picture: Richard Cave

BUS companies have expressed concerns over plans to remove a bus lane in favour of creating segregated cycle lanes.

Oxfordshire County Council is hoping to improve active travel and public transport routes along the Woodstock Road corridor into the city centre.

The ‘corridor’ covers the area from the Wolvercote Roundabout to Green Templeton College on St Giles.

Phil Southall, who is managing director of the Oxford Bus Company, told the Oxford Mail:

“We fully support the ambition of Oxfordshire County Council to achieve modal shift from individual transport to both active travel and public transport.

“However, we can’t support the Woodstock Road proposals as they currently stand as to create the room to improve the infrastructure for cyclists, buses will be forced to sit in general traffic instead of their own dedicated lane that would extend journey times significantly.

“The proposals would be acceptable to us with an improved policy approach to demand management such as the long-debated 'Connecting Oxford' proposals that aim to do just that.”

Connecting Oxford is a congestion-busting scheme, anticipated to take effect in 2023.

It will see several busy roads limited to use by only public transport in daytime hours, though there will be exemptions for other vehicles including taxis and ambulances.

This will be controlled through the use of camera-controlled bus gates, which will lead to fines for drivers using the roads at peak times.

Mr Southall continued: “Traffic congestion and air quality are major issues in Oxford, and we need a joined-up multi-modal solution across the whole city that makes both active travel and public transport the natural first choice compared to using individual transport that will allow us all to realise our 'net zero carbon' ambition.

“These proposals currently put buses and cycles in conflict with each other and we would encourage Oxfordshire County Council to revisit this and come forward with these proposals once the pathway to reduce general traffic is clearer.”

Stagecoach bus company, which runs a number of bus services across the city, has also said the success of the scheme relies on the wider Connecting Oxford strategy.

Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director at Stagecoach West, said: “Woodstock Road is a major bus corridor which acts as a pivotal route for services into central Oxford from West Oxfordshire, Witney, Woodstock and even as far as Milton Keynes and Bedford.

"The corridor also plays a supporting role in a wider public transport strategy to increase bus usage.

“We have registered our position with Oxfordshire County Council regarding the impact the scheme will have on our services and our customers.

"We have made it explicitly clear that the future of efficient public transport in the county relies on the implementation of the wider connecting Oxford strategy, which will reduce overall car traffic within the City Ring Road.”

A spokesperson for the county council said: “The Woodstock Road proposals were co-developed with the bus companies as well as other organisations and travel groups.

"The overall aim of the scheme is to create a better environment for cyclists and pedestrians which, coupled with the wider Oxford Transport Strategy, will help to encourage more people to cycle, walk and use the bus.

"Over the coming months, we will continue to engage with bus companies on the proposed improvements.”