CAMPAIGNERS voiced their disappointment last night after workmen began filling in an Oxford subway – 40 years after it was built.

Oxfordshire County Council started blocking off the Headington underpass on Monday as part of a £2m traffic scheme, designed to speed up journey times in London Road and spruce up the Headington shopping precinct.

The work kills off any hopes campaigners had of saving the underpass, which opened in 1970 and is decorated with murals of local shops and landmarks like the Headington shark.

The council is spending £45,000 to fill in the subway with concrete.

It will be replaced by a pelican crossing. A temporary crossing has already been installed near Kennett Road.

Campaigner Mick Haines who collected 5,447 signatures from people opposed to the scheme, said the decision to do away with the subway was undemocratic.

He said: “It’s a very bad day for Headington that this landmark has started to be filled in.

“It’s absolutely disgusting to spend £45,000 on this when there’s much better things that can be done with the money – like filling in potholes.”

Mr Haines, from Croft Road in Marston, added: “The new crossing will not be as safe as a subway.

“Progress is good but not at the price of safety.”

Second World War veteran Glyn Hughes, from Oxford Road, Old Marston, said he used the subway whenever he shopped in Headington.

The 84-year-old, who injured his knee when a ship he was travelling on was torpedoed in the North Sea in 1944, said: “I’m quite disturbed about it.

“It is a very dangerous road, and for people with trouble walking, the crossing lights can go out when you’re in the middle of the road.”

Council records show there have been 40 road accidents involving pedestrians crossing London Road over the past five years.

But the local authority said the crossing would make the road safer as many people chose not to use the subway.

The scheme will see a wider pavement installed in Headington as well as 19 benches and 16 bins.

To preserve the memory of the subway murals, the council has taken photographs and plans to publish them on-line.

Maureen Green, from Headington, who helped paint a scene from local author CS Lewis’s book The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in the underpass, said: “It’s sad that the paintings of local children will be covered up.

“I’ll be happier when the murals are on the Internet.”

The council denied that filling in the subway was undemocratic.

A council-run consultation showed 58 per cent of 419 people surveyed were happy for the removal of the subway.

Council spokesman Owen Morton said: “The temporary crossing is operating safely, replacing a dark subway that many people told us they were happy to see removed.

“Pictures of the murals will be displayed in due course.”