A ONE-way system should be introduced in two central Oxford streets and buses routed down others, according to a major new study.

The independent report recommends the single-file system for St Aldates and High Street, with buses sent down Broad Street and Holywell Street to ease congestion.

Both moves would aim to give more space for cyclists to get people off buses and ensure Oxford is a truly a ‘world class city’.

The authors of the report, commissioned by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, say the ‘character of Oxford is under threat’ and a ‘bolder approach’ is needed to ensure the city’s potential is reached.

Broad Street, they say, could be ‘one of the UK’s great public spaces’ but investment needs to be plugged in to make it more inviting, while Cornmarket Street ‘has the potential to be used for some bus movements’.

The councils are urged to ‘reclaim space’ on High Street, Queen Street, St Aldates, Broad Street and St Giles.

The report by Phil Jones Associates warns the authorities: “The character of Oxford is under threat: The quality of public realm and experience of the city for residents and visitors does not befit the city’s status as a globally-renowned place for learning and a draw for international tourism.”

The experts urge the changes take effect soon to mitigate the impact of potentially 20,000 new residents in the city by 2036 and say they would complement the plans for the councils’ zero emissions zone set to be launched from 2020.

Alex Hollingsworth, the city council’s executive board member for planning and transport, said: “This report is a refreshing new way of looking at the challenges of managing transport in a medieval city, and has been really helpful at reframing the discussion.

“As the consultants have made clear from the start, their suggestions are for what could be done if traffic is reduced throughout the city. The city and county councils are working together to do just that.”

Sue Halliwell, director for planning and place at Oxfordshire County Council, added: “We welcome these bold new ideas. They are certain to generate further debate about transport in Oxford city centre and if there is support for the principles, these ideas could form part of our transport strategy in future.

“They don’t stand alone and won’t work in isolation. They would need to be integrated with our joint strategies for a zero emissions zone and clearly they rely on us finding effective ways of reducing traffic congestion in the city as a whole.”

The consultants urge Broad Street and Holywell Street are used as one-way eastbound bus routes to reduce the impact on their historic buildings. That would mean more space available for pedestrians and cyclists.

The report says Carfax is a ‘major disappointment’ and that its improvement should be another priority. It also criticises the lack of space for all visitors to the city centre at peak times, especially during the summer.

It states: “There is inadequate pedestrian circulation space along many streets due to high footfalls, particularly on summer weekends when there are high visitor numbers as well as people coming into the city centre from the rest of Oxford and the surrounding areas.”

The report notes that 340 buses pass through the city centre every hour at peak times.

Phil Southall, managing director of Oxford Bus Company, said some of the proposals would hit the city hard if implemented.

He said: “Ultimately there needs to be a recognition that any change to the status quo must be practical and not impede the economic prosperity of the city and some of the proposals outlined in the report do not satisfy this test.”

He added: “Any change needs to be supported by having the right infrastructure to achieve this and we now look forward to discussing the ideas in partnership with key stakeholders to see if any of them can be progressed positively.”

The report finds seating for visitors to the city is poor. In Bonn Square, it is ‘not of good quality’, and in Gloucester Green space is ‘largely incidental’.

Phil Jones Associates concluded: “Overall there is a lack of well-designed and purposed public space across the city centre where people can simply enjoy the time they spend in Oxford."

Bus passengers taking ‘short’ journeys – which the report says is 5km or under – should be encouraged to cycle, to stop such heavy bus use across the city.

The recommendations are not binding but intended to influence the city council’s Local Plan – which is set to be passed this year – and the county council’s Oxford Transport Strategy.

Sushila Dhall, of the Oxford Pedestrians’ Association, said the city needed to become more accessible for people walking, on bikes or using public transport.

She said: “Rather than making it so that people fit [into the city] we need to look at reduction.”