Back to square one - major expansion of Frideswide Square put on hold because of train station revamp

Rodney Rose

Frideswide Square

Richard Mann

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

A MAJOR refurbishment of one of Oxford’s busiest junctions could be delayed for up to six years.

Work on Frideswide Square was due to take place over the next few months but now transport chiefs cannot guarantee that it will start before 2019 due to the revamp of Oxford Station.

The £3.7m project aims to help the traffic flow better through the bottleneck square and to make it a more attractive place for pedestrians.

County councillor Rodney Rose, cabinet member for transport, said work on the scheme would not take place until next year at the earliest – but could not guarantee it would be done before the station was finished.

He said: “We need to know what is going on up there and it would be a bit naive of us to start work without knowing that.

“Sorting out that square is absolutely important and I am not enjoying having to put it back but we would be damned if we had to dig it up again because of changes at the station.

“We won’t do anything until we have absolute certainty about the plans for the station.

“It is unlikely that we will have to wait six years for this to be done but if there is doubt as to what the final result of the station redevelopment will be then we might.”

Earlier this week Network Rail announced its £9bn five-year plan for the railways through Oxfordshire which includes redeveloping the station and building a third platform by 2019.

Moving the station to Oxpens has been floated in the past but Network Rail has now confirmed this will not happen.

Mr Rose said he wanted “certainty” on issues such as how cars and buses will access the station.

Network Rail expects to appoint a contractor for the station by early next month and have a masterplan in place by the summer which will set out the possible options for the site.

But work cannot begin until the plans announced this week have been approved by the Office of Rail Regulation in October.

Mr Rose said the Frideswide Square scheme was the one project which would have the biggest impact on traffic flow through Oxford.

He said: “It all depends on the timeline for the station. I would do it this afternoon if I could.”

Frank Webster, director of letting agent Finders Keepers, which is based in the square, said his reaction was twofold.

He said: “I can see the logic in postponing it, because I can think of other infrastructure projects which have been carried out without thinking of things like this.

“There is a lot going on in this area, and it’s important they get it together properly.

“However, it does seem a shame, because the whole of that west end approach to Oxford still looks very unwelcoming.”

The county council’s boulevard-style design for Frideswide Square will involve creating a large roundabout at the entrance of the station and two mini-roundabouts at the other end of the square in front of the Royal Oxford Hotel.

As part of the scheme a series of large public open spaces will be created at three sides of the square, which is named after Oxford’s patron saint.

Extensive planting will also take place in an attempt to make the square a more welcoming place for pedestrians.

But cyclists have been concerned about the fact the design does not include cycle lanes because the council is hoping to create a “shared space”.

Richard Mann, of cycling group Cyclox, said: “We have been worried about the proposals so hopefully this pause will give us the opportunity to reflect on how the make the square work for cyclists.

“Regardless of the future of the station is it important that we get Frideswide Square right because it is one of the busiest junctions in Oxford.”

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We are spending a large amount of money on the line through Oxford and we have plans to improve Oxford Station as well.

“Obviously we will continue to talk to the county council as we each try to develop our plans.”

 

Timeline

  • March 2011: Calls for the removal of traffic lights in the square are made after they break down and traffic runs more smoothly.
  • August 2011: A bid for Government cash of £5m for a more expensive scheme is thrown out by Whitehall.
  • December 2011: New plans, with a smaller price tag of £3.7m are announced, using cheaper materials to make the saving.
  • February 21, 2012: Cyclists hit out over both options for the square, saying they will both be dangerous.
  • March 8, 2012: A boulevard-style scheme is announced as the preferred option for the square, and recommended to council.
  • March 13, 2012: County council cabinet approves the plans for Frideswide Square which were scheduled to start in early 2013

Comments (6)

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9:24am Sat 12 Jan 13

Sandy Wimpole-Smythe says...

