'RADICAL' plans for a one-way system that could see buses banned from St Aldate's but return to Cornmarket Street and Broad Street could rely on a congestion charge being introduced.

A two-loop bus system and one-way traffic system to end the 'dominance of buses' has been proposed by an independent consultancy which found parts of Oxford had become 'unpleasant' to walk around.

But the solutions – from research commissioned by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council – make the assumption that a zero emission zone along with a congestion charge or a workplace parking levy will be introduced to reduce private cars in the city.

All the options would see buses banned from Queen Street and two of the four would see buses return to Cornmarket for the first time since 1999.

Phil Jones, of consultancy Phil Jones Associates, said: "Oxford is a victim of its own success by making it more difficult to get to by car.

"As a result of that it now has a bus congestion problem – High Street and St Aldate's in particular are very congested.

"These are high profile, accessible, and historic streets but they are simply not pleasant places to walk around – it's not the quality people expect in a world-class city."

He added that each potential solution had positives and negatives but urged transport groups and members of the public to air their views.

Two one-way bus loops would keep buses out of George Street, Worcester Street, Queen Street and St Aldate's.

A south to west loop would serve the end of Abingdon Road around Thames Street – through the Westgate Centre – to Frideswide Square.

The north to east loop would use Longwall Street, High Street, Cornmarket Street and, in one case, Broad Street and Holywell Street.

Low-traffic streets that become one-way would remain two-way for cyclists.

Oxford Civic Society chairman Ian Green said: "The options rely on a workplace parking levy and / or a congestion charge eliminating private cars as a problem and air quality ceasing to be an issue.

"They will not work if these assumptions are wrong but there are no options for non-acceptance of those measures.

"Some of the proposals include bus one-way loops through Broad Street, Holywell Street and into Longwall Street – but the public realm damage would be significant in these very high value heritage areas."

The city's two biggest bus operators, Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach Oxfordshire, both welcomed the debate but warned bus access was vital to the overall solution.

Managing director of Stagecoach Oxfordshire, Martin Sutton, said: "There is a recognition that fewer buses in more streets might be part of a solution, with the possibility of limited number of buses in Cornmarket and Broad Street being options.

"It is important, however, that buses should continue to take people to where they want to go including journeys across the city centre.

"Journey times and walking distances should not be increased by buses having to take more circuitous routes."

Oxford Bus Company managing director, Phil Southall, said: "We agree congestion in Oxford is a growing issue and we welcome the opportunity to debate this key issue for the city.

"Bus access forms a vital part of the overall solution and we look forward to discussing this with stakeholders."

The options have been produced to feed into Oxford City Council's local plan, which will be finalised this summer.

The council's head of planning Alex Hollingsworth said: "We are all aware of the problems and it's clear the status quo can't go on.

"You just have to walk around the streets, particularly at rush hour to see people being squeezed on pavements and road space.

"There are no easy solutions which is why, working with the county council we asked experts to come up with some bold and innovative thinking about how we might balance all the needs."

As part of the proposed one-way system all roads would remain two-way for cyclists in a bid to create more segregated space for bike users.

Cycling campaign group Cyclox said the potential changes were 'dramatic and exciting'.

Chairman Simon Hunt said: "We especially welcome the idea of re-allocating highway width in favour of people on foot and on cycles by making some streets one-way for motor vehicles but retaining two-way flows for bikes.

"It's vitally important to provide much better east to west cycling between the railway station and Magdalen Bridge.

"The consultants rightly emphasise segregating cycles by using enlarged width."

The county council's cabinet member for transport Yvonne Constance said evidence for a congestion charge and workplace parking levy was currently being gathered.