Scheme for 'quicker buses' could mean greater congestion at Banbury's busiest junction - lanes would be lost on town by-pass

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A scheme to allow buses quicker access to Banbury’s bus station could mean greater congestion at what is arguably the town’s busiest junction.

The changes, under a plan named ‘Banbury Bus Service Improvement Scheme’ would mean three-lane roads into Bridge Street from the M40 would be reduced to two and a two-lane route from George Street to Concorde Avenue/Lower Cherwell Street would be reduced to a single lane.

When Concord Avenue was established in the 1980s, linking Oxford Road to the M40, it was designed to be a town centre bypass, with optimised traffic lights to allow through-traffic to flow without impedance.

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The new proposal would mean ‘normal’ congestion from the Spiceball roundabout and Lower Cherwell Street towards the Bridge Street./Middleton Road junction traffic lights will undoubtedly be made worse.

The Bridge Street junction with Concord Avenue and Middleton Road which the County Council proposes to alter to favour busesThe Bridge Street junction with Concord Avenue and Middleton Road which the County Council proposes to alter to favour buses
The Bridge Street junction with Concord Avenue and Middleton Road which the County Council proposes to alter to favour buses

Traffic trying to avoid the queues may opt to take the Horsefair/Banbury Cross route adding to problems at the Warwick Road traffic lights.

The scheme would be funded largely by a Government bus service improvement plan (BSIP) whose core aims are to ‘improve bus journey times and reliability’. Planning contributions from developments in Banbury would make up the rest.

The scheme would provide bus priority lanes and traffic light optimisation, changed pedestrian crossings and reduce ‘general traffic’ lanes.

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“These improvements will also bring safety benefits for people walking, cycling and wheeling between the town centre bus stops and the train station, whilst minimising impacts on general traffic,” the Oxfordshire County Council plan says.

Concorde Avenue where the proposed changes would reduce traffic lanes from from three to twoConcorde Avenue where the proposed changes would reduce traffic lanes from from three to two
Concorde Avenue where the proposed changes would reduce traffic lanes from from three to two

Consultation ended on April 1. The official county council consultation document says: “The signalised junction of Cherwell Street and Bridge Street in Banbury, is important for the local bus network, being the gateway to the bus terminal area within Banbury town centre.

“During peak periods, the junction is over-capacity for vehicles, and this causes delays to buses into and out of the town centre. The aim of the proposed scheme is to reduce bus journey times and deliver more reliable and consistent journeys between George Street and Banbury bus station and the Bridge Street on-street bus hub.

“The Bridge Street junction was identified as a location that would benefit from improvements, with complementary measures on Cherwell Street also considered.”

Changes identified in the scheme are:

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George Street junction with Concord Avenue and Lower Cherwell Street where lanes would be reduced to one for 'general traffic'George Street junction with Concord Avenue and Lower Cherwell Street where lanes would be reduced to one for 'general traffic'
George Street junction with Concord Avenue and Lower Cherwell Street where lanes would be reduced to one for 'general traffic'

• Cherwell Street between George Street and Bridge Street – changes to line marking and the reinforcement of the ‘keep clear’ markings at the Morrisons Daily petrol station entry and exit junctions

• The junction of Cherwell Street and George Street – widening of the bus lane on George Street and formalisation of the priority/give way arrangement for buses onto Cherwell Street; removal of the pedestrian island and widening of the traffic lanes for vehicles approaching the junction on the Bodicote side of the junction; repainting of the yellow box junction; introduction of a pedestrian crossing on the Banbury town centre side of the junction; and reduction of the number of lanes for general traffic on George Street from two lanes to one lane.

• The junction of Cherwell Street and Bridge Street – adjustment and optimisation of traffic signal times; reconstruction of the pedestrian islands on Cherwell Street; improved pedestrian crossings on Bridge Street; reduction in the number of lanes for traffic approaching the junction on Concord Avenue from three lanes to two lanes; formalising an existing modal filter for bicycles at the Bridge Street end of Lower Cherwell Street; and changes to line markings for westbound traffic on the eastern arm of the junction.

The county says the main improvement will be to bus journey times and service reliability on Cherwell Street during peak periods.

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The county council map showing where the alterations would be madeThe county council map showing where the alterations would be made
The county council map showing where the alterations would be made

Other benefits of the scheme include longer turning lanes for both left-turning and right-turning traffic on Cherwell Street between George Street and Bridge Street, and pedestrian crossing improvements at the Cherwell Street/Bridge Street junction.

The council also says the proposals would bring safety improvements for pedestrians along Bridge Street (east), where cars currently mount the footway to access the left-turning lane for westbound traffic, and safety improvements at the Cherwell Street/George Street junction, with an additional crossing of the northern arm of this junction and a larger pedestrian island.

Other improvements at the junctions of Cherwell Street/ Bridge Street and Cherwell Street/ George Street with changes to pedestrian islands, new line marking, and wider traffic lanes. Road markings in the centre of the Bridge Street junction will clarify vehicle positioning for conflicting turns, reducing delays caused by this.

There will also be space for additional planting and greenery along Cherwell Street. And the county says the plans would support a renewal of Cherwell Street, and improvements for walking and cycling to support the Canalside redevelopment scheme.

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“Other options were also considered but eliminated prior to development of concept scheme design as they were considered to have negative effects on bus passengers, for example, not supporting faster and more reliable bus journey times or making it more difficult for bus passengers to travel to their destination once in Banbury; or they were unfeasible to implement,” said the county council.

“These options included replacing the junction at Cherwell Street and Bridge Street with a roundabout and installing a bus lane on Bridge Street.

“The proposed scheme is an initial part of the longer term place-making and public realm improvements in Banbury. The Cherwell Street scheme aims to deliver improvements in the shorter term (2025) and is complementary to the Tramway Road scheme that will provide better access to Banbury Station.

“The proposed scheme lies within the highway boundary and to meet BSIP funding requirements, must be delivered by summer 2025.”