A NEW £1.5m bus scheme to ferry students and workers in and out of Headington’s hospitals and universities was unveiled yesterday.

Oxfordshire County Council hopes providing services specifically for workers from Thornhill and Water Eaton park and ride sites will cut congestion on the roads and parking problems.

Last month the Oxford Mail revealed the county council had begun a review into transport in Headington, saying the area was one of the most significant jobs sites in Oxford and suffered from “extensive congestion throughout much of the day”.

The new Stagecoach bus service – which will begin on Monday, September 23 and is being part-funded by a £1.2m subsidy from the Government – will go to employment sites such as the John Radcliffe Hospital and Oxford University’s Old Road campus.

Congestion in Headington, particularly along London Road, has long been a problem and a number of schemes are currently in the pipeline to tackle the issue, including an £840,000 extended bus lane scheme near the Green Road roundabout.

Some residents around the JR have also complained of people leaving their cars in the surrounding streets.

Tony Turton, a member of Headington Transport Group, said: “My feeling, which I think would be shared by most, is generally to welcome them in and hope that they will keep down the number of journeys that are made through the central part of Headington on what everyone knows are congested roads.

“The big surprise – and it really is a surprise – is the 800 down Osler Road. It is often blocked and buses are delayed.”

Many of the major employers in the Headington area have welcomed the new bus service.

Oxford University spokesman Stuart Gillespie said: “The new services will benefit our students, researchers and staff – as well as hospital patients and other members of the public – who need to travel to Oxford University Hospitals buildings or the Old Road campus.”

Henning Thiel, sustainability manager at Oxford Brookes University, said: “As part of our commitment in having a net positive impact on our community and environment, Oxford Brookes actively encourages staff, students and visitors to use sustainable modes of transport.

“The Brookes Bus service links all of our campuses and halls of residences to the city centre and any further improvements to public transport locally is welcomed by the university.”

A £1.2m subsidy from the Department for Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund will help initially fund the services.

Stagecoach itself has invested around £300,000 for the routes, which will be operated by nine buses. Funding will cover the next three years and it is hoped that after that they will be commercially sustainable and no longer require taxpayers’ support.

County councillor David Nimmo Smith, cabinet member for transport, said: “The park and rides are an easy way to get into the city centre, but these bus services also provide numerous ways for workers, students and patients to commute, study and attend hospital appointments easily and efficiently.”

Martin Sutton, managing director of Stagecoach in Oxfordshire said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this prestigious new contract and to be working closely with Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and other stakeholders.”

But Headington city councillor Ruth Wilkinson expressed concern about the routes which have been drawn up.

She said: “Why have the new routes been decided without consulting residents? Osler Road is a residential street with on-street parking for some properties and there is only one traffic lane for much of it.”