A PEDESTRIANISED St Giles and George Street as part of a car-free central Oxford, trams out to the airport and a rail-link to Cowley are part of a bold new vision being unveiled today.
Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth will today outline a radical transformation of the city’s transport systems for 2020 and beyond.
He will call for the transformation of the city centre, with the prospect of a pedestrianised area stretching right across the heart of the city – from St Giles’s junction with Banbury and Woodstock Roads to the new John Lewis store in Thames Street, in a redeveloped Westgate shopping centre.
Mr Hudspeth – who will unveil it all at the launch of Connecting Oxfordshire to leading local businesses, environmental and civic groups, transport figures and MPs – said: “I would love to see St Giles transformed into a more continental style boulevard. I would like it to be a place that the city could be proud of.”
It would follow the pedestrianisation of Queen Street. County Hall’s £985,000 Transform Oxford project to pedestrianise much of the city centre became a casualty of spending cuts five years ago.
But what is now being proposed could be part of a far bigger and radical transport vision to combat congestion.
The idea of carrying passengers on the existing Cowley branch railway line will also be included. The line to the BMW car works currently only carries freight but the council believes it could be a cost-effective way of linking Cowley and its business parks with the city centre.
Mr Hudspeth said new thinking was needed with the county facing a huge increase in population and up to 100,000 extra homes.
It is also being driven by the prospect of 80,000 new jobs being created across Oxfordshire.
He will make clear at the launch that the City Deal, bringing investment of £1.2bn to confirm Oxfordshire’s place as a centre of growth, had intensified the need for radical thinking, with the challenge of providing links to where new jobs and homes were being created.
Massive future demands on the transport system greatly strengthened the case for trams or a guided bus system, said Mr Hudspeth.
Support for trams has already been signalled by influential Oxford figures.
Last month city council leader Bob Price said he hoped to look into trams, and was holding talks with other councils.
Oxford Civic Society chairman Peter Thompson has also said a tram or light rail system could be the answer to reducing car use.
Helen Marshall, director of the Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign To Protect Rural England, said: “ The A34 is frequently a nightmare and there are many roads such as the A40, A420 and the A417 that are also suffering. Yet these are just the areas where most of the growth is being planned.”
PEDESTRIANISING GEORGE STREET
The idea of pedestrianising George Street was included in the county council’s Transform Oxford scheme, which was abandoned because of spending cuts.
It would follow the pedestrianisation of Queen Street. The removal of buses from the street leading from Bonn Square to Carfax is seen as a key element in the redevelopment of Oxford’s Westgate Centre, which got planning permission last month.
Talks are now under way between the developers, the bus companies and Oxfordshire County Council.
A RAIL LINK TO COWLEY
A rail platform for passengers could be created
Using the existing Cowley branch rail line for passengers is being viewed as a new and cost effective way of linking the city centre to Cowley.
The line to the BMW factory, currently only carries freight.
But the county council believes a rail platform, could be created in Cowley for passengers.
The line to the BMW factory currently only carries freight
A passenger rail service would provide a new link to Cowley’s business parks, with more jobs being created in the area.
Mr Hudspeth said a rail passenger service or possibly tram system, from Oxford Station to Cowley, was an attractive proposition.
He said: “There is a major employment sector in East Oxford.
“We would like to work with Network Rail to utilise that line.
“It is good to use infrastructure that already exists.
“Some might have bigger ambitions and want to extend it. But this would mean overcoming difficult land issues.”
Morris Cowley was originally an intermediate station on the Wycombe Railway, which served Cowley from 1908 to 1915 and again from 1928 to 1963. The line remained opened to serve the car factory. The idea of reinstating a passenger service has previously been explored by Chiltern Railways.
PEDESTRIANISING ST GILES
St Giles as a continental boulevard
The pedestrianisation of both St Giles and George Street is emerging as an aspiration of Oxfordshire County Council.
Mr Hudspeth said he envisaged St Giles as a continental boulevard, possibly with trams or guided buses running down the centre of the historic Oxford street.
He said: “I believe it could be a great space for Oxford, that people would expect from a world class city.”
St Giles is the widest street in Oxford and is viewed as suitable for a tram or guided bus system. It contains some of Oxford’s most impressive buildings behind two lines of lime trees. It is also the place where the two main northern routes into the city, Banbury and Woodstock Roads, meet.
Pedestrianising St Giles and George Street would mean that Oxford would be car-free from the war memorial at the north end of St Giles all the way to the new John Lewis building in the redeveloped Westgate.
TRAMS TO THE KIDLINGTON AREA
A tram or guided bus link could go to Oxford Airport
THE county council will put forward the idea of a tram or guided bus link running north to the Water Eaton station, the Begbroke science area and possibly Oxford Airport at Kidlington.
Mr Hudspeth said the Connecting Oxfordshire initiative would provide a new transport vision for the future, with the county facing a huge increase in population and up to 100,000 extra homes.
Massive future demands on the transport system greatly strengthened the case for trams or a guided bus system that could extend beyond Oxford, said Mr Hudspeth. As well as being an efficient way of bringing people into the city centre, he believed a tram system could link Oxford with centres of growth such as Begbroke, near Yarnton, set to become a national science and technology hub.
Mr Hudspeth said: “There is so much going on between now and 2020 with schemes like the Northern Gateway, improvements to Frideswide Square, the East-West rail route and a station at Water Eaton. But we need to look beyond that.”
ALREADY ON TRACK
Transport schemes already agreed between 2014 and 2020:
- New rail routes connecting Oxford to London Marylebone and later Milton Keynes and Bedford.
- Oxford and Didcot station improvements and new Oxford Parkway station at Water Eaton
- Oxford Northern Gateway (roundabout improvements and new A40-A44 link road)
- Improvements at Frideswide Square and surrounding area as western gateway to Oxford
- A bus lane scheme in London Road, Headington.
- Improvements at Kennington/Hinksey roundabouts
- Improvements at The Plain roundabout
- Improvements to junction 9 of the M40 at the north end of the A34
- Improvements around Science Vale at Milton and Chilton interchanges on the A34
- A Bicester park-and-ride site
- Electrification of the main rail network, bringing faster journey times