THE city’s two main bus operators have vowed to fight to the end to overturn a ban on buses in Queen Street which they said will cause 'absolute chaos'.

The Government will be asked to step in after a decision was made to ban buses once the new Westgate Centre opens.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet pressed ahead with an experimental ban on buses and taxis on Tuesday despite objections from the city’s two bus operators.

Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach bosses hit out at the ‘disappointing’ decision and promised to continue the fight.

Managing director of Oxford Bus Company, Phil Southall, said: “The situation is unprecedented and has created even more uncertainty ahead of the Westgate opening.

“We should all be looking positively towards such an opening but we still don’t know what is going to happen on that day.”

“Logically a Government official from outside won’t have as much local knowledge and it should be dealt with locally.”

The experimental ban – if approved by the Department for Transport – would last for a maximum of 18 months but would be assessed after six months.

Council officers said a 'permanent pedestrian counter' could be used as well as air quality monitoring before a permanent decision is made.

Stagecoach managing director, Martin Sutton, said discussions over the pedestrianisation of Queen Street began in 2009.

He said: “It is a disappointing decision but not unexpected – we will of course continue to fight it but we are running out of road.

“It’s beyond all belief that eight years later, and three months before the Westgate opens, this is still an issue.

"On that opening day it's going to be absolute chaos."

He said his position remained that a turning loop must be provided to the west of the city centre.

The street is scheduled to re-open to buses in September when the current work is completed, but is due to close a few weeks later for 18 months for pedestrianisation.

But the formal objections mean that Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, will now decide on the pedestrianisation – but his decision may not come in time for the opening of Westgate on October 24.

County council leader Ian Hudspeth said Queen Street could resemble a crowded Cornmarket on a Saturday making it unsafe for pedestrians if buses were to use it and his cabinet unanimously agreed.

Buses will be required to use Hythe Bridge Street, Worcester Street and Park End Street to turn around.

The bus companies, as well as pedestrian groups, cycling groups and business representatives spoke against the plans.

Graham Jones, of traders’ group ROX, said: "It’s an appalling decision.

"Dragging buses into the main traffic stream in Hythe Bridge Street and forcing commercial and other vehicles seeking access to George Street and New Inn Hall Street along the same route will add considerably to congestion, delivery times and pollution."