A CONGESTION charge could be introduced in Oxford alongside the proposed Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) after a Government-backed cycling report called for more action to reduce traffic in the city.

A National Infrastructure Commission report found implementing a congestion charge would be much cheaper than initially thought and could work with six entry points into the city centre or with 20 entry points if expanded city-wide.

Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, confirmed it could work alongside the ZEZ, which will be phased in from 2020, and research into its implementation was under way.

A congestion charge had been ruled out on cost but last year was brought it back into consideration alongside a possible workplace parking levy for businesses.

In his report, which recommended £150m be spend on cycling in Oxford, Andrew Gilligan the former cycling commissioner for London, said a ZEZ would reduce air pollution but it would not reduce congestion in the long term.

He said: "The council is also examining a congestion charge, which it previously dismissed on the grounds that London's cost too much to operate.

"However, costs in Oxford would be lower because the technology is cheaper now and the number of entry points is less - about six for a central scheme, 20 for a whole city scheme versus 197 in London.

"Any charge in Oxford need not copy London's relatively blunt version but could allow different, or no, charges at different times of day, in different places or for different kinds of vehicle."

He added once zero emission vehicle become widespread, the issue of congestion would return and called for more 'meaningful' traffic reduction measures.

County council spokesman Paul Smith said: "The county and city councils have already committed to developing zero emission zones, starting with the inner city by 2020.

"A workplace parking levy and congestion charging are options that are also being considered as part of a long-term approach to reducing congestion and to further improve pedestrian, cycle and bus access, and ultimately air quality in Oxford."

He added: "The projected growth in jobs in the city and continuing pressure on housing availability means that the number of commuter journeys into and around Oxford is likely to increase significantly over the next 10-15 years.

"Bold measures will be needed to create sustainable transport in the city for the future."

A workplace parking levy, which would charge businesses with more than ten parking spaces, has also been mooted.

Its introduction in Nottingham has generated £9m a year and helped fund its tram service and train station redevelopment.

But Mr Gilligan's report found business representatives in Oxford preferred a congestion charge and that Oxford University did not think a levy would change the driving habits of its employees.

The NIC report also proposed £150m be spent on five new high-quality protected cycle routes – a total of 17 miles.

The segregated routes include Botley Road, Banbury Road,the Eastern Arc, Iffley Road and East Oxford, and the Marston cyclepath. Some would extend outside the city boundary to Eynsham, Kidlington and Wheatley

It found that 25 per cent of all commuter journeys in Oxford were made by bicycle but that cycling 'wasn't taken seriously enough' by local authorities.

Cycling campaigners backed the report and Cyclox chairman Simon Hunt said it "hit the nail on the head".

He said: "The recommendations need to permeate into the marrow bones of all highway and planning authority staff and their political masters.

"If they did then there would be benefits throughout the county beyond Oxford itself.

"It would reshape for the better the lives of everyone in Oxford who lives, works or visits here."