Network Rail has revealed the Botley Road works have come to an abrupt halt on part of their site due to the discovery of an “historic arch”.

The closure of Botley Road, which first started on April 11, is expected to last until October and the timetable of works was agreed with the county council so a £161 million upgrade of Oxford Rail station can take place.

Phil Morton, project manager at Network Rail, and David Paull, stakeholder manager for Oxford Station Project, said the discovery meant it was necessary to ask the city council to “extend the permitted working hours” on site to ease fears over potential delays to the October deadline.

READ MORE: Oxford ANPR cameras: Residents 'feel bullied' by council

Oxford Mail: Botley Road worksBotley Road works (Image: Ben Hardy)

After businesses and residents reported not seeing work taking place on site, Network Rail has exclusively revealed to the Oxford Mail that a “historic arch” was found, and this has required a temporarily pause to work on this part of the site until further investigations are carried out.

Mr Morton said: “We have identified an inverted brick arch which is around one metre thick underneath the road.”

READ MORE: Oxford bus leaves woman in 'shock' after dramatic crash

Mr Morton said Network Rail knew there was an arch in part of the area before the works took place, but it was more “extensive” and “went further” than anticipated.


Oxford Mail: Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here (Image: Newsquest)

Mr Morton revealed that if Network Rail had not responded by immediately pausing works in this part of the site, then “the walkway, the railway apartments and all the retaining structures” would be at risk.

Oxford Mail: A historic arch has been uncoveredA historic arch has been uncovered (Image: Network Rail)

Network Rail will now have to create a new retaining structure to support both sides of the highway.

Mr Morton and Mr Paull explained that Oxford was a very “historic” city, and this finding would now require the help of archaeologists.

Both explained the impact of the works on the local community had to be “considered”, as they previously had concerns raised about noise from resident groups around Mill Street and near Abbey Road.

The works have caused traffic disruption, with motorists reporting delays of more than 45 minutes on the A34 during rush hour and bus companies have been forced to alter their timetables.

READ MORE: Oxford carnival cancellation 'will hit businesses hard'

Under the city council’s restrictions during the summer months, works are only permitted to take place between 7.30am and 18:30 midweek, between 7.30am and 1pm on Saturday and no works are permitted on Sunday.

Oxford Mail: Network Rail is undertaking investigationsNetwork Rail is undertaking investigations (Image: Network Rail)

Mr Morton and Mr Paull said finding the best working hours was a “balancing act” but longer working hours were needed in light of this new discovery.

Matthew Alden, who is the managing director of the respected Aldens Butchers, told the Oxford Mail earlier this week he found it “frustrating” that “no work” seemed to be taking place after 4pm in the week and at weekends.

READ MORE: Oxfordshire MP candidate named as top political influencer

He said: “I drove back into Oxford on Friday afternoon after travelling into London and I couldn’t see any work going on underneath the bridge.

“The works need to be done in a controlled and succinct way with detailed organisation and by keeping the public regularly updated with their progress.”

Mr Alden said the closure had been “particularly tricky” for his business as staff were constantly needing to travel in and out of the affected area to undertake deliveries.

Help support trusted local news 

Sign up for a digital subscription now: 

As a digital subscriber you will get: 

  • Unlimited access to the Oxford Mail website 
  • Advert-light access 
  • Reader rewards 
  • Full access to our app 

About the author 

To sign up to Ed's weekly Politics newsletter, click here:

Ed specialises in writing political stories for the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times. 

He joined in the team in February 2023, after completing a History undergraduate degree at the University of York and studying for his NCTJ diploma in London.

Ed’s weekly politics newsletter is released every Saturday morning.