Oxford’s Botley Road is set to close for all of 2023 as Network Rail replaces the rail bridge at Oxford station as part of its larger project to expand the station on the western side.
The currently proposed start date for the works to replace the rail bridge, and the ensuing closure of Botley Road, is 09 January 2023. And it is expected that the closure will last until 15 December 2023.
Due to the scale and nature of the works on the highway, including the need to divert vital utility services such as water, gas and electricity, there is expected to be a significant impact on Botley Road and surrounding areas.
So far, Network Rail has said the 12-month closure period will cover the demolition of Station Grill Diner and the youth hostel, the rerouting of utility cables, the replacement of the rail bridge and the start of construction of the new western entrance of the station.
Discussions with Oxfordshire County Council led to the conclusion that there should be a 12-month closure of Botley Road to traffic for the duration of the work.
The discussion explored a traditional approach of closing a series of lanes under temporary traffic lights. However, the preferred option was a condensed 12-month programme with a point closure of Botley Road for the duration of the work as it reduced the risk to the overall programme timeframe.
This method of accommodating the railway work would preserve access to businesses and services along Botley Road and minimise the likelihood of the substantial queueing that would occur with just lane closures. Such queues would then ultimately impact the A34 and bus journey times.
Read more: Green light for Oxford station and railway redevelopment with £78.6m funding
In a letter to residents and businesses, David Paull of Network Rail said: “Under our original proposal, we would have been working on the road for 18 months, which would have seen the majority of work done with a single lane closed and several short periods of full closures.
“As it is well known in Oxford, a long period of a single-lane operation on Botley Road can cause significant traffic disruption. It would also have severely disrupted bus services in the area.
“Therefore, we have been asked by Oxfordshire County Council to look at if we could finish quicker by working with a full road closure, and we concluded that the time required could be reduced by six months.”
He added that ‘the most likely scenario’ was for the road under the bridge to be closed to all vehicles, apart from emergency services, for 12 months, from January to December 2023.
There are plans to maintain pedestrian and cycle access through the closure points – although the specific route may change over time. It is also planned that buses will operate to either side of the closure, so anyone on through journeys will need to do a short walk and change buses.
Oxford Bus Company has already announced several service changes to Oxford city’s bus services that will take effect from 08 January 2023.
Read more: Changes to Oxford city’s bus services from 08 January 2023
Emergency Service access will be provided with the specific access arrangements are likely to vary depending on the stage of the programme of works.
It is expected that the other main routes into Oxford will become busier during this period, so only a limited number of essential roadworks will be permitted on these roads. Additionally, parking and loading restrictions may also need to be considered.
The council is also assessing the impact of the road closure on the timing of its proposed transport schemes in and around Oxford. For example, the commencement of the traffic filters trial – designed to reduce traffic, make bus journeys faster and make walking and cycling safer – will only begin after Botley Road reopens.
In the meantime, the council recommends using the park and ride services and will promote this option for those visiting Oxford.
Read more: Park & Ride sites in Oxford
The rail infrastructure in the Oxford Station area is close to full capacity and currently wouldn’t be able to accommodate the increase in services planned for 2024.
Therefore, to increase capacity, the Oxford Corridor Phase 2 project is being developed by Network Rail, and subject to funding, it will improve the station and the surrounding area in numerous ways:
Further afield, the works will include the closure of the level crossings at Yarnton Lane and Sandy Lane, along with the creation of three high-speed crossovers at Oxford North Junction.
More detailed information on all of this will be communicated by Network Rail to local communities from November via letters, briefings and drop-in sessions. Further information about the project can be found at networkrail.co.uk/oxfordphase2.