Have your say now on plans for better buses and less congestion

Published: Thursday, 17th October 2019

Bus services in Oxford would improve if congestion was effectively tackled, according to one of the city’s bus companies.

Figures from Oxford Bus Company show that traffic congestion has a definite negative impact on bus service reliability and journey speeds.

Their comments come as the county and city council’s engagement on the proposals for a radical transport overhaul for Oxford nears the end. Responses must be received by 20 October 2019.

Slower bus times mean higher costs 

Bus services need to be seen as reliable in order to be a realistic alternative to driving for customers and to attract enough passengers to be commercially viable.

Oxford Bus Company have found that bus speeds in the centre of Oxford are now 38% slower than in 2006, therefore to ensure their timetables are met, they have had to increase the number of buses on the road by around a third.

Congestion was also a factor in Oxford Bus Company’s recent announcement to withdraw their X90 service to London. According to Oxford Bus Company, overall congestion across the entire route made journey times worsen by up to 50% in two years.

The bus company has also revealed that passenger numbers have been hit as a result of the slower journey times, meaning that profitability is down by two-thirds. And, if not addressed, this could see further impact on less profitable city and rural services.

Have your say and shape future transport 

For these reasons Oxford Bus Company is backing proposals currently being consulted on by Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council. These measures to improve bus journey times for people travelling into and around the city, by introducing additional traffic restrictions similar to the ‘bus gate’ on High Street.

These restrictions would reduce the number of vehicles on roads so buses will be able to flow freely, even in places where there is no space for bus lanes. There would also be less pollution and noise, and space for safer, more pleasant walking and cycling environments.

Also proposed is the introduction of new high frequency bus services that serves the eastern arc - an area outside the city centre that links parts of north Oxford, Marston, Headington and Cowley - offering easier, faster connections for people travelling in from the county towns and park and rides as well as an orbital route within the city. A charge on workplace parking spaces within the eastern arc would help fund the new bus services including discounts for staff of employers paying the charge.

Over 2,000 individuals or those representing businesses or other organisations have responded so far with responses to date showing that journey times and reliability are valued highly by the travelling public – something that is at the heart of the Connecting Oxford proposals.

The councils are now urging everyone to look at the proposals and have their say before the deadline on 20th October (midnight). Feedback will then be considered by the county council’s Cabinet in December, who will be asked to make a decision on the next steps.

As well as making improvements to journey times for commuters the aim is to enhance quality of life for residents, including improved air quality, by reducing the number of cars travelling into and around the city.

"We welcome the Connecting Oxford proposals and look forward to working with Oxfordshire County Council to ensure a positive impact is delivered by providing increased sustainable travel options.

“Bus speeds are getting slower year on year and we need a real change in the approach to change this worsening situation. An effective bus network is key to tackling congestion. A bus can carry around 70 passengers per trip and thus remove individual car trips and cut congestion. This is a real opportunity for all key stakeholders to get together and really shape an effective Transport Strategy that is fit for purpose and can stand the test of time. Radical action is needed to unclog our roads to make bus travel the best way to travel in Oxford City.”

Phil Southall, Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company

"We value the work Oxfordshire County Council are doing to tackle the congestion in the city and with particular reference to the Eastern Arc. Getting the reliability and punctuality right for buses is essential to encourage more people out of their cars and onto public transport which in turn contributes towards a healthier environment.

“With the current and future pressures on road usage - doing nothing is simply not an option."

Chris Coleman, Managing Director of Stagecoach Oxfordshire

"It is clear that in order for our public transport system to operate more efficiently and to get more people using public transport on a daily basis that we need to reduce car traffic and improve journey times in Oxford.

“Our Connecting Oxford proposals aims to tackle the issue of congestion coming into and travelling across the city, and ultimately aim to make public transport a more reliable option for all. This is an opportunity for everyone to help to shape the future of transport across Oxford and improve their daily travel.”

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Transport

“Buses are at the heart of any sustainable public transport system, so its vital we make decisions now to deliver big improvements to Oxford’s bus services.

“And there is still time for you to have your say on our proposals, which are radical to make the improvements needed in bus journey times and reliability.”

Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for Environment, Oxfordshire County Council

Connecting Oxford

The key points of the Connecting Oxford proposal are:

  • Restricting car traffic by introducing additional ‘bus gates’ similar to the restriction on the High Street across the city to improve journey times for people travelling into and around the city, and so road space can be reallocated to improve walking and cycling routes New high frequency fast bus routes connecting neighbouring towns and the Park and Rides to Oxford’s eastern arc, which is seeing the greatest growth in employment but is currently less well served by public transport, particularly around the ring road
  • New and improved cycle and walking routes, including utilising space created by removing vehicles from the road to provide safe and attractive alternatives to driving into and around the city
  • A charge for workplace parking provided by larger employers in the eastern arc, which would help fund the proposed transport improvements and create a disincentive to drive to work. Discounts for the new bus services would be available for staff of employers paying the workplace parking levy
  • Improved journey times for commuters driving into and around the city as a result of less congestion.