Network Rail has revealed plans to close Botley Road to traffic from April to October 2023 and March to October 2024 to replace the road’s rail bridge.
The bridge replacement is part of a wider scheme to expand the Oxford Railway Station which will include the installation of a secondary station entrance on its western side. The developments are collectively known as ‘Oxford Corridor Phase 2’ and are intended to accommodate the increase in services planned from 2024 as part of the East West Rail project. These plans are intended to result in a high-speed rail connection between Oxford and Cambridge, with connections between Oxford and Bedford to be completed by the end of 2023.
In addition to accommodation for these new services the expansion will improve passenger safety and waiting times. For example, the level crossings at Yarnton Lane and Sandy Lane will be closed and three high-speed crossovers at Oxford North Junction will be created in their place to accommodate increased demand for rail freight services. Closing these crossings will also provide capacity for an additional two freight trains per hour and extra services from Birmingham to Oxford.
It had initially been agreed between that Botley Road would be closed to all traffic other than emergency services from 9 January 2023 until December. This closure was delayed in light of the “complexities involved in diverting utilities and feedback from communities”. As Botley Road is the main road into central Oxford from the west, closing it for an extended period would cause significant disruption. The railway station itself is located on the eastern end of Botley Road, north-west of Frideswide Square. The revised bridge replacement programme, jointly agreed between Network Rail, Oxfordshire County Council, and Oxford City Council, will result in the closure being split into two blocks, one from April to October 2023 and the other from March to October 2024.
The 2023 closure will be in effect from 11 April until 31 October to allow utility diversion work to take place on Botley Road. Network Rail’s website states that “11 different utility providers must divert their infrastructure that currently runs underneath the existing bridge” before the replacement can take place. They advise motorists who normally use Botley Road to enter Oxford to use one of the city’s Park and Ride sites (Seacourt being the closest site) or find an alternative route. Bus services will continue but will stop at the Botley Road railway bridge. Pedestrians and cyclists will be able to access Botley Road throughout the duration of the work and local residents’ access to their homes will not be affected. The railway station will continue operating as normal “unless otherwise advertised”.
The railway station is set to be closed again from 29 July to 6 August 2023 for track and platform work to be completed, and there are plans for further closures in August 2024.
Botley Road will reopen to traffic on 31 October before closing again in March 2024. From March to October, the road will be closed to traffic to allow the bridge to be replaced and highway improvements to be made. As part of the bridge replacement project the road below the bridge will be lowered to allow standard double-decker buses to pass under the bridge for the first time. A four-metre wide footpath and cycle path will also be installed on each side of the bridge to improve safety and encourage sustainable transport.
The improvements to Oxford Railway Station have been in the works for several years. The project received approval from the Oxford City Planning Committee in November 2021, and its Transport and Works Act Order was approved by the Secretary of State for Transport in June 2022. The improvement programme is set to cost £161 million.