LONG term plans for building new roads around Oxfordshire may be changed by more people choosing to work from home in the future.

Oxfordshire County Council has started to discuss a new Local Transport Plan, detailing where new roads and cycle paths will be built, how to support bus routes and train services, and where new countryside footpaths will be laid.

The plan, called the Local Transport and Connectivity Plan, is in its draft stages.

But its early aims have been revealed, with prioritising ‘digital infrastructure over road building' at the top of the agenda.

ALSO READ: The plan for a huge increase in ICU beds at the John Radcliffe

A report which will be discussed this week by the county council’s cabinet, its most senior councillors, says that the ‘the influence of digital technology’ may change how and when people travel in the near future, and added that home working in the pandemic might he made more permanent, ‘reducing unnecessary travel’.

A presentation by council officer James Gagg also said the strategy would aim to Increase walking and cycling; Enable safe, convenient electric public transport across and between towns; increase the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles; ‘deprioritise’ journeys by cars containing one person; and support electrification of rail networks in Oxfordshire; all in an effort to tackle climate change.

There are also plans to influence the way new housing developments are built to make sure they are connected to bus routes and cycle paths.

However, as the draft strategy was discussed by Oxfordshire’s performance scrutiny committee, there was concern from some that the plan would give Oxford priority over rural areas of the county.

Committee member and Thame and Chinnor councillor Jeannette Matelot said: “I have been saying this many times, but… we spend a lot of money in Oxford encouraging people to use the buses and they have got a fantastic bus service.

Oxford Mail:

Oxford's High Street bus gate camera. New bus gates were not given the go ahead last year.

“Out here, we have got a good service into Oxford and the point I have been bringing up is that Milton Park is a big employer and people in Thame and Henley who work there have no other option than to drive there even if I have to go to Henley I drive there.

“We should be having bus routes between towns.”

And Charles Matthew, Eynsham councillor, said there needed to be a solid commitment to revitalising local railway routes as part of a long-term transport solution.

Mr Mathew recently won support for an investigation into reviving the Witney to Oxford line from other county councillors, describing plans for a £102m dualling of the A40 between the town and city as not fit for purpose.

ALSO READ: Oxford University - Dozens of sexual misconduct claims made

Addressing council officer Mr Gagg, he said: “I want to talk to you about in my view and many of you will be aware of this, the A40 ‘improvements’ are a very short-term solution, if they are a solution at all. We must look at longer term solutions using rail for the local community and as their transport into Oxford.

“That must be taken seriously, which sadly it is not at the moment.”

The committee was told policy work on rail and bus routes was being undertaken as part of the new transport plan.

Short-term changes to local transport have been made during the coronavirus pandemic, including with funding from the Government to improve cycle lanes and pedestrianise roads in Oxford and towns around the county.

Other projects have not been so successful: the plan to introduce new bus gates on an experimental basis in Oxford city centre was roundly rejected by the council after a survey of residents in the city found many were unsure or objected to the plans.

The council’s previous transport plan, sometimes called LTP4 or Connecting Oxfordshire, was introduced in 2016.

It included an ‘integrated system’ of buses between park and rides and Oxford city centre, as well as mentioning schemes which have still yet to get off the ground, like the Cowley railway branch line.

The council cabinet will discuss the ‘Vision document’ for the new transport plan on Tuesday.

A more full version of the plan will be published later this year.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For news updates straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on news@nqo.com or 01865 425 445.