Oxford’s experience of congestion has been especially acute this year, with a combination of major works around the city keeping it on the brink of gridlock.

Since June, drivers in the city have battled congestion caused by the overhaul of Kennington and Hinksey Hill roundabouts, with the impacts being worsened by preparation work in the city centre for the redevelopment of Frideswide Square. 

It is not surprising then that with the main stage of works at Frideswide Square looming in February, and news of the bridge replacement in First Turn, the council is looking at what bearing that could have on its planned £9m summer roundabout improvements.

First Turn, although by no means the busiest road in Oxford, is well-served by a regular bus service four times an hour, with traffic resulting from the diversion getting priority over traffic from the A40 and A44 at Wolvercote Roundabout.

It is easy to assume the diversion will have little impact on congestion at the busy junction, but this is unlikely to reassure the thousands of drivers enduring long waits on the roads every day already.

Six months for both schemes to clash is no insignificant amount of time, with every added delay doing more damage to business and goodwill.

Because Oxfordshire County Council has little hope of forcing Chiltern Railways and Network Rail to change their schedule, backed as it is by Government legislation, it is up to the local authority to react to the announcement.

The rail firms have given less notice than some would have hoped and have faced criticism this week from residents in Upper Wolvercote and Oxford City Council leader Bob Price. And with that in mind, many will no doubt be glad to hear county council cabinet member for transport David Nimmo Smith say that he will not rule out delaying the roundabout works if necessary.

Mr Nimmo Smith is right to point out that both the improvements at the Wolvercote and Cutteslowe junctions and the upgrades to the railway will bring long-term benefits.

But rather than steam ahead with the work in pursuit of adhering to a timetable, the council should first examine what the full effects of timing it to coincide with the bridge replacement will be.
After all, if it is blithely assumed that there is no reason not to press ahead without proper consideration, it is not the rail operators who will feel the effects — it will be commuters and residents.