OXFORDSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL LEADER Ian Hudspeth has unveiled drastic plans to drill a tunnel beneath the city centre for buses, in an attempt to ease congestion.
The proposed tunnel, estimated by experts to cost over £500million, would reach from St Clements to the train station and would involve digging beneath the High Street.
The proposal, according to Hudspeth, is inspired by the Metro Bus Tunnel built in Seattle in 1990, and would be used by a system of electric buses and cyclists, leaving the road above fully pedestrianised.
Another radical proposal includes building a perpendicular tunnel, running between St Giles and St Aldates.
Considering the Council’s transport strategy up to 2020, Hudspeth explained, “Given the sheer scale of the growth and change that lies ahead for Oxford, we have to approach things in a radical way. These are not detailed plans, they remain ideas and they remain uncosted.
“Some of the ideas we are looking at might seem massive in scope and cost, but other cities around the world have delivered ambitious projects to solve their transport problems. So why not Oxford?”
OUSU President Louis Trup, whose election manifesto last year pledged to push forward plans for an Oxford monorail system, said he was “glad that Councillor Ian Hudspeth is continuing to look into solutions to Oxford’s transport issues.”
Speaking to Cherwell, Trup explained, “I welcomed Councillor Hudspeth’s comments in April at the ‘Oxfordshire Connect’ event where he proposed a monorail as one solution, following on from ideas I proposed in November last year. I will be meeting with him soon to representing the student view on such projects alongside Ruth Meredith, OUSU’s Vice-President for Charities and Community.”
With a nod to The Simpsons, Trup continued, “Hopefully Oxford will soon become the UK’s more successful version of Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook.”
Construction would almost certainly affect the High Street colleges. Oxford Civic Society chairman Peter Thompson explained that medieval cellars and tunnels, the foundations of listed college buildings, together with pipes and wiring, would mean tunnelling would have to be deep.
He explained, “We agree that a radical solution is required and admire Mr Hudspeth for his blue sky thinking. But before any serious money is spent on looking at this, some careful consideration needs to be given to the cost of tunnelling.”
The University itself has refused to comment until more details have been announced, with a spokesperson stating, “We are not aware of these proposals, and will be happy to look at them.”
This is not the first radical solution proposed by the Council leader — in July, Hudspeth suggested the idea of running trams or a monorail along the A40.