The end of buses on Oxford Street?

Articles, New ProjectsSimon FellComment

Sir Peter Hendy, London’s Transport Commissioner, confirmed in an interview that he’s prepared to think the unthinkable and strip buses from Oxford Street.

We are looking at all the options and we will countenance taking all the buses out. We wouldn’t rule anything out.

The reason? Crossrail.

Pressure has been building for years for this to occur from both retailers and pedestrian groups. Between 2005 and 2013 VIP (Very Important Pedestrian) days were held on the thoroughfare, removing vehicles altogether and dramatically changing the shopping environment. Gone was the ever-present wall of traffic, and in came wide Parisian-like boulevards. All of a sudden, shoppers could relax on the street and actually take some time to look about them and take in some of the fantastic buildings.

Quite aside from that, they were a success: customer numbers were boosted, as were sales (to the tune of £300m), and air pollution took a noticeable plunge.

Lib Dem Stephen Knight has written a compelling paper which argues for the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street once Crossrail is up and running and it would appear that the Transport Commissioner is now thinking about the same.

Sir Peter states that the buses shalln’t be going away but might run instead to parallel back streets such as Wigmore Street. TfL will have to be careful not to just push the problem elsewhere.

Perhaps it’s time to think about fresh options which might better balance the needs of the complicated mix of user groups who travel to, or through , Oxford Street? Trams are a perennial favourite but, cable cars now also pop up at Mayor’s Question Time these days too.

A short while ago an Oxford Street without buses seemed an impossible dream. Perhaps now Sir Peter should start dreaming big. It is, no doubt, an issue which the candidates for Mayor will have to address.