OV Forum Recap: Transport

Transport issues in Oxfordshire affect everyone, from businesses to residents, commuters, cyclists, pedestrians and public transport operators. The County Council is the strategic transport authority and works in partnership with the bus and rail operators, the City and District Councils and Highways England to manage the connectivity of the overall transport network. Oxfordshire Voice recently invited the County Council to a transport forum meeting to discuss the transport issues affecting Oxfordshire and through discussion came up with an Oxfordshire vision for transport in the future. A number of presentations from transport operators and transport users were made to add to the debate, these presentations are available here.

Transport accounts for almost half the carbon emissions in Oxfordshire and finding low emission alternatives that improve connectivity and transport choice is a key priority for the next Local Transport and Connectivity Plan for Oxfordshire, led by the County Council. This will rely on improved connectivity by public transport including rail and bus networks, improved active travel options for cycling, walking and improved choice for private car users, including electric vehicles, car sharing options and autonomous vehicles.

The challenge for transport planning in Oxfordshire is to improve connectivity through a range of travel choices and reduce the need to travel through better access to broadband. Key objectives are to improve journey times across a range of transport modes (including bus, cycle, car, train), improve air quality through a reduction in vehicle exhaust emissions, reduce congestion particularly on routes into and out of Oxford and plan for a zero emission travel future for everyone in Oxfordshire.

The Oxfordshire Voice Forum heard from several speakers and enjoyed a lively question and answer plenary where many issues were discussed and highlighted as follows:

Key issues

  • Cycling and walking are very popular means of travel across Oxfordshire and are increasing in popularity particularly in Oxford. We need to improve rates of active travel for healthy, active lifestyles. Better walking and cycling route options are needed.
  • Use of rail is becoming increasingly popular across Oxfordshire and particularly in Oxford and Bicester Village. Improved connectivity within Oxfordshire by rail is needed and particularly between urban centres in the Oxford to Cambridge arc, north to Birmingham and south to Reading, Heathrow and London.
  • More people use the bus than drive into Oxford but passenger journeys peaked in 2013/14 and have gradually fallen since although they still remain well above 2011/12 levels. We need to improve the reliability of bus travel by improving journey times and travel speeds. Better bus prioritisation is needed particularly on heavily congested routes where buses are often in conflict with other road users including cyclists and private car users during peak times.
  • Housing and employment growth in Oxfordshire will intensify pressures on the road and rail network and needs to be supported by improved transport and digital broadband connectivity. This may include improved rail access to the major urban centres of Oxford, Banbury, Bicester and Didcot.
  • Transformational change is needed to improve transport connectivity, reduce congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. The next Local Transport and Connectivity Plan for Oxfordshire needs to be focussed on these outcomes and plan for a cleaner, smarter transport future for everyone.

Notes:

1. Oxfordshire is an important County for road and rail connectivity within the UK, with the M40 carrying over 100,000 vehicles per day and the A34 carrying up to 70,000 vehicles per day.
1.1 Oxford railway station is increasing in popularity, 8 million attendees were recorded in 2017/18, up by more than a million on the previous year.
1.2 Bicester Village railway station is soaring in popularity, attendance is increasing by over 50% between 2016/17 and 2017/18.
1.3 Oxford Parkway and Culham stations are also increasing in attendance by over 20% in the same period and attendance at Islip has increased by 74% in the same period.
1.4 However, attendance at many stations is declining, by over 30% at Shipton, 29% at Ascott-Under-Wychwood, by more than 10% at Didcot Parkway and over 14% at Bicester North.

2. Real choice of transport mode is needed: In 2019 there were 150,000 people journeys into and out of Oxford city centre (inner cordon). These included 30% by car, 33% by bus, 15% by walking and 12% by pedal cycling.
2.1 The numbers of people cycling and walking into Oxford and across Oxfordshire in general is increasing. An Active Lives Survey in 2025-2017 estimated there were approximately 140,000 cyclists in Oxfordshire making 600,000 cycle trips per week.
2.2 Oxford is the most popular place for cycling and walking with more than half the number of cycling trips in the County.
2.3 Approximately 2.5million walking journeys are made each week in Oxfordshire, mainly in Oxford but also fairly evenly represented across the other Districts.

3. Traffic into Oxford is decreasing : Annual Average Daily Traffic Flows across Oxfordshire (not including A34, A43 or M40) are shown to be falling by 6.4% between 2014 and 2018.
3.1 Inbound traffic to Oxford (vehicles excluding cyclists within the inner cordon) is also showing a steady decline while vehicle traffic counts within the wider ring road around Oxford are shown to be fairly steady.

