Skip to main content

Local businesses and the closure of the Botley Road in Oxford

Volume 745: debated on Monday 19 February 2024

The petition of residents of the constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon,

Declares that the closure of Botley Road due to ongoing works at Oxford rail station is having a significant and detrimental effect on local businesses; notes that local business owners report they are experiencing up to 60% drop in income; further notes the vital contribution of small businesses to the UK economy.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to take immediate action to ensure local businesses are able to access a business support fund during the extended closure of Botley Road.

And the petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Layla Moran, Official Report, 23 January 2024; Vol. 744, c. 270 .]


Observations from The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman):

The Department is funding a £160 million programme of works to improve physical and operating constraints both at Oxford station and along the rail corridor in the area. The scheme is being led by Network Rail with the support of Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Councils and with funding contributions from the local enterprise partnership (LEP) to not only address railway constraints but to improve road, pedestrian, and active travel provision in and around the Botley Road/western side of Oxford station. In addition, a new western entrance adjacent to Botley Road is being constructed which will make the station more accessible to residents living to the west of the station, reducing the current walking time.

It is unfortunate that complexities arose following the discovery of a Victorian inverted brick arch under Botley Road where the new railway bridge which will enable additional rail capacity is to be installed. The brick arch is 100 metres in length and suppresses rising ground water from the nearby River Thames. The presence of the arch has required a change in the delivery methodology for the railway bridge including the arrangements for relocating utility services and this has unfortunately resulted in the continued closure of Botley Road until October 2024. I have stressed the importance of getting this work completed as quickly as possible so that the road can be re-opened to the public and businesses.

Whilst it is not Government policy to compensate businesses for the impact of such critical works, I understand that Network Rail has engaged with the councils, the Federation of Small Businesses and with the Oxfordshire local enterprise partnership to support the business community as best they can. This includes production of promotional videos and the use of dedicated social media groups to highlight that Oxford remains open for business throughout the period of the works. This started in the run up to Christmas 2023 and Network Rail advises that it is continuing discussions with the city council and the Federation of Small Businesses about other ways they can continue to help. Network Rail is regularly keeping local residents and businesses informed of the situation through newsletters and social media.

Network Rail has assured me that such engagement will continue throughout the period of the road closure.