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.