Oxford calls for cable car to tackle traffic

Up, up and away

IT IS known for its dreaming spires but Oxford may be about to get a new addition to its famous skyline.

Environmental groups are calling for the construction of a network of gondola lifts — similar to those seen in ski resorts — to take traffic off the city’s congested streets. It is claimed that the lifts, which would probably operate at rooftop level, could carry up to 4,000 people an hour from the city’s outskirts into the centre.

The move would potentially remove dozens of tourist buses from the centre of Oxford, cutting emissions and creating more road space for cyclists.

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If approved, it would be the seventh passenger cable car in the UK. Others include the Emirates Air Line built over the Thames in east London, the Heights of Abraham cable car in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, and the mile-long Llandudno cable car in north Wales.

The suggestion, which was raised by the Greens on the city council and backed by Oxford Civic Society, comes amid mounting concerns over traffic across Britain.

Figures published by Inrix, a traffic data company, show Britain to have the worst congestion in western Europe, with motorists wasting an average of £1,168 a year in excess fuel and lost productivity from sitting in traffic.

In Cambridge the region’s mayor has already outlined proposals for an underground tram line through the city, as part of a plan to solve serious congestion.

Now local authorities in Oxford are under pressure to consider measures to take thousands of vehicles off the streets at peak times. Last month, Green Party councillors in the city called for £25,000 for research into “low carbon aerial urban public transport”. It said gondola lifts — cars suspended from a continuously circulating cable — should be considered as an alternative to road transport. The Greens’ amendment was defeated at a city council meeting.

The move has won support in the city, however. Oxford Civic Society, which campaigns to preserve the city, said that “far from being a crazy idea fit only for ridicule, cable cars could provide part of a solution to Oxford’s chronic traffic congestion”. Juliet Blackburn, of the society’s transport group, added that as gondolas ran on electricity they would not contribute to air or noise pollution.

“Gondola lifts take up very little land for their pylons and for their stations; these could even be on the roof of an existing building,” she said. “Obviously this makes their initial cost much less than for other modes of transport.”

Graeme Paton

This article first appeared in The Times

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