Public Transport Hub for Oxford

Plans to rebuild Oxford Station give the City a great opportunity.

25 April 2013

More details of the plans by Network Rail (NR) to increase radically the capacity of the railway infrastructure have emerged recently, and on 9th January 2013,at a public meeting in Oxford Town Hall, a presentation was given which set out the basic intentions for the Oxford area. Oxford will become something of a strategic location, as upgrading and electrification of the lines takes place, a new signalling system is installed and new rolling stock is introduced. Traffic, especially freight, will increase as the ‘east – west route’ across the country is developed, and the Chiltern Railways link from Oxford to Marylebone becomes operational in 2014. The next stage in Network Rail’s plans is the submission of detailed proposals to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) in autumn 2013.

It is now clear that Oxford station is to be totally rebuilt; in fact, a design competition is to be launched for the new station building, in due course. Meanwhile, a masterplan for the existing station area is to be commissioned jointly by the City and County Councils, with Network Rail. It is disappointing that this appears to be independent of the ongoing masterplanning exercise for the area immediately adjacent, south of Frideswide Square, and relocation of the station to a new site with more space and opportunity, nearer Oxpens, still appears to escape proper consideration, although there may be hints to more imaginative thinking in more recent developments (see below).
It does seem to be accepted that the new railway station must incorporate proper bus interchange facilities, as well as much improved facilities for cycling passengers and pedestrians. Another really welcome confirmation is that the Botley Road bridge, for so long an eyesore, bottleneck and ‘black hole’ for pedestrians and cyclists, is to be comprehensively rebuilt.

Other relevant developments have been the submission of a bid on 15th January under the Government ‘City Deals’ invitation for the Oxford city-region, and the publication on 17th January of an “Oxford Economic Growth Strategy” by the Oxford Strategic Partnership. Both these developments show encouraging signs of closer working between key organisations and better-integrated policies for Oxford and its region.

Especially relevant to the transport hub issue, the bid document for the ‘City Deals’ submission refers to: “Major commercial development linked to rail station re?development and new services”, under the heading of ‘expected investment in infrastructure’. The Economic Growth Strategy states:

“The works to the rail corridor have to be completed by 2018 to fit with the electrification programme already committed. This opens major opportunities with the redevelopment of the station, extending through to Oxpens, which the City and County are pursuing together. As well as a landmark building and gateway to the city, the new station is a potential catalyst for significant improvements to transport circulation and interchange, and enables a commercial and residential quarter in the environs and south of Botley Road”.

It does seem that at least some of the arguments of our campaign for a better station are now accepted. We shall continue to monitor closely how matters develop, and seek to engage with the masterplanning and station design. Following a feature article in The Oxford Times on 18 April and the further announcement that Network Rail has appointed consultants Aedas to draw up a master plan for redevelopment of Oxford station, OCS Chairman Peter Thompson wrote a letter to The Oxford Times on 22 April which you can read here.