The golden age of park & ride

Oxford celebrates 50 years of park & ride

01 January 2024
A 1973 vintage bus lines up alongside a new electric bus at Redbridge P&R
Redbridge Park & Ride in 1973
Redbridge Park & Ride in 1973
A Blue Plaque commemorates the launch of the Redbridge Park & Ride
A Blue Plaque commemorates the launch of the Redbridge Park & Ride

 

On Monday 10 December 1973, the Redbridge park & ride site began operating with a car park and dedicated bus service. Although experimental park & rides had been set up earlier – including one in Oxford at the Forte Motor Lodge on the A34 in the 1960s – Redbridge was the first permanent example of the pioneering transport management system.

Previous proposals for easing Oxford’s traffic congestion had included an inner relief road through Christ Church Meadow, which was rejected after a campaign opposing it. There were also calls for a giant commuter car park on Port Meadow, connecting to a water ferry on the Oxford Canal, but this didn’t materialise into a plan.

The success of Redbridge inspired Oxfordshire to create the largest park & ride system in the country, with 5,900 parking spaces at five sites on the outskirts of the city. Today, the Oxford Parkway and Thornhill park & rides are run by Oxfordshire County Council, while the Pear Tree, Seacourt and pioneering Redbridge sites are all operated by Oxford City Council.

At an event staged to mark the golden jubilee, Cllr Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for transport management, said: “It’s almost unthinkable now to imagine Oxford without its park & rides. They have become part of everyday life for so many people, providing a convenient and economical way to travel into the city centre and Oxford’s hospitals.”

Cllr Louise Upton, cabinet member for planning and healthier communities, Oxford City Council, added: “Oxford has a proud history of leading transport innovations, and I am delighted that we are able to celebrate 50 years of park & ride services in our city. Our park & ride services have evolved over the years to cater to the changing needs of users. Imagine the number of car journeys into the city that have been saved over 50 years!

“By using the park & ride service instead of driving, commuters and visitors are helping to reduce congestion on our roads, improve our air quality and support a faster, more reliable bus network.”

Unlike many other park & rides around the country, Oxford’s appear to be thriving again following the impact COVID-19 had on the bus industry and user numbers are close to pre-pandemic levels. New payment arrangements have been introduced as part of measures to make the park & rides the first choice for visitors to the historic city.

Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council worked with bus companies Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach to introduce a joint ticketing and parking offer in 2022. Parking for up to 16 hours and return bus travel for one person costs just £4, while for two people it is £5. With both options, up to three children under 16 can travel for free. The deal proved so popular that it was recently extended until April 2024.

Luke Marion, managing director of Oxford Bus Company, said: “Myself and the team at Oxford Bus Company are very proud to have been involved in operating Oxford’s world-leading park & ride system continuously for the past half a century. There have been major changes in the vehicles and technology we use on the service since it started 50 years ago, and the introduction of the new fleet of electric buses to the service is the latest step in this continuing evolution. With today’s levels of traffic congestion, the park & ride is more important now than it has ever been. We look forward to developing the service further over the years to come, to support the continued development of our city.”

The golden anniversary comes at a time of positive change for the county’s bus industry, as the first of 159 electric buses start arriving as part of an £83.8m deal – many of which will serve Oxford using the park & rides.

Rachel Geliamassi, managing director of Stagecoach West, said: “We’re delighted that Stagecoach have played our part in the longevity and success of the world’s first permanent park & ride scheme and to be able to toast its success over 50 years. It’s great to be part of a collaborative group of partners who have worked together to present the customer proposition for existing and new customers. We’re excited to take this as an opportunity to look forward to the introduction of the new electric vehicles on to the park & ride routes in 2024, along with the continuation of the combined parking and bus tickets, taking the scheme to another level and providing affordable and sustainable travel options to our residents and visitors.”

The Redbridge park & ride site itself has also evolved over time to feature paved parking areas, landscaping and a reception building for people while they make the transfer between car and bus. Last year it became home to Energy Superhub Oxford, a major electric vehicle charging hub. The charging hub at the Abingdon Road site offers fast and ultra-rapid charging for 42 vehicles and is powered entirely by renewable energy.

To mark the landmark, vintage buses visited the park & ride site and blue plaque was unveiled by the Oxford Civic Society (OCS). Ian Green, OCS chairman, said:

“Fifty years ago, persistent pressure and well-argued advice from OCS was instrumental in the council’s decision to introduce the park & ride scheme. Oxford was only the second city in the country to do so and Redbridge was the first such site to be made permanent. The job of better managing traffic in our city is far from finished and we are proud of the vital role the park & ride sites continue to play.”

Oxford park & ride in numbers:

  • Oxford Bus Company uses 28 buses each weekday on the three park and ride services it operates.
  • These services (300, 400, 700) collectively travel 1,057,000 miles each year.
  • They carry around four million passengers annually.
  • Stagecoach runs up to 240 trips a day to and from Oxford Parkway Park and Ride and Oxford city centre, on routes 2 and 2A.
  • In addition, it runs up to an extra 236 trips a day stopping just outside on Banbury Road on routes S4, S5 and S7, connecting Oxford Parkway with Oxford city centre.
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