Oxford is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the country’s first permanent park and ride site.

On Monday, December 10 1973, Redbridge began operating with a car park and dedicated bus service.

Although experimental park and rides had been set up earlier – including one in Oxford at the Forte Motor Lodge on the A34 in the 1960s – Redbridge was the first permanent example of the pioneering transport management system.

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Previous proposals for easing Oxford’s traffic congestion had included an inner relief road through Christ Church Meadow, which was rejected after a campaign opposing it.

There were also calls for a giant commuter car park on Port Meadow, connecting to a water ferry on the Oxford Canal, but this didn’t materialise into a plan.

The success of Redbridge inspired Oxfordshire to create the largest park and ride system in the country, with 5,900 parking spaces at five sites on the outskirts of the city.

Oxford Mail: A park and ride bus in OxfordOxford Parkway and Thornhill park and rides are run by Oxfordshire County Council, while Pear Tree, Seacourt and Redbridge are all operated by Oxford City Council.

The golden anniversary comes as the first of 159 electric buses start arriving as part of an £83.8 million deal – many of which will serve Oxford using the park and rides.

Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for transport management, said: “It’s almost unthinkable now to imagine Oxford without its park and rides.

"They have become part of everyday life for so many people, providing a convenient and economical way to travel into the city centre and Oxford’s hospitals.”

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To continue to make the park and rides the first choice for visitors, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council, Oxford Bus Company  and Stagecoach introduced a joint ticketing and parking offer in 2022.

Parking for up to 16 hours and return bus travel for one person costs just £4, while for two people it is £5.

With both options, up to three children under 16 can travel for free.

The deal proved so popular that it was recently extended until April 2024.

Unlike many other park and rides around the country, Oxford’s are thriving again following the impact the pandemic had on the bus industry and user numbers are close to pre-pandemic levels.

Oxford Mail: Redbridge park and ride in 1973Luke Marion, managing director of Oxford Bus Company, said: "Myself and the team at Oxford Bus Company are very proud to have been involved in operating Oxford's world-leading park and ride system continuously for the past half a century.

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"There have been major changes in the vehicles and technology we use on the service since it started 50 years ago, and the introduction of the new fleet of electric buses to the service is the latest step in this continuing evolution.

“With today's levels of traffic congestion, the park and ride is more important now than it has ever been."

Redbridge itself has evolved and last year became home to Energy Superhub Oxford, Europe’s most powerful electric vehicle charging hub.

The charging hub at the Abingdon Road site offers fast and ultra-rapid charging for 42 vehicles and is powered entirely by renewable energy.

Oxford Mail: A bus from 1967Rachel Geliamassi, managing director of Stagecoach West, said: “We’re delighted that Stagecoach have played our part in the longevity and success of the world’s first permanent park and ride scheme."

Ian Green, Oxford Civic Society (OCS) chairman, said: “50 years ago, persistent pressure and well-argued advice from OCS was instrumental in the council's decision to introduce the park and ride scheme.

"Oxford was only the second city in the country to do so and Redbridge was the first such site to be made permanent."

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

You can also read his weekly Traffic and Transport newsletter.