Oxford Street transformation backed but air quality concerns raised

Plans to remove all vehicles from one of London’s busiest and most polluted streets – Oxford Street – have received public backing, following a consultation process last year.

However, some concerns have been raised about the impact that the proposals would have on air quality in surrounding areas, if polluting vehicles are moved onto other nearby roads.

An artist’s impression of how a traffic-free Oxford Street could look

The proposals would see a 0.5 mile area of road closed to east-west traffic between Orchard Street and Oxford Circus, whilst maintaining north-south routes through that section.

A joint consultation from Westminster council, TfL and the Mayor of London’s Office took place late last year, with over 22,000 individuals and organisations having taken part in the process (see airqualitnyews.com story).

Around 64% of the responses received broadly back the proposals – although a third of respondents claimed that they were not in favour of the proposals.

Air quality

Westminster city council and TfL are now considering some of the issues raised through the consultation, including the potential impact that the proposals would have on air quality on surrounding roads, before deciding whether to take the plans further.

According to TfL’s own analysis, the plans could increase traffic flow in areas such as Piccadilly, Hyde Park and Upper Brook Street – which could in turn have impacts on air pollution.

Val Shawcross, London’s Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “I’m delighted that so many Londoners have got involved and given us their backing to transform Oxford Street and the surrounding area. Our plans will make Oxford Street one of the finest public spaces and shopping streets in the world, while investing in widespread improvements to make the area cleaner and safer.

“We will now look at all the consultation responses in detail to ensure that everyone’s views are taken on board. Whether you’re a resident, a business, or regularly shop in the area, we must ensure the final details of the plan truly provide benefits to the millions of people who use the area every year.”


Coming into effect from December 2018 to coincide with the opening of the Elizabeth Line rail service, the plans would also see the carriageway raised to be level with existing pavements to make the area more accessible for walking.

Further plans are also in place to remove vehicles from Oxford Street to the east of the current zone by December 2019, and to the west after 2020.

According to the Mayor’s Office TfL has been working since 2016 to reduce the number of buses operating along Oxford Street by 40%.

Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping streets in the country, attracting around 220 million pedestrians per year. However, the road also regularly breaches national and European limits for air quality and has been singled out in the past as having among the “highest NO2 levels in the world”.