THE introduction of new bus-only zones to cut congestion in Oxford would force more traffic onto the ring road and the overburdened A34, a city councillor has warned.

As part of Connecting Oxford, a raft of congestion-busting measures being considered by the councils, more of the so-called 'bus gates' could be added, along with restrictions on side roads.

The existing camera-enforced bus gate in High Street allows access to buses, taxis and emergency vehicles only between 7.30am and 6.30pm and in 2017/2018 over 27,200 penalty charges were handed out to motorists who drove though the restrictions. This resulted in £288,000 in fines for the county council.

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The new bus gates would be in Worcester Street, Oxpens Road/Thames Street, Marston Ferry Road, Hollow Way and South Parks Road/St Cross Road – but it is not yet clear if they would all be introduced at once or individually over a period of time.

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Former Lord Mayor of Oxford Colin Cook said public consultation responses on the proposals should be carefully considered before the new restrictions were introduced.

The city councillor added: "One likely impact of these new bus gates is that it will force traffic onto the A34, which is already running over-capacity, and that would cause problems on the A34.

"I don't think the bus gates will cause rat-running because drivers won't have many options.

"Some families on the school run are bound to be affected but the school run is one of the biggest traffic generators and parents will have to re-think and re-evaluate how their children get to school."

Liberal Democrat county councillor John Howson is opposing the bus gates proposal.

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He said he was concerned that new gates in Worcester Street, Marston Ferry Road and South Parks Road would have the effect of forcing north Oxford residents to use the ring road instead of driving through the city centre.

He added: "Kettling north Oxford completely would be a mistake in the first instance and a bus gate on Oxpens Road might seriously affect the Westgate.

"The system needs the backing of a good dial-a-ride system for the disabled, and information on new bus services."

A county council spokesman said: "We are asking for feedback from residents, commuters and employers on the overall approach, including traffic restrictions that would give buses priority and allow road space to be reallocated to pedestrians and cyclists.

"We are also interested to hear views on when bus gates should operate and vehicles that should be exempt.

"Detailed work needs to be done before we could say anything about exact locations of bus gates or any of the other measures proposed to tackle congestion and bus, cycling and walking routes."

The consultation advice document for Connecting Oxford tells drivers it is keen to ensure the new traffic restrictions do not 'divide the city'.

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It states: "We are determined that does not happen, which is why we want to engage with residents, employers and other stakeholders at an early stage in the project.

"This would include deciding the exact location of restrictions and the timings for which they would apply.

"Our intention is to create a better-connected city overall."

The document added: "At this stage we want to get feedback on the suggested restrictions on main routes into and around the city.

"There are some practical considerations about where to locate bus gates and possible additional restrictions on side roads that need to be worked through."

A congestion charge appears to have been ruled out for the time being although a workplace parking levy is still being considered, alongside the bus gate restrictions.

The council said: "Compared to a congestion charge, traffic restrictions are considered to perform better in terms of sustained traffic reduction.

"This is important in Oxford because the objective is to reduce congestion whilst also re-allocating existing road space from cars to public transport, walking and cycling."

The Connecting Oxford plans could be rolled out by 2021 at the earliest.

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It is anticipated that taxis and private hire vehicles would be allowed to travel through the new restrictions

The workplace parking levy could lead to employers paying from £400 to £600 a year per space and would be imposed on about half of the city's 18,000 parking spaces.

The county council is the highways authority but the proposals have been launched with the backing of the city council.

Alex Hollingsworth, the city council’s cabinet member for planning and sustainable transport, said earlier the project would face up to traffic problems as Oxford did in the 1970s and 1990s.

The country’s first park-and rides were built in the 1970s and Cornmarket was pedestrianised in 1999 as part of the Oxford Transport Strategy.