THE removal of buses from Queen Street in Oxford would be a mistake, according to a city transport expert.

The county council and city council wanted to pedestrianise the busy street due to an increase in shoppers using the £440m Westgate Centre, which opened in October.

But last year Transport Secretary Chris Grayling turned down the county council’s closure request and this year the street is being monitored, before the local authority will consider making another request.

Now, after the Westgate Centre celebrated its first anniversary on October 24, Hugh Jaeger, spokesman for the Oxford branch of Bus Users UK, said there was no reason to make a change when the 18-month ‘trial period’ comes to an end in April.

He added: “As far as I am aware there have been no accidents and I think it would be a mistake to remove buses from Queen Street now because the system is working well.

“Bus drivers are extremely alert and they proceed at walking pace showing the greatest care. There really is no case for expelling buses.”

Mr Jaeger’s call for Queen Street to remain open to buses is backed by Phil Southall, director of the Oxford Bus Company.

He said: “The existing arrangement has worked well for a year now without any issues during the monitoring period. Keeping Queen Street open to buses is important to the overall operational and environmental viability of the city’s transport system.”

Since the opening of the Westgate Centre the number of shoppers in Queen Street has increased by 38 per cent.

Mr Jaeger added: “The footfall in Queen Street is up so there may be a slight increase on bus journey times.

“There has been a reduction in the number of bus services using the route over the years and the way buses and relationship between buses and pedestrians there is near perfect.”

An experimental order under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 came into effect for Queen Street on the day the Westgate Centre opened, allowing buses to continue to use the street while the situation is monitored.

Sushila Dhall, chairman of Oxford Pedestrians Association, said: “We can’t wholeheartedly welcome the pedestrianisation of Queen Street because the knock-on effect would be more buses in St Aldate’s which is already overloaded.”

Oxford’s Lord Mayor Colin Cook said: “I think there is still an aspiration at the town hall for pedestrianisation in Queen Street - this isn’t over yet.”

County council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: “The current arrangements existed before the Westgate redevelopment. The DfT required us to gather data on how these arrangements are working on Queen Street and surrounding streets with the new Westgate open before they would consider the removal of buses, even on a temporary basis.

“We will analyse the data in the new year and consider any next steps then.”