CALLS have been made to turn off the lights at one of Oxford’s busiest junctions, after the traffic ran more smoothly when they failed.

The traffic lights at Frideswide Square, outside the city’s railway station, were not working last Thursday and Friday.

But rather than cause traffic chaos at the complex juntion, the failure led to much less congestion than normal.

The accidental experiment came just weeks before the county council is set to publish a new report on the future of the square.

And it has sparked a debate on how best to make traffic flow through the junction.

Even Keith Mitchell, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, appeared impressed when the traffic lights went out.

He wrote on social networking site Twitter: “Frideswide Square at Oxford station working well this morning with no traffic lights. Long may it continue!”

But cyclists and pedestrians were not as happy, describing the light-less junction as “a bit hairy”.

As previously revealed in The Oxford Times, the county council is considering permanently removing the lights and replacing them with a system of roundabouts. A report will be made public on Thursday, March 24. The authority has £300,000 to fund the design phase of any work, but it has not yet got the estimated £5m it would need to carry out the construction.

County cabinet member for transport, Rodney Rose, said remodelling the junction was “pivotal” to tackling the city’s congestion problems.

But he claimed the traffic light failure was “not a fair test” as it happened during the school half-term break, when city traffic is traditionally lighter.

He said that a county council employee had witnessed a near miss between a car and cyclist, and he added: “If the argument is leave them off for good, then the answer is ‘no’.”

Mr Rose said the county council would seek to fund the scheme by bidding for money from the Government’s £560m sustainable transport fund, launched in January.

He added: “It fits the criteria quite well and its impact on Oxford makes it even better from a sustainable transport point of view.”

Many city taxi drivers have called for lights to be removed since they were first installed a decade ago.

Alan Woodward, secretary of the City of Oxford Licensed Taxi Cab Association, said of last week’s signal failure: “It flowed perfectly. The only hold-ups were going out of town in the evening because of the traffic lights further up Botley Road.”

Motorist Ian Beesley added: “It was running really well — they should leave the lights switched off.”

But Richard Mann, vice-chairman of cycling campaign group Cyclox, said: “It was a bit hairy for cyclists going through there. We had to look in five directions at once.

“You could edge your way through but you felt distinctively nervous doing so.”

Political assistant Rupert Dewey crosses the junction on foot from the railway station to his office above The Jam Factory.

He said: “Approaching it there looked like there was going to be chaos. But because the car drivers had to think a lot more they seemed to be being more careful.

“But you had to wait for a space, they were not stopping for pedestrians.”

Corrine Grimley Evans, a spokesman for the Oxford Pedestrians Association, said the county council’s plans for a redesign involving roundabouts would improve life for those on foot.

But she added: “I would not recommend simply switching the traffic lights off at the moment.

“That really would not help pedestrians.”

Thames Valley Police spokesman Chris Kearney said there had been no reported road accidents in the Frideswide Square area while the traffic lights were off.