A BID to overturn a ban preventing taxis from using a key bus route alongside the Westgate Centre looks set to come to a halt.

Taxis are prevented from using Norfolk Street and Castle Street as a through route by a ban reserving it as a bus link, agreed as part of the 2014 planning permission for the Westgate Centre.

But the City of Oxford Licensed Taxicab Association (COLTA), which represents drivers of the city’s 107 black cabs, has repeatedly lobbied the county council to allow its drivers to use the link route.

As a result the council staged a consultation in May.

Now it has been completed highways officers are recommending in a report that the ban remains in place for a number of reasons, including the potential worsening of air quality for people in the area if taxis are allowed in.

COLTA chairman Bashir Ahmed urged the council to change its view.

He said: “Taxis would only use the link road when there is solid traffic in Oxpens Road.

“As taxis are not allowed to use the link road at the moment it is adding to journey times for our passengers - we can’t guarantee to get them to their appointments on time - and that includes patients going to hospital.

“We hope the council sees sense and allows us to use the link road - we were using the route before the Westgate Centre opened - we are an essential public service.

“Oxford is a world-famous city - its visitors need to get to the station quickly and allowing us to use the link road would help with that.”

The recommendation will be considered on Thursday by cabinet member for environment Yvonne Constance.

The report said the creation of a new taxi rank in Old Greyfriars Street, which opened in April, should alleviate taxi drivers’ concerns about not being able to use the bus link to drop off passengers’ close to the Westgate Centre.

The report said: “The new bus link delivered as part of the Westgate Centre is a critical piece of transport infrastructure that helps buses to carry thousands of passengers every day into and across the city centre.

“While it may at times appear under-used at present, any spare capacity in the bus link and Castle Street will be needed in future as the city and county grow, and may also help to play a role in helping to relieve pressure on other city streets such as St Aldate’s and High Street.”

The report estimated that between 350 and 400 taxis and private hire vehicles would use the bus link in a 12-hour period, leading to a reduction in air quality.

And it said delays to journey times on Oxpens Road, cited as a problem by COLTA after the Westgate Centre reopened in October, were not sufficient to justify opening up the link route to taxis.

Data collected since the opening of the revamped centre showed the average maximum journey time on Oxpens Road, between Frideswide Square and Thames Street, at about 5pm, was 11 minutes.

Changing signage to create an experimental traffic regulation order to allow taxis to use the link route would cost an estimated £70,000 and it would cost a further £20,000 for a survey to monitor the effects of the change.

Sajad Khan, secretary of COLTA, added: “It would be much more convenient for drivers and passengers if taxis could use the link road.”

The recommendation will be discussed at the meeting at County Hall in New Road at 10am, with taxi drivers set to lobby councillors outside the building.