Oxford's Christmas shopping traffic could be disrupted by a 14-week closure of Botley Road, one of the city's busiest routes.

Last month Network Rail bosses announced that Botley Road and the rail station would close next summer, as the rail bridge will need to be replaced as part of plans to increase capacity at the Oxford rail station.

Now it has emerged that the road is also set to be closed this winter, as preparatory work needs to be completed to move utilities.

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In the past, utilities work has been accommodated with the road kept open and drivers facing temporary traffic lights.

But now Network Rail is proposing the road is closed near the rail bridge to allow the work to be completed more quickly.

Oxford Mail:

While access to side streets for residents and businesses will be maintained, the closure will mean drivers can not reach the city centre from Botley Road, or leave the city along the route coming from Frideswide Square.

The 14-week closure, between the Frideswide Square roundabout and the Roger Dudman Way junction, is being planned from November 12.

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Network Rail spokesman David Paull said: "The proposal is that the road will just be closed at the bridge (depending on the exact area of work site) with a route open for pedestrians and cyclists.

"It’s likely that emergency services will be able to have access when on blue light emergencies.

"There will be some form of traffic control before the bridge on Ferry Hinksey Road to avoid traffic going down there when they shouldn’t, especially lorries.

"That means all side roads will be open to residents, businesses and deliveries. There will be no impact on industrial estate or retail outlets."

He added: "We held our first community drop-in a couple of weeks back at West Oxford Community Centre and we will look to hold another one so that we can talk people through the detail.

"The key point is that we need to get everything done in time for summer next year, otherwise we won’t be able to do the bridge replacement."

Oxford Mail:

Mr Paull added that Network Rail was aware of the potential impact on Christmas shopping traffic and an alternative option was launching the work in January.

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Graham Jones of traders' group ROX - Backing Oxford Business - said the closure would have a harmful effect Christmas shopping and delivery drivers.

He added: "Abingdon Road is going to be even more congested than usual with traffic heading to the Westgate.

"The county council needs to respond intelligently to this, so that the road can be kept open, with the work starting halfway through January."

Contractors Kier told Network Rail that 14 weeks was an 'initial estimate' for how long it would take to complete the utilities work.

Network Rail is working closely with the county council on finalising the timetable but it has not yet been finalised.

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Marc Evans said: "Oxfordshire County Council is still in discussions with Network Rail about how best to manage Botley Road to accommodate their project to expand Oxford station.

Oxford Mail:

"The council is also in discussions with Thames Water about accommodating their need to carry out repairs to Osney Bridge during this period in order to reduce future disruption.

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"As these discussions are still ongoing, it is not possible to give clarity on the dates and details of any closures at this stage."

Dave Richardson, a regional spokesman for Railfuture, which campaigns for better rail services, said: "It's a shame there is going to be disruption on Botley Road but ultimately this work is needed so rail services can be improved."

Jericho and Osney county councillor Susanna Pressel said: "The work by the utilities companies is now urgent.

"They may even get permission to do it over Christmas. This would be regrettable and be a departure from the county council’s policy of an embargo on road works in the run up to Christmas.

"Apparently it may not even be possible to allow single lane traffic with temporary traffic lights for some or all the time, though emergency access will always be guaranteed."

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Andy.ffrench@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailAndyF