OXFORDSHIRE’S roads are at breaking point, the leader of the county council has admitted.

Ian Hudspeth urged commuters to avoid driving and take public transport instead to alleviate the pressure and help stop the county grinding to a halt.

The network’s fragility was exposed when thousands of commuters were stuck in 12-mile long tailbacks for hours on the A34 northbound and M40 junction 9 near Bicester on Wednesday evening when a contractor blunder altered the sequence of a set of traffic lights.

Adding to motorists’ woes, the Highways Agency took three hours to fix the problem, and only then due to a request from the police which had been called in to deal with the fiasco.

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Mr Hudspeth told the Oxford Mail: “The situation is that the road network across Oxford for several years now has been at capacity.

“I’ve been trying to use the train in and out more. It’s one less car on the road - every little helps. I’m trying to use alternative forms to try and alleviate the situation.”

He urged others to do the same, adding: “People can look for alternative forms of transport if they’ve got the opportunity to use it.

“The service from Oxford to Hanborough is a good service, it takes nine minutes. There’s no other way of doing that trip in nine minutes.”

The traffic chaos on Wednesday was the latest in a large catalogue of problems, made worse by several roadworks taking place simultaneously around Oxford, including London Road, Headington, and Kennington Roundabout.

Mr Hudspeth admitted: “Any incident, such as that, has a knock-on effect. We are carrying out a lot of roadworks which we appreciate is causing some inconvenience but if we don’t do it, it won’t improve. To do nothing is simply not an option.

“Once they are completed people will really see the benefit. In the meantime there’s not a situation where we could change things to alleviate the issue.”

Wednesday’s jams were caused by traffic lights problems at the Wendlebury roundabout at Junction 9 of the M40. A contractor carrying out improvement works at the junction mistakenly changed from a fixed sensor, where they run on a pre-set schedule, to a variable sensor - where the lights change depending on what roads have the most cars.

Despite the fact the agency knew about the problem from about 6pm, the problem lights were not switched off until 9pm, and then only at the request of the police who had been called to help direct traffic. Mr Miller said: “We would like to apologise for any inconvenience for drivers in the area.”

Switching the lights off eased yesterday morning’s rush hour traffic, but they were returned to running on the fixed sensors at 11am.

Both Mr Hudspeth and the Highways Agency were criticised by Paul Mills, chair of the United Front Against Incompetent Councils. This week the group launched a petition calling for Mr Hudspeth and the council’s cabinet member for transport David Nimmo-Smith’s resignations.

Mr Mills, who was one of many in the standstill on the M40 sliproad, said: “Mr Hudspeth is deluded. Not everybody can get public transport. Hanborough station is on narrow country roads, it can’t cope with everyone driving there each morning. You can only fit about 40 people on the platform.

“It’s a really narrow-minded view to think that people can get from their front doors to their destinations on public transport.

“Not everyone works in the centre of Oxford. People have to drive for their jobs. Until buses grow wings they are still going to be stuck in the same traffic.”


Amanda Terry, from Bicester, said: “I left Oxford at 4.15pm and it was 5.35pm by the time I got home. It seems I was one of the lucky ones.

“That night we were due to visit a friend in hospital but the traffic leaving Bicester was so awful we had no choice but to turn around and go home.”

  • Donna Green said on Facebook: “I joined the A34 at Peartree at 5.15pm and it took me nearly three hours to get to Bicester.”
  • Rob Williams on Twitter added: “It took me an hour and a half from Kidlington to the M40. Traffic on A34, M40 and A41 totally down due to poor traffic control by lights on Wendlebury roundabout.”
  • Alastair Nall said: “Wendlebury roundabout was at a complete standstill with people getting out of their cars.”
  • Twitter user Geoff Handley told the Oxford Mail: “My wife left Kidlington at 5pm and reached the roundabout at 7.15pm.”



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