Park and pride

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1960 AEC Reliance with bodywork by Park Royal 756 KFC alongside one of the latest Wrightbus electric double-deckers to operate the park & ride routes. OXFORD CITY COUNCIL

Nowadays we take park and ride for granted, but half a century ago, Oxford was a trailblazer, reports Nick Larkin

In early December 2023, the city of Oxford celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the country’s first permanent park & ride site. On Monday 10 December 1973, the city’s Redbridge site, which had previously been a rubbish dump, began operating with a car park and dedicated bus service. Although experimental park and rides had been set up earlier – including one in Oxford at the Forte Motor Lodge on the A34 in the 1960s – Redbridge was the first permanent example of what was then a pioneering transport management system.

Previous proposals for easing Oxford’s traffic congestion had included an inner relief road through Christ Church Meadow, which was rejected after a campaign opposing it. There were also calls for a giant commuter car park on Port Meadow, connecting to a water ferry on the Oxford Canal, but this didn’t proceed beyond the initial idea.

The success of Redbridge inspired Oxfordshire to create what is believed to be the largest park & ride system in the country, with 5,900 parking spaces at five sites on the outskirts of the city. Park & ride sites at Oxford Parkway and Thornhill are run by Oxfordshire County Council, while those at Pear Tree, Seacourt and Redbridge are all operated by Oxford City Council.


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The golden anniversary comes at the same time as the first of 159 electric buses start arriving in the city, many of which will serve the park & ride sites. In 2022, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council, Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach introduced a joint ticketing and parking offer to further promote growth, providing parking for up to 16 hours and return bus travel at a cost of £4 for one person or £5 for two people, plus free travel for under 16s.

Unlike many other park and rides around the country, Oxford’s are reported to be thriving again following the impact Covid-19 had on the bus industry and user numbers are said to be close to pre-pandemic levels.

The original Redbridge site has evolved and has become home to Energy Superhub Oxford, said to be Europe’s most powerful electric vehicle charging hub, offering fast and ultra-rapid charging for 42 vehicles and powered entirely by renewable energy.

Luke Marion, Ken Merry, Paul Statham and Rachel Geliamassi marking 50 years of Oxford park & ride. OXFORD CITY COUNCIL

“Oxford has a proud history of leading transport innovations, and I am delighted that we are able to celebrate 50 years of park & ride services in our city. Our park & ride services have evolved over the years to cater to the changing needs of users. Imagine the number of car journeys into the city that have been saved over 50 years! By using the park & ride service instead of driving, commuters and visitors are helping to reduce congestion on our roads, improve our air quality and support a faster, more reliable bus network.” Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Planning and Healthier Communities, Oxford City Council

“It’s almost unthinkable now to imagine Oxford without its park & rides. They have become part of everyday life for so many people, providing a convenient and economical way to travel into the city centre and Oxford’s hospitals.” Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport Management

“Myself and the team at Oxford Bus Company are very proud to have been involved in operating Oxford’s world-leading park & ride system continuously for the past half a century. There have been major changes in the vehicles and technology we use on the service since it started 50 years ago, and the introduction of the new fleet of electric buses to the service is the latest step in this continuing evolution. With today’s levels of traffic congestion, the park and ride is more important now than it has ever been. We look forward to developing the service further over the years to come, to support the continued development of our city.” Luke Marion, Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company

“Fifty years ago, persistent pressure and well-argued advice from Oxford Civic Society was instrumental in the council’s decision to introduce the park & ride scheme. Oxford was only the second city in the country to do so and Redbridge was the first such site to be made permanent. The job of better managing traffic in our city is far from finished and we are proud of the vital role the park and ride sites continue to play.” Ian Green, Oxford Civic Society Chairman

“We’re delighted that Stagecoach has played our part in the longevity and success of the world’s first permanent park & ride scheme and to be able to toast its success over 50 years. It’s great to be part of a collaborative group of partners who have worked together to present the customer proposition for existing and new customers. We’re excited to take this as an opportunity to look forward to the introduction of the new electric vehicles on to the park and ride routes in 2024, along with the continuation of the combined parking and bus tickets, taking the scheme to another level and providing affordable and sustainable travel options to our residents and visitors.” Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director of Stagecoach West