Bus firms ask to be let back into traffic-free Cornmarket

6:30am Friday 22nd August 2014

By Matt Oliver

CORNMARKET in Oxford should be reopened to some buses, two operators say.

Stagecoach Oxfordshire and Oxford Bus Company have suggested transport officials consider reopening Cornmarket to buses because of the Westgate centre redevelopment.

The long-awaited upgrade brings with it the prospect of a fully-pedestrianised Queen Street, seen by developer Westgate Oxford Alliance as a key element of the scheme.

That would see a number of bus stops relocated to Castle Street, prompting concerns buses will clog the road and suffer delays.

Sara Fuge, development manager for Westgate Oxford Alliance, which is behind the Westgate scheme, said: “Redirecting buses away from Queen Street will help to create a more pedestrian-friendly and safer environment for a key shopping street at the heart of the city.”

But Oxford Pedestrians Association chairwoman Sushila Dhall said the current arrangement allowing some buses down the busy steet outside the Westgate Shopping Centre did not need to be changed.

Ms Dhall told the Oxford Mail: “We would be very upset if the gains made over the years by pedestrianising Cornmarket were reversed. It is the only completely pedestrianised street in the city centre.

“But we are happy with what has been done to Queen Street already. We think that with some buses on it a balance has been struck that works for everybody.

“We see the difficulties bus companies are facing and were disappointed that the proposals for Westgate did not include more routes for buses through the development.”

The county council is working on a draft transport plan for the city centre and has been discussing proposals with bus companies, as well as Westgate Oxford Alliance.

This week Stagecoach Oxfordshire managing director Martin Sutton called for some buses to be allowed down Cornmarket.

He said: “If we are serious about attractive cross-city transport links we should consider a limited number of buses running between the north and south via Cornmarket and St Aldates and east and west via High Street and Queen Street.”

Phil Southall, operations director for Oxford Bus Company, urged “radical thinking” to strike a balance between direct bus links and pedestrian areas.

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Martin Crabtree said the authority was not considering the measure but would “listen to all suggestions that could help improve the city centre and access to it”.

Cornmarket was pedestrianised in 1999 as part of a major shake-up of Oxford’s traffic system that also saw High Street closed to traffic.

The £2.7m scheme saw an asphalt surface with York stone pavements installed.

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