TRAFFIC ENGINEERS who developed the Oxford Transport Strategy (OTS) have been accused of 'zealous extremism' by local traders determined to overturn a policy that has seen cars banned from areas of Oxford city centre.
After nearly £20M investment on bus priority, pedestrian and cycling facilities, the piece de resistance came last June. The High Street and main shopping street were closed to cars and buses to reduce a high accident rate, clean the air and persuade people out of their cars.
A group of hostile local businesses who have formed Rescue Oxford (ROX) are outraged that a review of the road closures on 28 January will be held behind closed doors. ROX spokesman Roger Roswell said: 'Most people want significant amendments to the OTS. We hoped the review would be independent and public, but it appears it is going to be a private review held by members of the City and County Councils.'
Not to be outdone, ROX has employed traffic engineers and economists to expose the 'folly' of the OTS and is taking legal advice. After the Government had appeared to become more favourable to motorists in its policies it wants to know why motorists in Oxford are charged to park after 6.30pm, why single yellow lines have been changed to double, and why all available parking in Oxford town centre is temporary only.
However, according to a transport consultant for Oxfordshire County Council Roger Williams, the OTS has 'overwhelming public approval'. He added: 'ROX has no credible alternative to our transport solutions.'
Williams claimed the travelling habits of the people of Oxford have changed enough to support the traffic restrictions, imposed after a public inquiry found in favour of the OTS. Oxford's 80% growth in bus use over the last 10 years is the highest in the UK. Just 46.2% of the city's workforce travel by car - the lowest level in the UK.
The Government's higher than expected local transport settlement of £10.5M for Oxfordshire has been acknowledged as a 'reward' for the city's commitment to reducing car use since 1993.
But the pressure is on and other local authorities will be anxiously observing events in Oxford over the next few months to see whether the transport planners can implement the integrated transport agenda against mobilised, aggressive and sustained opposition.