Lib Dem response to Oxford City Centre transport improvements and experimental Queen Street closure consultation

Here is the response to the above from the Liberal Democrat Group on Oxford City Council and from Oxfordshire County Councillors Paul Buckley and John Howson. Please click on this link for the full consultation documents

 

Our principal concern about these proposals is that we do not believe that the safety of pedestrians and cyclists is given high enough priority in a very busy tourist, visitor and employment centre.

We believe that the overall cost-benefit of these proposals is too small; we note that the cost of the changes will be nearly £1m but this is not fully funded. What is the shortfall and where will it come from? These proposals are submitted without any apparent agreement with the County Council about funding, and without reference to Cil contributions. Is the City expected to contribute and, if so, in what proportion.

We are concerned that no evidence is supplied with this consultation document to support this package of major transport changes. It is therefore not clear what the problems are which the ‘permanent’ transport measures and the ‘experimental’ closure of Queen Street would seek to remedy.

We believe that the proposed change to the Worcester Street junction is over-engineered.

There is no mention of the proposed Worcester Street bus gate, which would impact heavily on this plan. If it is to be introduced, the pros and cons need to be taken into account at this stage.

 

Our comments on the individual area plans are detailed below:

  1. Overview Plan – Queen Street Area (Oxford) Various Traffic Proposals
  • The development of Becket Street as a bus lay-in and start point for key services such as routes to London would alleviate congestion in the George Street/Worcester Street area and could be implemented ahead of the current scheme for the Railway Station outlined in the City Council’s supplementary planning document.
  • An increased number of bus stops cannot help but increase congestion.
  • We would like to see an increased number of air quality monitoring stations set up to aid evaluation of environmental impact throughout the ‘experimental’ period. We would like to see figures for air pollution in St Aldates and The High Street over the last 12 months, for comparison purposes with results over the next 12 months.
  • Accident data has not been included within these proposals and we would find this helpful to inform decision-making.

 

  1. Consultation Plan – High Street Bus, Taxi & Loading Bays
  • There is currently pedestrian congestion at temporary bus stops in High Street outside the covered market. As a result the entrances to the covered market are less visible. Waiting passengers obstruct shop windows and doorways, and passers by and tour groups get mixed up with bus queues moving forward to board buses.
  • There is also a negative impact on heritage. St Aldates and The High Street are two of the most architecturally significant streets in the City. Waiting buses will impede views for tourists and citizens and this proposal does not preserve or enhance the central conservation area.

 

 

  1. Consultation Plan – St. Aldates / High Street Changes to Waiting Restrictions
  • ‘No waiting’ restrictions outside the Town Hall need greater enforcement, has funding been set aside for this purpose?

 

  1. Consultation Plan – Proposed Taxi Turning Area in Cornmarket Street

We strongly object to this proposal on a number of grounds.

  • Concerns about the width of the street when taxis perform U-turns
  • Concerns for safety as this is an area heavily used by pedestrians and by cyclists who are allowed to ride down the street after 6pm
  • Impact on street entertainment and events held in that location which helps attract trade to that area
  • The number of taxis allowed on the rank at one time is not set out here. The number of taxis in Queen Street currently in the evenings is so great that some park on the opposite side of the road too, and we are concerned that the proposed taxi rank space appears unrestricted
  • The present location is nearer the new Westgate shopping development

We consider that the existing taxi rank at the eastern end of Queen Street should be retained and/or that the new Westgate Centre should provide a taxi rank.

 

  1. Consultation Plan – George Street / Worcester Street Proposed Junction Layout Amendments 

We object to some of the proposed changes because the proposals do not sufficiently address the flow of pedestrians, which is heavy at this point because this is a major route to and from the railway station.

