BUS company bosses have expressed concern about the continued operation of a ‘temporary’ car park at Oxpens in Oxford.

They fear the additional 420 spaces available opposite the 1,000-space Westgate Centre car park are contributing to congestion.

They spoke out after Green councillors earlier this month called for the city council-run car park at Oxpens to be closed immediately, instead of at the end of 2018, as planned.

Green city councillor Craig Simmons said if the Oxpens car park was shut now it would make it easier for drivers to exit the Westgate Centre car park.

Mr Simmons said the car park at Oxpens was initially expected to remain open only while the shopping centre was being built.

Now Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach in Oxfordshire have both expressed their concern.

Oxford Bus Company managing director Phil Southall, said: “Along with other public transport operators in Oxford we were disappointed to discover the temporary Oxpens car park would remain open beyond the date promised.

“Car parking capacity on Oxpens Road with both the city council and Westgate car parks has increased by nearly one third compared to before the Westgate development started, which unsurprisingly has worsened congestion in the city.

“We need a joined-up transport strategy for the good of Oxford, that supports easing congestion and improving the visitor experience and our political leaders need to play their part in this.” Mr Southall said ‘worsening congestion’ was having a negative impact on visitors and over time businesses would suffer.

He added: “Our Park and Ride Service is designed to help alleviate congestion and provide a world class welcome for visitors to get into the city centre.

“Our drivers have undergone Westgate and wider city centre knowledge training to enable them to be city ambassadors and welcome visitors to Oxford.

“Additionally, we introduced an ‘all in one’ family ticket covering both parking and bus travel which represents incredible value for money.

“But overall the issue of congestion needs to be addressed at a political level for Oxford’s transport network to run more smoothly.”

Martin Sutton, managing director of Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, said there had been occasions when Oxpens Road and Frideswide Square had become congested at busy times, with traffic backing up along Botley and Abingdon roads.

He added: “Our understanding was that the temporary Oxpens car park would close when the Westgate opened.

“The fact that it remains open undoubtedly encourages more people to come into the city centre by car.”

Earlier this week a series of transport options was outlined by the city and county councils, which included a one-way system for buses featuring Oxpens Road.