FORTY years on from its launch, Oxford’s park-and-ride service is as popular as ever, continuing to cut congestion across the city.

Passengers using the service will have the opportunity to travel free of charge tomorrow to mark the 40th birthday of the service.

Oxford Bus Company – which has been running the park-and-ride buses since the system started in 1973, will be offering free travel to every 40th customer who gets on at Redbridge – the first car park to open.

Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company’s operations director, said: “We are proud to be celebrating such an important anniversary but our park-and-ride network is also about the future and the continuing prosperity of Oxford.

“Recently we invested over £2m on a fleet of green electric hybrid buses so the park-and-ride network can be as environmentally friendly as possible.

“We look forward to many more years at the heart of Oxford’s economic success.”


Oxford Mail:

  • Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company's operations director

Tomorrow the bus destination screens will display a special birthday message.

An experimental service from the Forte Motor Lodge on the A34 in the north of the city began in the 1960s, but the service only lasted a year.

It became a permanent service when the Redbridge car park was built off Abingdon Road, with buses running to the city centre from early December in 1973.

Since then, the car park has expanded from 250 spaces to 1,500 and there are three services which criss-cross the city, with the prospect of a fourth one from Bicester.

Ian Hudspeth, the leader of highways authority Oxfordshire County Council, said: “I think it has been a tremendous success in allowing people to park outside the city.

Oxford Mail:

  • A bus and parked cars at Redbridge in 1982

“If you look at all the spaces taken up by people – if those cars were in Oxford congestion, would be even worse.”

Mr Hudspeth added: “We have now got to look and see if there are more sites available for car parks.

“We also need to see if is is possible to get journey times from the car parks in the city centre down to make it more beneficial to switch, and if we can provide services at the park-and-rides which will be useful for customers and which will allow us to bring in some income.”

Businessman Max Mason – a spokesman for Oxford Town Team, which aims to make life easier for businesses operating within the city – said: “Over the last 40 years the park-and-ride buses run by Oxford Bus Company have brought countless millions of passengers to the businesses and shops of Oxford and led the way for green public transport across Britain.

“It’s been a major contribution to the successes of the local economy.”

Mr Mason, owner of the Big Bang restaurant in Oxford’s Castle Quarter, added: “People who expect to be able to drive into Oxford miss the point that Oxford’s strength as a historic city is that it’s not clogged with cars.

“The park and ride system brilliantly enables this with a fleet of green buses.”

A revolutionary solution to chronic congestion in 60s

THE need for a park-and-ride service was highlighted by the chronic congestion which was bringing Oxford’s city centre to a halt in the 1950s and 1960s.
Originally it had been planned to solve the problem by creating a link road across Christ Church Meadow but this scheme was dropped, paving the way for the park and ride.

Oxford Mail:

  • The site off Abingdon Road for the Redbridge Park and Ride in 1973

At the time Oxford City Council favoured multi-storey car parks, but the Oxford Chamber of Commerce proposed the radical idea of a “commuter car park” — although its proposal to put it on Port Meadow, with a water ferry down the Oxford Canal, was not acted upon.

Oxford was home to the first park-and-ride in the country when the City of Oxford Motor Services — now Oxford Bus Company — began operating an experimental service from the Forte Motor Lodge on the A34 in the north of the city in the 1960s but the service only lasted a year.

Initially, the city council had planned to open a park-and-ride in Marston at Court Place Farm but in the wake of objections from the parish council it was decided Abingdon Road would be a better site.
A permanent service began running from Abingdon Road to the city centre in 1973.