Ohh, never saw that coming. Common sense would dictate that the whole development plans for this area would involve both the station and the road layout. Our idiot councillors should have been working with Network Rail from day one.
Ohh, never saw that coming. Common sense would dictate that the whole development plans for this area would involve both the station and the road layout. Our idiot councillors should have been working with Network Rail from day one. Sandy Wimpole-Smythe
  • Score: 0

10:42am Sat 12 Jan 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

How can an organisation be so terribly disorganised?

We have known for a considerable time that Oxford Station is due for an upgrade. And for at least a century that the Botley Bridge is unfit for purpose.

With electrified services operating between Paddington & Oxford as well as Reading/Southampton & Manchester/Newcastle as well as the new routes between Oxford & MK/Marylebone - there is the potential for several thousand passengers arriving at and just as many departing from at Oxford station at once. There'll be a need for more than a couple of bus-stops and a taxi shelter big enough for 6 people to stand in the rain.

It's time for a 100 year masterplan for the area.
How can an organisation be so terribly disorganised? We have known for a considerable time that Oxford Station is due for an upgrade. And for at least a century that the Botley Bridge is unfit for purpose. With electrified services operating between Paddington & Oxford as well as Reading/Southampton & Manchester/Newcastle as well as the new routes between Oxford & MK/Marylebone - there is the potential for several thousand passengers arriving at and just as many departing from at Oxford station at once. There'll be a need for more than a couple of bus-stops and a taxi shelter big enough for 6 people to stand in the rain. It's time for a 100 year masterplan for the area. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

4:13pm Sat 12 Jan 13

Myron Blatz says...

Nothing is 'writ in stone' and for once, Cllr Rose doesn't seem to he speaking out of his hind quarters - though appearences can be deceptive! There is also the matter of 'commercial interests' with City, County and various property companies and developers part of the scenario - one might suggest a combined little game of monopoly and snakes-n-landlords, with the actual needs and requirements of commuters, tourists and other rail users being only of secondary importance. It's also interesting to note just how many times the Oxford Station complex has been changed and redeveloped since the late 1960s/early 1970s.
Nothing is 'writ in stone' and for once, Cllr Rose doesn't seem to he speaking out of his hind quarters - though appearences can be deceptive! There is also the matter of 'commercial interests' with City, County and various property companies and developers part of the scenario - one might suggest a combined little game of monopoly and snakes-n-landlords, with the actual needs and requirements of commuters, tourists and other rail users being only of secondary importance. It's also interesting to note just how many times the Oxford Station complex has been changed and redeveloped since the late 1960s/early 1970s. Myron Blatz
  • Score: 0

4:55pm Sat 12 Jan 13

H.J.Harris says...

In the meantime, the road appears to be sinking.
In the meantime, the road appears to be sinking. H.J.Harris
  • Score: 0

2:44am Sun 13 Jan 13

Grunden Skip says...

I don't know why Mr Mann is being consulted, his cyclists seem to do very well at the junction, bowling pedestrians out of the way as they whizz across the pedestrian crossings and straight onto the pavements, although this does make it easier for motorists with them off the road.
I don't know why Mr Mann is being consulted, his cyclists seem to do very well at the junction, bowling pedestrians out of the way as they whizz across the pedestrian crossings and straight onto the pavements, although this does make it easier for motorists with them off the road. Grunden Skip
  • Score: 0

11:42am Mon 14 Jan 13

King Joke says...

Two thoughts:

1. Frideswide Square redevelopment was on hold anyway, as no funds had been allocated to complete the work. It may have taken until 2019 anyway!

2. Andrew, there have not up until now been concrete plans for the station, so the County could not have known how to work around it. There have been various plans over the years: four through platforms, three through platforms, two plus one southern one on the current car park, etc etc.
Two thoughts: 1. Frideswide Square redevelopment was on hold anyway, as no funds had been allocated to complete the work. It may have taken until 2019 anyway! 2. Andrew, there have not up until now been concrete plans for the station, so the County could not have known how to work around it. There have been various plans over the years: four through platforms, three through platforms, two plus one southern one on the current car park, etc etc. King Joke
  • Score: 0

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