A long-standing idea would see all vehicles removed from Oxford St except for trams.
This proposal is far from new. The New West End Company made a presentation to the London Assembly in 2001 proposing the pedestrianisation of Oxford St, with a tram service running along it.
Unfortunately pedestrianisation is fraught with difficulties - notably where to put the traffic. Oxford St is already only accessible to buses, taxis and delivery vehicles.
To displace to large number of bus routes using Oxford St (albeit very slowly) would be difficult - the only parallel route for through routes that is close enough, is Wigmore Street / Mortimer Street to the north. However, this is a busy route as it already carries all private traffic diverted from Oxford Street.
Rationalisation of the large number of buses using Oxford St has been proposed, to reduce some of the inherent congestion - buses running along the Street have quite low occupancy, as shopping by its nature involves walking between the shops.
The 2004 proposal by the New West End Company was initially to have just one bus route running along Oxford Street, with all other vehicles (including taxis) except emergency vehicles banned during the peaks. The bus route would use articulated buses and there would be seven stops along the street, with no bus stands (the route would not be a shuttle, but would extend beyond the street to an unspecified destination). Service vehicles and taxis would have dedicated bays in side streets. [Minutes of meeting, Westminster City Council, 6 Apr 2004]
This proposal was then developed further in conjunction with Arup to a two-route service, with one route running from Shepherd's Bush to Aldgate, and another from Finchley Road to Vauxhall, using Oxford Street between Baker Street and Oxford Circus. This would be part of a wide-reaching package of bus network rationalisation into a grid network across the central area. However, TfL and Westminster Council did not support this proposal. [Oxford Street and Buses report, 6 Apr 2004, Westminster City Council]
Proposals put forward by TfL in the same meeting were less radical and included:
These proposals were estimated to reduce the volume of buses approaching from the west by up to one third.
Marble Arch bus interchange
Recently, an idea was floated to move the Marble Arch itself into the corner of Hyde Park to make it accessible to tourists; it is currently isolated in the middle of a busy gyratory system.
Moving the Arch would allow a range of possibilities for a new bus interchange at Marble Arch to be considered. Potentially, private traffic could be restricted to the western and southern sides of the gyratory (operating two-way instead of one-way), with the eastern and northern sections given over to buses; this would allow a new bus station to be established.
The Mayor has aspirations for the West London Tram to eventually run all the way to Tottenham Court Road (thus including Oxford St).
The Mayor has outlined plans to turn Oxford Street into a near traffic-free zone, with just trams running along the street to provide a hop-on service for shoppers. A report is due from the Mayor and Westminster Council on the proposals next month, with Mr Livingstone indicating a seven-year timescale for the project. He also mentioned plans to scrap the Marble Arch gyratory system and creation of a convention centre at the St Giles Circus end to replace "tacky" buildings.
TfL and Westminster Council are actively working with the New West End Company to consider possibilities for improving Oxford St for shoppers. Proposals include widening the pavements and significantly reducing the number of bus routes running along the street itself, whilst creating new public spaces along and around the street to act as "gateways" - e.g. turning Marble Arch into a new public square.
Following studies showing a high number of accidents involving buses on Oxford St, Westminster Council has stated it wants to reduce the number of buses on Oxford St by about a third, by repositioning some stops, diverting some services to adjacent roads and reducing the number of services terminating at Oxford Circus.
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