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Oxford’s traffic filters: Your frequently asked questions answered

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Oxford’s traffic filters: Your frequently asked questions answered
A traffic filter in operation on Oxford’s High Street

Introduction

As cabinet members at Oxfordshire County Council approve introducing six traffic filters in Oxford, here’s a quick look at what it is, what it means for drivers and your frequently asked questions answered.

Six traffic filters (also sometimes referred to as bus gates) will be trialled in Oxford, with the aim of reducing traffic, making bus journeys faster and making walking and cycling safer.


Read more: Six traffic filters to be trialled across Oxford city


The traffic filters trials will begin after Botley Road reopens following improvement works to Oxford railway station. Botley Road will be closed to motorised traffic from 09 January 2023 and is expected to reopen before Christmas 2023.


Read more: Botley Road to close for 12 months for Oxford Station improvement works


The traffic filters will be implemented using an experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO) for a minimum period of six months. During the trial, the County Council will assess the impact of the traffic filters by monitoring traffic levels, bus journey times and air quality. The council will also review any impacts on individuals and those with protected characteristics.

Further public consultation will run during the first six months of the trial. A long-term decision about the traffic filters will be made towards the end of the trial period based on the data collected during the period and feedback received from the consultation.

Where will the traffic filters be introduced?

The current proposals will see the introduction of six traffic filters in the following locations:

  • St Cross Road (immediately south of its junction with Manor Road)
  • Thames Street (immediately east of its junction with Blackfriars Road)
  • Hythe Bridge Street (immediately west of its junction with Rewley Road)
  • St Clements (immediately east of its junction with Boulter Street and Jeune Street)
  • Marston Ferry Road (immediately west of the access to The Swan School)
  • Hollow Way (between James Wolfe Road and Dene Road)

A zoomable map of the traffic filter locations is shown below. Click on the points on the map to see the proposed days and times of operation.


The map is also available online here.


When will the traffic filters be introduced?

The proposal by Oxfordshire County Council, supported by Oxford City Council, to install traffic filters as a trial on six roads in Oxford is planned to begin in 2024 when Botley Road reopens.

Botley Road will be closed to motorised traffic from 09 January 2023 because of improvement works to Oxford railway station and is expected to reopen before Christmas 2023.

Will the Oxford traffic filters be physical barriers?

No.

The traffic filters are not physical barriers of any kind and will not be physical road closures. They are simply traffic cameras that can read number plates.

If a vehicle passes through the filter at certain times of the day, the camera will read the number plate and (if you do not have an exemption or a resident’s permit) you will receive a fine in the post.

Buses and taxis will be able to pass through the traffic filters freely at all times, people can walk or cycle through them at all times, and there will be exemptions and permits for blue badge holders, emergency services, health workers and both professional and non-professional care workers. People receiving frequent hospital treatments will also be eligible to drive through the filters.

Oxford residents (and residents of some surrounding villages) will be able to apply for a permit to drive through the filters on up to 100 days a year. Residents living in the rest of Oxfordshire will be able to apply for a permit to drive through the filter up to 25 days a year.

The traffic filters will operate the same way as the existing traffic cameras in High Street and are widely used in cities across the UK to manage congestion and support public transport.

Residents will still be able to drive to every part of the city at any time – but in the future, during certain times of the day, you may need to take a different route (e.g. using the ring road) if you want to travel by car.

The County Council has proposed these changes because the city has had awful issues with congestion for decades. This is damaging to both the local economy and the environment, and it is making the bus network unviable.

The aim is to reduce traffic levels and congestion, make the buses faster and more reliable, and make cycling and walking safer and more pleasant. 

Oxford needs a more sustainable, reliable and inclusive transport system for everyone, particularly for the 30% of our households who do not own a car.

The County Council has already made amendments to the scheme after listening carefully to feedback from residents and stakeholders earlier this year. 

The scheme will be introduced as a trial, during which an additional consultation will be undertaken to further refine it. A final decision will then be made on whether or not the filters should be made permanent.

What vehicles will be exempted from the traffic filters?

Exempt vehicles and other vehicle types, including buses, coaches, taxis, vans, mopeds and HGVs, will be able to pass through the traffic filters freely at all times.

An exempt vehicle means any vehicle in the service of or employed by the fire, police or ambulance services when on an emergency call, or a police vehicle on patrol.

Cars operating as part of a qualifying car club will also be exempt from driving through the traffic filters.

Oxford residents (and residents of some surrounding villages) will be able to apply for a permit to drive through the filters on up to 100 days each year. Residents living in the rest of Oxfordshire will be able to apply for a permit to drive through the filter up to 25 days in one year.

Will Oxford residents be confined to their local area? 

No.      

The misinformation online has linked the traffic filters to the 15-minute neighbourhoods proposal in the City Council’s Local Plan 2040, suggesting that the traffic filters will be used to confine people to their local area. This is not true. 

The 15-minute neighbourhoods proposal aims to ensure that every resident has all the essentials (shops, healthcare, parks) within a 15-minute walk from their home. They aim to support and add services, not restrict them.

The City Council aims to ensure that areas of the city, such as Barton, Blackbird Leys and Rose Hill, have all the essential services that places such as East Oxford and Jericho already have.

Residents will still be able to drive to every part of the city at any time, even with the traffic filters in place. But in the future, at the times when the filters are operating, you may need to take a different route (e.g. using the ring road) if you want to travel by car. 

Will Oxfordshire residents need permission from the councils to travel across the city? 

No. 

Everyone can go through all the filters at any time by bus, bike, taxi, scooter or walking. Furthermore, residents will still be able to drive to every part of the city at any time – but in the future, during certain times of the day, you may need to take a different route (e.g. using the ring road) if you want to travel by car.

There will also be exemptions to the fines for carers, blue badge holders, businesses, and emergency services.

Oxford residents (and residents of some surrounding villages) will be able to apply for a permit to drive through the filters on up to 100 days a year. Residents living in the rest of Oxfordshire will be able to apply for a permit to drive through the filter on up to 25 days a year.

If residents in the permit areas are not using a permit or run out of permits, they will still be able to drive to any destination in Oxford or elsewhere, whenever they like, as often as they like. Depending on their location and destination, they might have to use a different route to avoid the filters, which would usually be the ring road.

Have Oxford’s councils tried to secretly introduce traffic filters? 

No. 

The concept of traffic filters was first introduced in 2015 in the Oxford Transport Strategy. The proposals were first consulted on in 2019 and then again in February 2022. 

Following this update, several months of engagement work were carried out with stakeholders across the city to revise the proposals, which were announced in August 2022.

Several changes were made to the scheme as a result of the consultation. This includes offering 100 day passes to each resident and reducing the hours of operation of some of the filters.

A consultation on the proposals was carried out from 05 September until 13 October 2022, in which 5,700 people responded to the consultation survey, and another 485 emails were received by members of the public and businesses, schools and other organisations. This engagement work included an in-person and virtual engagement session with members of the public and meetings with businesses across the city.

The responses were analysed by an independent research company, and the feedback received resulted in several updates to the scheme. This was used to inform Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet meeting on 29 November 2022, where an extraordinary meeting was held, and Cabinet members decided to proceed with the trial. 

The scheme will be introduced as a trial, during which an additional consultation will be undertaken to further refine it. A final decision will then be made on whether or not the filters should be made permanent.

Are there traffice filters in operation across Oxford?

Yes. There are already several traffic filters or bus gates in operation across Oxford city.

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