Oxford City Council wants to squeeze out coaches

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Responding to county council consultation, the city council said it would restrict coach access to the city while abandoning partnership agreements with bus operators in favour of franchising

In its response to Conservative-controlled Oxfordshire County Council’s new transport strategy consultation, Labour-controlled Oxford City Council has said it would restrict coach access to the city. The county council is the transport authourity for the city.

The city council said: “We believe that access to the city centre for long distance and tourist coaches should be restricted as part of traffic management measures. Dedicated space could be provided at Thornhill to accommodate the laying over requirements for long distance coaches from London, with passengers then being required to use the BRT system.

“This option would require further work to establish the access and service needs of the operators. The potential for complementary ticketing arrangements would need to be investigated to ensure the services remained an attractive way of reaching the city. A possible alternative may be to restrict the large long distance coaches to more limited stops and routes within the city or to the edge of the city centre to mitigate their environmental impact.

“Tourist hop on / hop off services should also be subject to traffic control restrictions with the potential for time based restrictions for a limited number of services. The potential for alternatives for tourists such as greater promotion of walking tours or rickshaws services, should be considered.”

Oxford City Council has also called for bus franchising in the city. It said the partnership with Stagecoach Oxford and Go-Ahead-owned Oxford Bus Company should end in favour of a regulated system similar to what it says ‘works well in practice in London.’

The city council admitted that the current partnership has provided ‘many positive outcomes’ including smart multi-operator ticketing and low emission vehicles, but said it was concerned about how growth could be achieved under the existing framework.

It said: “We believe that for services to be improved to the level required to achieve the bus operating patterns a new approach is required.

“Bus franchising allows the public sector to control the routes of bus services and service levels as well as ensuring integrated ticketing and branding.

“The model is successfully employed in London and is being proposed in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. We believe that a coherent bus network can only be achieved through the use of franchising. The mechanism for achieving this would need to be given significant thought and would likely require coordination of services at the county level or through a combined authority.

“The price of travel on the existing bus network discourages many from using it. Controlling, and where possible reducing, the cost of travel must be an objective for the strategy. Reduced price family tickets should also be encouraged, which would help to make public transport more competitive in comparison to the car.”