TAXI drivers are set to be given permission to use a crucial cut-through around the Westgate Centre in a bid to reduce traffic problems.

Oxfordshire County Council has announced plans for a trial that would permit taxis and licenced private hire vehicles to use Norfolk Street and parts of Castle Street and Speedwell Street between 7am and 7pm from May 1.

Cabbies have long called for the changes to be introduced, arguing that they are having to sit in queues in Oxpens Road and Thames Street, resulting in delays and higher fares for passengers.

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Sajad Khan, the secretary of the City of Oxford Licensed Taxicab Association (COLTA), said it was 'a relief' to see the success of the group's three year campaign.

When planning permission was granted for the new Westgate, it banned all vehicles apart from buses after the centre's reopening in October 2017.

COLTA started lobbying for access in March 2016, foreseeing serious problems for its drivers, but council officers recommended the ban remained in place.

This was overturned when the cabinet member for transport ,Yvonne Constance, called for the trail - something that was agreed in July last year.

Mr Khan said: "The restriction has had a huge impact.

"Our drivers are regularly stuck in Oxpens road, it has been a nightmare.

"If you pick someone up from the railway station and they needed to get to meetings, they would face serious delays.

"Sometimes they have ended up paying double the regular fare.

"During peak time on a Saturday, we have been trapped for 45 minutes trying to make it to High Street.

"There's been no other options open to us.

"We'd like to thank Ms Constance and all the passengers who wrote to the council on behalf of our cause."

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COLTA had appealed to be given access to the cut-through for 24 hours a day but the council's trial runs from 7am to 7pm, at which point the ban will recommence.

If the trial is successful, the new access will be made permanent after six months.

The permission only gives taxis the right to drive on these streets and they will not be allowed to stop or pick up passengers.

County council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: "We have been in discussion with taxi operators and agreed last year that we would work on the required legal order and signage that would enable taxis to use the route on an experimental basis.

"The arrangement will be monitored with the first six months acting as a consultation period.

"If the arrangement is found to work well it could be made permanent, but on the other hand as it is an experimental order, if problems are encountered we have the ability to revert to the previous arrangement."