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Connecting Oxford and buses

Oxford, Transport — May 2022

Oxfordshire was recently awarded central government funding, under the ZEBRA program, to electrify Oxford's local bus services. Looking at the full business case for this, two things are clear:

  1. The ZEBRA funding for bus electrification is contingent on the traffic filters in Connecting Oxford.
  2. If we don't get the ZEBRA funding, we're not just going to miss out on electric buses - we're going to be facing cuts to bus services.

Here are some quotes from the business case, with some key bits in bold:

"The most critical element of the BSIP proposals is the Connecting Oxford Traffic Filters – this is the measure that will have the largest impact on improving bus journey times within central Oxford (and hence apply to all bus services)"

Connecting Oxford will address the fundamental issue of slow and unreliable services within Oxford that impact materially on both demand (and hence revenues) and operating costs."

"The Connecting Oxford scheme – specifically the traffic filter element - is expected to reduce bus journey times by at least 10% on average, and this will affect all bus routes in the Oxford area. The impact on operators will be substantial, with a broadly directly proportionate impact on operating costs and a positive impact on demand and revenues. The positive impact on demand would be further reinforced by comparative journey time benefit being greater, as the traffic filters will both reduce bus journey times and increase journey times for car for those movements directly affected i.e. key inner radials and the city centre."

"Operator letters of support stated that their commitment to ZEBRA was dependent upon the Connecting Oxford Traffic Filter scheme coming forward. This position remains the case, for the compelling reasons outlined above."

"This 'dependence' refelects the commercial reality facing operators, but also the shared ambition of both Government and Oxfordshire to deliver a step-change in the quality of bus services, vehicles and overall network. The achievement of the shared outcomes within ZEBRA and the NBS are dependent upon near-term Connecting Oxford measures to re-secure a thriving and commercially viable network in the area. The counterfactual is not merely no ZEBs, but the likelihood that what was formerly a commercial network would either require ongoing subsidy or need to be re-scaled at a lower level of service"

Notes: ZEBRA = "Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas", NBS = "National Bus Strategy", ZEBs = "zero-emission buses". More information about Connecting Oxford.


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