PROPOSALS that buses could zip around beneath Oxford in tunnels have been branded “completely daft” and “too expensive”.

Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth revealed that the authority would consider the radical option when it reviews its 2020 transport plan next year.

A suggested route, he said, could carry electric buses from The Plain, beneath the River Cherwell and Queen Street, to the railway station.

But yesterday Bus Users Oxford and county councillor for Wolvercote and Summertown Jean Fooks said it was unsuitable for the city.

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Mrs Fooks said: “Saying we could have these underground tunnels in the city centre is completely daft and smacks of desperation, not alone because of all the things already underneath it.

“What we need is money being spent on sensible ideas, like more park and rides which would divert traffic away (from the city centre).”

Bus Users Oxford also opposed the idea, although chairman Hugh Jaeger did praise Mr Hudspeth’s “vision”.

He said: “Under Ian Hudspeth’s leadership, at last the county council is starting to realise we have to think big to solve our transport problems.

“But where are we going to put this under central Oxford?

“There are so many sensitive buildings, and likely hundreds of years of archaeological items buried too, that there would likely be huge delays.

“Mr Hudspeth’s idea does at least respond to the fact that the number of buses in High Street and St Aldate’s has now reached saturation point.

“But tunnels under the city are too expensive and should only be a last resort.

“And, besides everything else, Oxford is a nice city to look at, so people do not want to be stuck on buses underground.”

Mr Hudspeth’s second idea – a tunnel for the A40 under North Oxford – proved much more popular in Wolvercote.

He said that the tunnel could begin east of the A34, before the approach to Woodstock Road roundabout, and end at Elsfield Way, east of Banbury Road roundabout.

Wolvercote Neighbourhood Forum committee member John Bleach said: “That would be magnificent, we would be very enthusiastic about a tunnel like that.

“Anything that gets the traffic away from this area would be welcomed.

“What we are aggrieved about is all these road improvements encouraging more traffic to come.”

Oxford University, which potentially has a number of buildings that the bus tunnels could pass under, said it would wait until more details were announced before commenting.

Spokesman Matt Pickles told the Oxford Mail: “‘We are not aware of these proposals and will be happy to look at them.”

  • The suggestion to build a tunnel under Oxford for buses is “innovative thinking” according to 36 per cent who voted in an Oxford Mail online poll. Unfortunately for the county council 64 per cent said tunnelling would be “too expensive, couldn't be done”.

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