No Pedestrianisation For Oxford Street – Yet

Pedestrianisation dreams for Oxford Street must be sighed over, wistfully, a while longer as Transport for London has said buses will continue to plough through it.

The issue got a thorough going-over at Mayor’s Question Time (MQT) and Westminster Council this week. TfL boss Peter Hendy explained that the only way to get rid of the buses would be to build terminuses at either end of Oxford Street and then a tram down the middle: while that sounds incredibly cool, creating a bus station at Marble Arch wouldn’t be terribly sensitive to the area and Tottenham Court Road – well, it’s already a nightmare (note: this last is our opinion, not Hendy’s).

220,000 passengers take buses down Oxford Street each day and three-quarters of them get off. The New West End Company, though supportive of more traffic-free days, doesn’t want to lose that footfall. At MQT, Kit Malthouse said that Westfield would be pleased with fewer buses going down Oxford Street, and Boris Johnson agreed that the two mega-malls pose a threat to West End shopping. Stephen Knight proposed a trial: three months of pedestrianised weekend shopping, which sounds like a reasonable idea to us.

What might tip the balance is Crossrail. The idea is that with another line speeding people to Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road, it may get enough people off buses to allow closures. But we’re not that sure; we quite like hopping on a bus a few stops to get out of the crowds for five minutes, and people with mobility problems would still need some way of getting from, say, Mothercare to Topshop.

Your next chance to experience Oxford Street traffic-free is 24 November.

Photo by Tobymutz from the Londonist Flickr pool

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  • http://twitter.com/sohocub Neil Evans

    There’s already a ‘bus station’ at Tottenham Court Road, so can’t see that actually altering things. Marble arch, yes – would be more problematic, but there is that whole area ‘coach stands’ which could be altered to be a bus halt – it’s not about turning buses around in a garage, just alter routes so they terminate central…

    Oxford Street will die (and is dying) if something isn’t done soon, a shiny new primark isn’t hiding the fact that the east end of oxford street is just crap shops and repeated chains (there are now two boots within 3 minutes of each other either side of Poland Street…). London desperately needs a central shopping zone that encourages people to be on the streets, not rushing head down from one task to another, but enjoying the street-scene, eating out on the street, playing with fountains and enjoying the shade of trees. Europe learn this lesson years ago and European cities like Köln, Frankfurt, Barcalona and Hamburg are all awesome examples of central districts where the pedestrian (helped by tubes and trams) has priority.

    I live in Soho and I dread even crossing that bloody road, it’s time someone bit the bullet as in the 13 years I’ve been in the UK all I’ve seen is one sad excuse after another as to why London’s ‘premier’ shopping street isn’t being improved.

    NWEC and TfL AND both mayors’ have a lot to answer for, Oxford Street is a mess, the pavements slope into gutters you have to wade through to cross the street, the new central median has made the street impassible every time a bus breaks down and that’s not to mention the fact that leaseholders 14 landlords deep have just given up repairing some of the buildings (which between legitimate building work) make the street look like it’s literally falling into the ground.

    Londoners need to knock heads together now and DEMAND that something is done before. The City has a beautfiul example of this now in the remodelled Cheapside. If only Oxford Street could be made to look even half that good it’d be a 100% improvement.

  • N

    Why can’t they just divert the buses? Looking at Google Maps there are about 3 or 4 alternative routes running along there which the buses could be split between. If that is for some reason impossible, why do the buses need to terminate there? They can be looped back on themselfs or sent north or south to terminate at other points. Seems like a lack of imagination on TfL’s part in seeking a compromise. Also, wasn’t there some talk about rationalising the number of buses going down Oxford Street to reduce the numbers heavily?

    While Reducing the number of buses or having one or two days free of them, it does seem that to really get Oxford Street competing with the malls is to pedestrianise and close off the whole street permenantly. You can then remodel the street to cope with people in a more pleasnt way, make the experience much nicer and perhaps allow for things like markets. Transport can still link up via buses going down the side streets still and cutting across it. Anything less than eliminating the road is just a plaster. They should also look at what they can do to improve Regent Street, the two are very linked no?

  • Anonymous Widower

    If you want to get the feel of Oxford Street without traffic take a look at the main shopping street in Liverpool. i was there in the 1960s and everything went up and down it, creating complete chaos. The buses were diverted to a parallel road with a new bus station virtually at one end. It is now fully pedestrianised and shows what can be done.