Oxford MP urges Network Rail to deal with Botley Road closure’s ‘serious safety concerns’

Layla Moran has written to Network Rail over the “serious safety concerns” of her constituents regarding the closure of Botley Road.

Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, wrote to Network Rail executives on 20th April stating that “much more needs to be done” to make road travel safer and easier in light of the closure.

Botley Road was closed to all traffic except emergency services on 11th April and will remain shut until 31st October. This is to allow utilities and infrastructure around the Botley Road bridge to be diverted in preparation for the bridge’s replacement in 2024.

Network Rail advised motorists that use Botley Road to enter Oxford to make use of the city’s Park and Ride sites, or enter the city centre using public transport. Moran’s constituents, however, have found that guidance insufficient.

In her letter to Network Rail, Moran stressed that the westbound bus stop on Botley Road is a “disaster” and “completely inadequate” for the large numbers of people who use it due to the road closure. Moran stated that in busier times, residents were forced to step into the road to move past the crowds of people waiting at the bus stop.

A special ‘Botley Flyer’ service for disabled bus passengers has been implemented by Network Rail to assist their travel during the road closure. However, the service is only available three days a week from 10am to 2pm, with one service an hour. The bus is wheelchair accessible but space must be booked in advance.

Moran also noted the lack of clear signage along the road directing motorists towards alternate routes before they reach the Botley Road bridge and have to turn away. She also argued that the traffic marshals posted at either end of the bridge are “too far from the tunnel” to effectively prevent confusion from motorists and assist pedestrians trying to cross underneath.

Moran further stated that residents across her constituency had told her that they felt “completely abandoned and stranded” by the road closure. She urged Network Rail to write to all local residents explaining their options for travel into central Oxford.

A review of signage and the positioning of marshals during the closure was being undertaken and their community relations team would be writing to residents as soon as possible

The closure has already resulted in numerous traffic delays, and local business owners have complained that their operations have been affected. A spokesperson for Oxfordshire County Council commented that they would “continue to assess the situation over a number of days and weeks”, stating that the increased volume of traffic was due to schools returning from Easter break.

The county council also tweeted on 14th April that they are “keen to remind people” that businesses along Botley Road and Osney Mead remain open. However some business owners stated that they would prefer if there were signs present indicating this to people using the road.

Network Rail’s letter in response to Moran’s concerns stated that a review of signage and the positioning of marshals during the closure was being undertaken and their community relations team would be writing to residents as soon as possible. They also agreed to hold a summit with Moran to discuss the issues of the closure further.

In light of Moran’s letter and complaints from local residents, a spokesperson for Network Rail stated that said in a statement that they “welcome feedback on the Botley Road closure and will seek to make any necessary adjustments to how the closure is managed following comments from Layla Moran MP and the local community over the past few weeks since the road has been closed at the railway bridge”.

These criticisms come after Andrew Gant, a Liberal Democrat member of Oxfordshire County Council with responsibility for highway management, said the measures put in place by Network Rail were “working really well” after visiting the site on 12th April.

It remains to be seen whether Network Rail’s promises of improvement will make the closure less obstructive for the local community.

Image credit: Network Rail.

Image description: A design of the planned extension to Oxford railway station.