City groups raise concerns over Elizabeth Line crowding after Oxford Street pedestrianisation is ditched

 
Alexandra Rogers
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The plans were supposed to come into force in December (Source: Getty)

Businesses and environmental groups have expressed concern that Westminster council's decision to pull the plug on Oxford Street will lead to dangerous levels of overcrowding once the Elizabeth Line comes into force.

The council announced yesterday evening that after consulting with residents it has decided to take the plans "off the table for good".

The pedestrianisation was one of the mayor's flagship policies and would created a traffic-free space in central London in time for the full launch of Elizabeth line, which is expected to greatly increase the number of visitors to the area.

Liberal democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said "there could be no doubt" about the impact the additional 200 million passengers brought in by Crossrail would have on overcrowding on Oxford Street's pavements.

“Crossrail and pedestrianisation of Oxford Street should go hand in hand,” she said.

Read more: Fresh doubt cast over Oxford Street pedestrianisation

The chief executive of walking charity Living Streets Joe Irvin said: “Oxford Street is dangerously overcrowded with one of the worst pedestrian casualty records of any street in the UK. One pedestrian is involved in a collision every 10 days on the street.

“The opening of the Elizabeth Line will only exacerbate this problem with an extra 150,000 people due to visit Oxford Street every day by 2021. Inaction isn’t an option if we’re to stop more lives being needlessly lost."

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents London's businesses, said Westminster council's decision to halt the plans was "short-sighted".

“The area is already congested and given rapid population expansion and the imminent arrival of the Elizabeth Line, we need to consider innovative ways to address this congestion and transform Oxford Street into a world-class place to live, work and visit.

“Of course there will be local people opposed to the plans but the area is important to London’s economy and the safety, comfort and ease of travel for tourists, shoppers, and workers but be full considered.”

The Oxford street plans were drawn up to address air quality concerns, the high frequency of collisions and severe overcrowding during the busiest parts of the day.

Buses, black cabs and other forms of transport would have been banished, and east-west traffic was going to be restricted from entering Oxford Street between Orchard Street and Oxford Circus by December 2018.

The plans were also designed to fit with the wider extensive improvements already being made across the West End, including the transformation of Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road stations in advance of the Elizabeth line.

Last night Sadiq Khan blasted the decision to halt the plans, saying it was a "betrayal of millions of Londoners".

The leader of Westminster council Nickie Aiken said she "utterly rejected" that the decisision was a betrayal of Londoners.

“Westminster city council is hugely ambitious for Oxford Street and we will do everything we can to ensure the district’s long term success in the face of a challenging and ever changing economic and retail environment, " she said.

"We will now look to develop fresh plans to achieve this, but we can confirm that the council does not support the full scale pedestrianisation of Oxford Street and believes a rethink of the whole strategy is now required."

Read more: Oxford Street pedestrianisation cancelled: Mayor hits out at 'betrayal'

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