New proposals look to modernise London’s Oxford Street
With over four million visitors each week, London’s Oxford Street is one of the busiest streets in the UK. However new plans look to revitalise the street by improving congestion, air pollution and accessibility – namely by making it traffic-free.
The dramatic news plans unveiled by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, propose that half a mile of Oxford Street spanning from Oxford Circus to Orchard Street would become a traffic-free pedestrian boulevard by late 2018.
Addressing it as “a hugely exciting moment for the capital” Khan commented, “Oxford Street is world famous with millions of visitors every year, and in just over a year the iconic part of the street west of Oxford Circus could be transformed into a traffic-free pedestrian boulevard.”
“Whether you’re a local resident, a business or shop in some of the area’s famous stores, our plans will make the area substantially cleaner and safer for everyone, creating one of the finest public spaces in the world.”
The mayor hopes for the redesign of the street to be completed alongside the opening of the Elizabeth Line.
The £60m plans for the initial phase of development are set to be funded by Transport for London, however additional plans to target the eastern end of Oxford Street would require extra private and government funding.
The proposal includes plans to raise the current road to street level, making the boulevard far more accessible, as well as ideas for an 800-metre work of public art.
With Oxford Street and Regent Street together contributing approximately £7.6bn to the UK economy annually, the plans should open up the street to more shoppers and visitors, boosting the London tourist economy further. Currently the road is constantly jammed by traffic, namely buses which operate in the area. The plans suggest that by removing road traffic, Oxford Street can become a far more enjoyable and safe public zone for all.
Whilst many have welcomed the radical new bid there have been concerns raised by local businesses and residents. Some argue that making the suggested area traffic-free would just end up pushing congestion further out, simply shifting the current issue and deflecting it on to locals.
Chairman of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, Richard Massett, commented "The LTDA is disappointed by the proposals for Oxford Street that were presented today. A 24 hour vehicle ban presents a major threat to the West End as a whole. Forcing traffic onto neighbouring streets will merely shift congestion and pollution, all the while making it far harder to visit London's premier retail destination."
The plans are currently going out for public consultation, but from the dates proposed by Khan it seems as if the iconic overhaul is likely to take place in the very near future.
Whether or not the plans will be undertaken is yet to be seen, but if they go ahead they could radically change the face of London, boosting tourism in what appears to be one of the biggest planned proposals to central London for some time.