A "radical" highways chief has praised bus services across the county in a long speech saying they are amazing.

Councillor Andrew Gant gave the monologue at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (June 18) this week where Oxfordshire County councillors approved adoption of the updated Oxfordshire Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) for 2024.

Mr Gant said: "Buses in Oxfordshire work.

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"They don't work everywhere, but they work well here.

"All communities of 500 residents or more will have scheduled bus services of some kind (from next week).

Oxford.Oxford. (Image: Ed Nix.)

"We are putting a lot of weight and a lot of energy into bus services in this county.

"We're doing well, and we're right to do that."

The BSIP aims and proposals are described as sharing the central objective of "improving and growing the local bus network".

A meeting paper also references the county council's traffic filters scheme, which will go live in November and entail restrictions at six roads in Oxford to private vehicles.

It says they will "constitute a radical proposal to make a significant reduction in general traffic levels in the Oxford City area, within the Outer Ring Road".

Andrew Gant.Andrew Gant. (Image: Oxfordshire County Council.)

Speaking out on the bus service praise after the meeting, Conservative county councillor Kieron Mallon said: "The trouble with Cllr Gant's comments is that they relate mostly to Oxford city.

"Oxfordshire county council is mostly Oxford-centric.

"If he were to travel outside of the ring road and visit rural parts of Oxfordshire and - I can quote - north Oxfordshire, there are very few rural bus routes.

"So people living in those villages need their private cars to gain access to the town, and we have long-called for some of the money that Oxfordshire county council receives, and bids for to be aimed at rural busses to fill the gaps.

"If you put these policies next to the county council’s anti-car policies which would see the market towns going the same way as Oxford it would mean long-established business in other towns like Banbury, Chipping Norton and Witney would have to shut.

Kieron Mallon.Kieron Mallon. (Image: Oxfordshire County Council.)

"Unless you live adjacent to the Warwick Road, Stratford Road and Bloxham Road you do not have a bus service north of Banbury."

Mr Gant responded saying "in north Oxfordshire alone" the county council had funded daytime, evening and Sunday journey on service S4 between Banbury and Oxford and recently re-contracted the Banbury town network for a further three years, among other measures.

He added: "There are new routes to Banbury and Carterton, new and increased services to the JR and from Wallingford into Oxford, the biggest fleet of electric buses per capita in the UK (many charged from renewable electricity), new information displays, combined ticketing, and great value subsidised Park and Rides."

Banbury.Banbury. (Image: Other.)
This comes as Conservative county councillor David Bartholomew previously complained about "lack of services" from Henley into Oxford while expressing concern about loss of councillors' parking spaces at county council offices.

Labour county councillor Duncan Enright said: "Buses are incredibly important in a rural county like ours.

"The coalition of Tories and Lib Dems absolutely took an axe to our bus services in 2010-2015.

"What we need is a new approach to buses and the Labour government, if we get elected, will be introducing a far greater role for local communities in controlling their bus services."

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About the author

Noor is the Local Democracy Reporter for Oxfordshire who covers political stories from across the county. 

She began working as a journalist in Oxford in September 2023 having graduated from the University of Oxford.

Noor was trained at the News Associates journalism school and can be found on X through the handle @NoorJQurashi