UTILITY companies are being told to leave Oxford roads alone for the next month so people can get on with their Christmas shopping.

Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, has been in touch with Thames Water, SGN and other big companies, warning bosses they will not be given permission for any work from tomorrow - unless it is an absolute emergency.

The month-long roadworks embargo, which finishes on January 6, is designed to ensure traffic queues are kept to a minimum in the run-up to December 25 and beyond as the major routes get busy with Christmas shoppers.


Despite the embargo, traffic queues are expected on Oxpens Road at the entrance to the Westgate Centre car park and on other busy routes into the city centre.

Council bosses are reminding shoppers that the city's network of park-and-rides is likely to be the best option.

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County council spokesman Martin Crabtree said only emergencies that needed immediate action - a gas leak, water leak or power outage - would result in roadworks.

He added: "The best place to park if you plan to visit Oxford at any time of year and need to drive is one of the five park-and-rides situated on the outskirts of the city.


"These are clearly signed and benefit from regular bus services right into the city centre - by using the park-and-rides you avoid being caught up in or contributing to congestion."

Mr Crabtree added that officers would use all the technology available to try to reduce congestion over the festive period - including adjusting the sequencing of traffic lights.

He said: "We routinely check that traffic signals are working at their optimum to accommodate the varying traffic demands at any given time.


"We do have the ability to intervene remotely to run contingency plans and timings if necessary due to unusual situations rather than just the level of traffic.

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"We publicise the availability of parking spaces including park-and-rides via variable message signs located on the approaches to Oxford. Additional mobile signs are now being deployed at critical decision points.

"The county council also uses its Twitter pages to update the public on congestion and alternative travel options."

The Westgate Centre website said: "Parking is limited at Westgate, so we recommend you use park-and-ride for your journey into central Oxford."

While it costs £3 to park for an hour, from Monday to Sunday 6am to 5pm, 12 to 24 hours costs £25.

The evening tariff Monday to Sunday, 5pm to 6am is £3 for up to an hour and £3.50 for over an hour.

Festive shopping has already started in earnest at the Westgate Centre, which opened in October 2017, with 100 new shops and restaurants.


On November 23, the car park, which contains about 1,000 spaces, was full by 1.30pm and the council's highways team tweeted: "Botley Road is heavily congested. Westgate car park and Oxpens car park are FULL.

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"The current journey time is 43 minutes between West Way and Thames Street. To avoid delays use #ParkandRide #OxonTravel."

Months of SGN gas works in Botley Road were completed last month.

From July drivers faced significant delays daily as repairs were completed near Osney Bridge.

One of the worst hold-ups was at the Frideswide Square roundabout outside the railway station as traffic in Becket Street turning left was delayed by the lights.


Traffic expert Hugh Jaeger, chairman of Bus Users Oxford, said: "Traffic was gridlocked in the city centre on the last Sunday in October and now we are in the Christmas period it can only get worse.

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"I understand that members of staff from the highways management team will be on duty on Sundays to monitor the situation.

"Driving into Oxford should be the last resort - shoppers should catch a bus into the city centre where they have the option but if not they should drive to the park-and-ride."

The city and county councils have been consulting the public on Connecting Oxford, a series of congestion-busting proposals including a workplace parking levy and new bus only lanes.

Graham Jones, of traders' group Rox (Backing Oxford Businesses), said: "This roadworks embargo is a good idea and will hopefully make life better for shoppers in Oxford over the coming weeks."