Mayor Sadiq Khan this week revealed more details on his proposal to pedestrianise London’s Oxford Street and confirmed exactly what residents in surrounding districts feared — all vehicles will be simply diverted into neighbouring streets but with a reduction in buses serving the area.
The plans put out for consultation this week by Westminster Council and Transport for London are to completely close Oxford Street to all but emergency vehicles between the Selfridges and John Lewis department stores.
The number of bus routes serving the area will be reduced from nine to two with the 139 and 390 running every six to eight minutes in each direction east and west along Wigmore Street and Henrietta Place during the day and every 30 minutes at night. TfL will also make all buses in central London less polluting by 2019 with up to 250 zero-emission buses by 2020.
Taxi ranks will be relocated to nearby streets with the total number of rank spaces to increase by 20 per cent by 2020. All new taxis and private hire vehicles licensed from 2018 must have reduced emissions.
Some of the surrounding streets will be converted from one-way to two-way and some one-ways streets the direction would be reversed to help the road network “function more efficiently” says TfL.
Despite the transfer of traffic into Wigmore Street, TfL says that “fewer vehicles would use the street in future”; a claim that is met with scepticism by local residents who believe that a reduction in buses will lead to more trips by people using private motor vehicles.
Cycling will not be allowed along Oxford Street but there will be improvements for cyclists along nearby streets. “In Summer 2018 we will consult on new high-quality cycle routes along quieter roads to the north and south of Oxford Street,” says TfL.
TfL has not ruled out night time deliveries to service businesses along Oxford Street saying the “option remains open to allow some access overnight if required”.
Residents in the neighbourhoods of Marylebone, Mayfair, Fitzrovia and Soho are alarmed about the plans and are angry that the mayor has done exactly what he promised not to do: pedestrianise Oxford Street at a cost to surrounding streets.
People in these districts want traffic calming and pollution reduction in their residential areas, directing the bulk of motor traffic to major roads which has been done in the “Mini-Holland” schemes to be found in outer London
“What sort of reality does the Mayor live in where he thinks that all this traffic should be taken out of an almost 100 per cent commercial area and pushed through its surrounding residential streets?” says Michael Bolt of Better Oxford Street, the campaign set up by local community groups.
“Shifting congestion, pollution and road safety issues rather than tackling them is unacceptable,” he says.
In a press statement Better Oxford Street warned that the ban on motor vehicles using Oxford Street after 7pm will mean that all the evening and night-time traffic — taxis, private hire vehicles, private cars and pedicabs — will be pushed into the side streets.
“The majority of those that live and have businesses in the West End are against this scheme. Instead it is being pushed through to the detriment of the wider West End. The people who know the area, who know the consequences of these hasty and ill thought out proposals, don’t want it,” says the campaign group.
A previous consultation found that most local residents and businesses did not support or have concerns about the plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street.
The current consultation will run until December 2017. If given the go ahead work will start in the summer of 2018. This consultation is also seeking views on the “principle” of transforming Oxford Street east.
A further consultation giving details of the Oxford Street east plans will be conducted in the early summer of 2018. These could propose diverting traffic along Mortimer Street, Goodge Street and other streets in Fitzrovia if Oxford Street east is closed.
Public consultation: Have your say on the transformation of Oxford Street. Closes Sunday 17 December 2017.