Conservative MPs have criticised the county council for pushing ahead with a traffic filters decision which has made “local residents so unhappy” after the government revealed they had not requested the council did so.

Oxfordshire County Council is planning to install six traffic filters in Oxford city centre as part of a trial next year.

These will aim to prevent through traffic in the city centre at peak times and will be enforced with fines.

READ MORE: Councillor 'left matted in blood' and 'shaken up' 

Recently, an Oxford Mail investigation found the county council chose not to release a vital traffic report which showed traffic is expected to increase by 62 per cent on the Woodstock Road and by at least 10 per cent on Botley Road if the filters are installed.


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After failing to disclose the detailed impact of these filters on motorists, the leader of the opposition and Conservative councillor Eddie Reeves accused the council of acting in “bad faith” and “conspiring” to cover up traffic data which was not likely to get the public on side.

The council has refuted this accusation and has said the decision making process last year was “sound”.

However, after the Conservative MPs David Johnston, Robert Courts, John Howell and Victoria Prentis KC wrote to the government demanding answers about the council’s traffic filters decision they have since been told that funding for electric buses was not conditional on pushing ahead with the traffic filters.

READ MORE: Oxford MP demands urgent Botley Road closure summit

Writing to the Oxford Mail exclusively, these MPs said in a joint statement: “We are grateful to the Department of Transport for confirming that at no stage did they require Oxfordshire County Council to install the traffic filters that have made local residents so unhappy."

They added: “On the contrary, the county council declared in January 2022 in their business case for electric bus funding that they would seek to introduce traffic filters, even though the government did not require them to do so.”

Plans for the controversial filters, which have the potential to cause gridlock in Oxford, have received a backlash from Oxford businesses, including leading Oxford hotelier Jeremy Mogford, the owner of Old Bank Hotel in High Street and the Old Parsonage Hotel in Banbury Road, who compared the bus gates to “Berlin Walls”.

READ MORE: Oxford traffic filters: pressure mounting on council

In Richard Holden’s, the minister for roads and local transport, letter to the MPs he explicitly makes clear that councils across the country have put in bids for electric bus funding, the ZEBRA scheme, and have not found it necessary to install divisive traffic filters.

In his closing remarks to the Conservative MPs, he said: “To re-iterate the point, The Department did not at any stage require Oxfordshire County Council to install traffic filters to secure funding from the ZEBRA scheme.

Oxford Mail: Bus traffic in Oxford Bus traffic in Oxford

“ZEBRA schemes across England have been funded without any such filters”.

There are fears in Oxford that the current traffic chaos which has come in the wake of the Botley Road closure will be repeated, after Oxford MP Layla Moran demanded an emergency crisis summit with Network Rail and the county council to address the disruption to commuters’ journeys into the city.

Ms Moran said she had been told the area near the railway bridge was “chaotic and dangerous”.

Oxford Mail: MP Layla Moran visiting the Botley Road closureMP Layla Moran visiting the Botley Road closure (Image: Contributed)

A leading barrister and President of Magdalen College, Dinah Rose, KC also wrote on Twitter that leaving Oxford was becoming “gradually harder”.

She said: “Trying to leave Oxford is becoming gradually harder.

“Botley Road closed. No trains to Paddington.

“We are clinging to our remaining routes, via the Chilterns, wondering how long before the siege is complete…”

READ MORE: Oxford traffic filters concerns raised by Conservative MPs

In response to these exclusive revelations, cllr Mr Reeves said there was “now definitive proof that left-wing councillors running Oxfordshire County Council are needlessly pushing ahead with an ideological policy that will divide our city and our county”.

Mr Reeves has called for a fresh traffic filters consultation, although the council’s spokesman recently said "our monitoring officer is undertaking a review to check procedures were followed correctly". 

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said: “The county council will be trialling traffic filters in Oxford after work to improve the railway station is complete next year.

“The filters are intended to reduce congestion and bus journey times in the city.

“During the trial, a public consultation will help the council evaluate the success of the project.

“Neither the council nor DfT assumed the outcome of the traffic filter consultation and subsequent cabinet decision in 2022 would be positive.

“The council has always been open that commitment from bus operators towards electric bus funding is dependent on reduced bus journey times.

“Our zero emission bus regional areas (ZEBRA) bid for funding for electric buses requires over £40 million of private investment by Go Ahead and Stagecoach.

“Both companies maintain that there is no commercial case for this investment unless bus productivity in and around Oxford improves by at least 10 per cent. The project considered most likely to deliver this improvement is the traffic filters.

“The deadline for the submission of our £32.8m ZEBRA funding bid was January 2022.

“At that time, although the traffic filters were a long-standing council policy, we felt we needed to carry out further consultation and secure a further cabinet decision on a specific design before we could give a commitment to bus operators and the Department for Transport (DfT) that the traffic filters would be introduced.

“We set out our position to the DfT in our ZEBRA bid submission letter.

“We referred to the planned consultation and cabinet decision and set out a plan B should cabinet decide not to proceed with the traffic filters.

“All other successful ZEBRA areas were awarded funding by March 2022. The DfT decided to give Oxfordshire extra time to complete further consultation and seek a cabinet decision on the traffic filters, so deferred Oxfordshire’s funding award to 2022/23.

“Special arrangements were made by DfT to allow us to follow due process before committing to the ZEBRA funding.”