TAXIS and private hire cars are being given permanent access to a shortcut through Oxford which is usually only open to buses.

Oxford’s hackney carriage and private hire vehicle drivers were given daytime access to a route around the back of the Westgate Shopping Centre for a six month trial period.

The route is guarded by one of Oxford’s bus gates, and is known as the Castle Street bus link.

There had been worries that granting cabbies access to the route would lead to queues of buses stuck behind taxis dropping people off or picking them up at spots where they should not.

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But Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for transport, Yvonne Constance, said her ‘personal faith’ in the drivers to only use the route as a shortcut, and not to stop, had been proven correct.

Now they will be able to use the route between 7am and 7pm every day of the week, but drivers can neither stop along it to drop off customers or pick them up.

Ms Constance approved the measure at a council meeting on September 17.

Oxford Mail:

Yvonne Constance

Sajad Khan, a representative of COLTA, City of Oxford Licensed Taxicab Association, said the route had been of great benefit to taxi drivers already.

Mr Khan said: “Drivers have been able to shuttle passengers in and around the city centre without the stress of congestion. Passengers journey times are quicker and waiting at ranks is quicker.”

He added that drivers were ‘fully aware’ of their responsibilities and the terms of their ability to use the link route, and were regularly reminded they could not stop there.

There was some concern from residents of Tennyson Lodge, a block of flats on Paradise Square, which backs onto the west of the Westgate.

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Richard Munro wrote on behalf of the residents’ company to say he was disappointed taxis would be given access to the road every day and asked the council to monitor drivers with cameras.

The bus link is made up of three streets: Castle Street, Norfolk Street and Speedwell Street.

Cars which use the route without being allowed can be fined £60, or £30 if they pay it off in 30 days.

It is guarded by automatic number plate recognition cameras, sometimes known as ANPR.