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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