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OV Transport Forum discusses a “route map” for the future of Oxfordshire.

Pembroke College, Oxford – May 2019

The partners, panellists (Phil Southall of Oxford Bus Company and Bob Price, Honorary Alderman of Oxford City Council) and delegates at the Oxfordshire Voice Transport Forum discussed the need for a visionary, sustainable and deliverable transport plan to overcome the challenges Oxfordshire faces as a county – both in the short term in 2019 and into the longer term future. Ensuring the Oxfordshire transport strategy enables and empowers development for the economy and our community as a whole is a key underlying determinant for future success.

Feedback from the business community and Oxfordshire Voice partners

In 2019 only 5% of the businesses in Oxfordshire have a clear understanding of what is planned and which bodies are responsible for delivering infrastructural change in Oxfordshire. The strategic imperative to build a coherent vision for the short term as well as longer term challenges was a core outcome from the forum. Encouraging engagement and collaboration in a more comprehensive manner is essential to map out the future but also to address key short-term issues hampering development and causing issues now. The survey was enlightening in many respects and demonstrated that greater engagement between the planning bodies, their initiatives and the business community could create powerful collaborative projects for the evolution of transport and accessibility in Oxfordshire.

The shorter term challenges

Congestion in Oxford, surrounding towns and on key road networks is a major issue limiting productivity, accessibility and causing pollution at local levels. Interesting feedback included support for quite radical policy changes to limit congestion and reduce congestion.

– 67% of businesses supported the idea of non-peak delivery times to central locations.
– 60% supported expansion of Park and Rides.
– 58% supported staggering school start and finish times.
– 69% businesses did not support the idea of congestion charging.
– Only 12% of business regarded technological innovation as a short-term solution to transport issues.

A collaborative and engaged approach

It is not just Oxford which is struggling! Oxfordshire has vibrant towns blighted by transport issues and a dispersed population struggling to access work, services and facilities.

An integrated route map for the future of transport could help identify more urgent areas and help the community to feel more involved in the outcomes. The road map must be a collaborative project engaging and empowering community involvement through stimulating positive contributions and a better understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the options and solutions.

Mass Transit – a compelling vision of sustainable transport

Public Transport and Cycling need to be prioritised. To make these options more attractive we must ensure certainty of journey time for public transport and increase safety and prioritise road space for cyclists. Public transport operators and cycling/walking groups can work more closely with the County Council as the transport authority in prioritising funding (linked to OXiS priorities).

Local Transport Plan 4 and the JSSP (Oxfordshire Plan 2050)

Oxfordshire County Council’s Local Transport Plan 4 (LTP4) can be read online here with a refresh commencing later this year.

As part of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal agreement with the Government, the six Oxfordshire authorities – Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council – have committed to producing a joint statutory spatial plan (JSSP), known as the Oxfordshire Plan 2050.

The Oxfordshire Plan will provide an integrated strategic planning framework and evidence base to support sustainable growth across the county to 2050, including the planned delivery of new homes and economic development, and the anticipated supporting infrastructure needed.

As part of the formation of the plan, the authorities are committed to ensuring there will be early, proportionate and meaningful engagement between plan makers and communities, local organisations, businesses, infrastructure providers and statutory bodies.

The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for independent examination by 31 March 2020 and adopted by 31 March 2021, subject to the examination process.

You can see details of current Oxfordshire Plan 2050 consultations here

Engagement

Engaging, communicating and encouraging direct feedback from the business and wider communities so that projects are both understood in the broader framework of infrastructural and housing development in the longer term.

Specific interventions

Options for a free Park and Ride system and possible integration with an electric bike scheme. Engaging and attracting support for this from the commuter community could be a priority.

Climate emergency and millennial public opinion

Investigating how additional charging points for vehicles might be created and how a Zero Emission Zone might be funded.

School traffic is a huge contributor to congestion. Can the County Council look at a ‘total transport’ project to see how provision for school transport might be consolidated and funded effectively?

Freight consolidation. The logistics of managing freight to key manufacturers needs to be studied in detail for any changes not to have a detrimental impact.

To play a role in the future success of the development of Oxfordshire become and Oxfordshire Voice partner today. Visit www.oxvoice.co.uk.

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James Rowland | Your Voice

James Rowland, Clinician at TalkingSpace Plus, raises his concerns over the fear of using public transport and if it were promoted in a wellbeing and friendly way, it could promote a better use of the service.

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