A STRETCH of dual carriageway and separate bus lanes could ease congestion on the A40 between Oxford and Witney.

The £54m scheme, unveiled yesterday, would see extra lanes on the stretch between Witney and Eynsham as well as a westbound bus lane from Oxford to Eynsham.

Oxfordshire County Council's proposal, which would start sometime in the early 2020s, would combine with previously agreed plans to build a park and ride at Eynsham and an eastbound bus lane from there to Oxford.

The A40 is used by up to 30,000 vehicles every day and according to previous figures from the county council, 91 per cent of eastbound users in the morning rush hour came from West Oxfordshire and 72 per cent were travelling into the city.

Leader Ian Hudspeth said journey times between Witney and Oxford would be cut and businesses would be more likely to create new jobs in West Oxfordshire.

But some transport campaigners warned misery for drivers would not be ended by the proposals, which they argued were not a long-term solution.

Mr Hudspeth said: "Actually getting on and dealing with the A40 is something everybody has been wanting for as long as I can remember so we are getting on and finding solutions.

"The advantage of public transport is that if more people use it there are fewer cars on the roads.

"What we have to do is improve the reliability of the bus journeys and providing the bus lane will do that.

"It also improves journey times for those drivers who want to stay in cars.

Mr Hudspeth said other options, such as a railway between Witney and Oxford estimated at £285m, a £240m tramway and £165m guided busway were too expensive to be viable.

He said: "This will also encourage businesses to relocate to Witney.

"If there are more businesses in West Oxfordshire they are more jobs in West Oxfordshire and fewer people need to drive out to get a job.

But Witney Oxford Transport Group officer Maurizio Fantato said the county council's proposals were not appropriate and that the authority should have backed a rail link.

He said: "Given the amount of house-building along the A40 in a very, very short space of time it will need to be revisited.

"We do not know if dualling the section of road between Eynsham and Witney will really reduce congestion because you are just moving a bottleneck further up the road.

"Fifteen years ago the county council was going to dual the entire road.

"If that was appropriate 15 years ago and now they are just going to dual a bit of it then it is obvious this is not the solution."

A proposal for bus lanes the whole way between Witney and Oxford was included in a public consultation which ran last Autumn, as was a proposal for the whole road to be a dual carriageway.

Bus Users Oxford director Hugh Jaeger said the council's proposals, which are subject to approval by the authority's cabinet next week, were "illogical."

He said: "It is quite bizarre that they have landed between those two options.

"It makes no sense whatsoever.

"When you enlarge a road you attract more traffic so the amount of traffic between Witney and Eynsham will increase.

"But they will not dual between Eynsham and Oxford so the traffic there will get even worse."

If councillors back the scheme the county council will submit a bid to the Government to secure funding.

Mayor of Witney Chris Holliday said: "Any proposal that goes through, if it works, has got to be good.

"So if this works then it works. It will be absolutely brilliant for Witney.

Stagecoach bus spokeswoman Karen Coventry said: "It's difficult to comment until we have seen the details.

"However we are supportive of any measure taken that will make it easier for people to travel into Oxford."