  • We can see no evidence for taking away the existing crossing facility in Hythe Bridge Street
  • We accept that cyclists need more protection at the Worcester St junction, but we believe there should be better solution than the use of a traffic island next to a pelican crossing
  • The traffic island proposed will narrow the turning into Worcester St from Hythe Bridge St, making it very difficult for lorries to manage the turning. Pedestrians will use this traffic island as a way of avoiding waiting for the lights – to the danger of all
  • Taxis are not mentioned on this drawing but they usually use bus lanes, will they be able to use the bus left turn cut-throughs?

 

  1. Consultation Plan – Park End St / New Rd / Worcester St Proposed Zebra Crossings
  • There is insufficient evidence of pedestrian desire to access Upper Fisher Row (this is a footpath – no vehicle access) to justify a new zebra crossing at the entrance from Park End Street, and a crossing here would impede traffic flow.
  • Bus flow is impeded at the junction of Worcester Street and Park End Street. Consideration should be given to making this a No Right Turn

 

  1. Consultation Plan – Speedwell Street / St. Aldates Proposed Zebra Crossings
  • We have concerns about the safety of cyclists (a) turning right from St Aldates into Speedwell Street across the path of incoming buses, and (b) travelling north across the path of buses turning right into Speedwell Street.
  • We believe that the retention of lights here, operational at peak times, would provide an additional safety measure for those choosing to cycle to and from work and study

 

  1. Consultation Plan – Bus Lay-Over Bay Speedwell Street

We support this proposal.

 

  1. Consultation Plan – Park End St / Hythe Bridge St Additional Bus Facilities

We object to these proposals for the following reasons:

  • It is proposed to locate bus stops immediately opposite each other in Park End Street. If both sets of bus stops are being used at once, the width of the road would be insufficient for traffic to flow.
  • There is insufficient evidence that an extra bus stop is needed in Hythe Bridge Street outside Fusion. The road is not wide enough and cycle safety is an important issue here as it is a well-used route. R9 in Hythe Bridge St should be removed and replaced with use of the double bus stop on the north side of Park End St. These buses are at their route end, approaching their lay-over in New Road, and will be carrying few passengers beyond the city centre, so the marginal extra distance to Park End St is preferable to the problem which would be caused by a bus stop on the south side of Hythe Bridge St.
  • Insufficient cost benefit to install a zebra crossing on Park End Street at its junction with Fisher Row (see note above)

 

Information Plan – Proposed Changes to Bus Stop Locations (DRAFT)

Information Document – Provisional Bus Stop Allocations (DRAFT)

Buses from Blackbird Leys, Barton, Marston and Wood Farm will stop directly outside Westgate shopping centre but the 3,3A and the 16 from Littlemore and Rose Hill will terminate at St Aldate’s on the way into town. The 16 appears to have to run along High Street to the Plain for no other reason than to turn round at the end of its route to pick up at Carfax, which does not appear to be energy efficient. Neither of these services access the railway station as Rose Hill residents had been promised.

In conclusion, our view is that:  

  • When the Gloucester Green coach station was planned, the longer, larger, more frequent coaches that now use it were not envisaged. Insufficient thought was given in the planning of the new Westgate to the effect on an already congested public transport situation in the city centre.
  • A solution to traffic problems in the city centre depends on relocating the Gloucester Green bus station. We would propose the Becket St parking site, with a shuttle service into the centre.
  • The longer term impact of these proposals, if they are not modified as we propose, will be to concentrate the flow of transport to suit retail and restaurant use in one part of the City (Westgate) to the detriment of businesses in other parts of the City.

We do not support permanent pedestrianisation of Queen Street which has less culturally significant architecture and heritage than St Aldates and The High Street.

 

Sent to Oxfordshire County Council 20 June 2017

2 thoughts on “Lib Dem response to Oxford City Centre transport improvements and experimental Queen Street closure consultation

  1. Juliet Blackburn says:

    Why not re-locate Gloucester Green bus station to Oxpens and have a new railway station there as a proper Public Transport Hub. There is not enough room in Becket Street.

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