Congestion is slowing down bus journeys into and around Oxford, highlighting the need for radical measures, according to Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council.
Journey speeds coming into Oxford in the morning rush hour now average 10.6mph, that’s a 1mph slower than in 2012.
In the first half of 2019, there were 65 days when speeds on at least one radial road fell to under 5mph during the morning rush hour.
The latest figures collected by transport planners show that travelling from Witney to the Headington area currently takes 82 minutes on a bus in the morning peak and travelling from Abingdon to Oxford Business Park currently takes 62 minutes.
The two councils see buses as one of the solutions to transport problems and are working on bold plans to tackle congestion, poor air quality and the gaps in public transport connections between some parts of the city, particularly on the eastern side.
Impacts of congestion affect us all
Traffic data also confirms the daily experience expressed by drivers travelling into and around Oxford.
Councillor Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “Public transport is the answer to many problems – it can be cleaner, greener and more convenient if the right conditions are in place.
“Bus journeys are taking longer because of the increase in the number of private cars on the roads. Without positive action now travelling will only get more difficult as Oxfordshire’s success with a thriving economy means more homes and potentially even more cars.
“The county and city councils are committed to a better transport future for all who live or work in Oxford. We need to think differently about private cars on the roads and how we can improve journeys overall for drivers, bus users, cyclists and pedestrians.”
Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Oxford City Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Transport, said: “The city and county councils have been working closely to examine the effects of traffic and congestion when travelling across Oxford and when entering the city.
“The number of private cars on some city roads means buses are slowed down by congestion, but to be attractive to passengers, services need to be quick and reliable. So to make journeys on public transport quicker and more reliable for users we need to give buses priority over the private car.
“The two councils are working together on how we can get passengers quicker from A to B.”
Since 2015 the county council has been working on projects to improve journey times into and around Oxford as part of the Local Transport Strategy, including Access to Headington, the joint Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) proposals with Oxford City Council, and corridor studies for Botley Road and other routes.
But the slowing of journey times over the last five years shows that more needs to be done to reduce congestion, and increase the number of bus, cycle and pedestrian journeys.
Transport planners are working on new proposals designed to improve journeys into the city and improve connections to the ‘Eastern Arc’ from Headington to Cowley.
Phil Southall, Managing Director of the Oxford Bus Company said: “Congestion has a huge impact for us, delaying journeys and leading to decreased frequency.
“Our costs also increase because we need more buses to deliver the timetable. Reliable and flexible buses are crucial to cutting down on the number of individual car journeys. We need a radical way of unclogging the roads and welcome potential changes.”
Chris Coleman, Managing Director of Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, said: “We welcome and support any action that contributes to reducing congestion in the city and across the county. Well planned schemes that include the delivery of bus priority will support bus operators in providing reliable bus services and encourage more people to look at alternatives to car use"