Christmas shoppers in Oxford are being advised to beat traffic queues by using park and ride car parks.

As festive shopping sprees are now starting in earnest, county council highways boss Andrew Gant is urging people to take the bus, and use park and ride.

With Botley Road closed at the rail bridge due to an ongoing Network Rail project to revamp Oxford station, traffic is expected to be heavier than usual for this time of year on Abingdon Road and Oxpens, as drivers queue for comparatively cheap parking spaces at the Westgate Centre.

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Mr Gant, cabinet member for highway management, said: "Oxford is a medieval city and was not designed for the levels of traffic it gets, particularly during the busy festive period.

"To avoid getting stuck in traffic, or experiencing the frustration of searching for a parking spot, we would urge visitors to make the bus or the city’s five convenient park and rides their first choice for getting into the city.

Herald Series: County councillor Andrew Gant“We have brought in a £1 fare cap for passengers using the bus in Oxfordshire on Sundays in December before Christmas, which begins this week, and we hope this encourages more people to use them.

“The government’s £2 bus fare cap has been extended until the end of 2024, and our own park and ride joint parking and ticketing offer was extended until April 2024 – meaning one person can park and get a return journey for just £4, or £5 for a car and two adults.

"With both options, the car can be parked for up to 16 hours, and up to three children under 16 can travel for free.

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“More people on the buses means fewer cars on the road, less congestion and less pollution.”

According to the county council there are 5,929 park and ride spaces at park and rides around the city, including Oxford Parkway.

It's cheaper to park at the Westgate Centre, which has about 1,000 spaces than it is to park at city council car parks, which is why traffic queues can form for the Westgate.

Herald Series: A park and ride busIt costs £5 an hour to park at the city council's Worcester Street car park, and £3.80 for an hour at the Westgate Centre, which reminds drivers on its website that parking spaces are limited and advises them to use park and rides.

A county council spokesman added: "We regularly work with all relevant partners about improving the situation on the county’s highways.

"Over the festive period, there is a moratorium on non-emergency roadworks, although the Oxford Station redevelopment will be continuing.

Herald Series: "We work with the Westgate Centre all year round. When the Westgate car park is full, it is closed, to discourage vehicles from continuing to queue.

"When this happens, notice of the closure is posted on the electronic traffic signs around the city. We would encourage motorists to pay attention to these signs."

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Graham Jones, of traders' group ROX (Backing Oxford Businesses), said he had been "pleasantly surprised" by how busy the Westgate Centre was in the past week, and other city streets like Cornmarket.

"There are lots of positive signs that people are coming into Oxford to shop in large numbers - it looks like shops and restaurants are doing well at the moment," he said.

"My concern is that the January sales and afterwards will be a lean period."

Herald Series: A park and ride busJulian Le Vay, of residents' group West Oxford Access, said: "It's all very well telling people to get the park and ride but for us on the west side of the city we have to walk through the 'tunnel of doom' at the rail bridge, walk into Oxford and then lug our shopping back afterwards.

"Online shopping is still the biggest concern for our shops."

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

You can also read his weekly Traffic and Transport newsletter.