Now that Oxford’s Westgate shopping centre has been open a few months it was time to pay another visit. Actually I have visited the new Westgate several times now but last week was the first time by car. Now parking in Oxford has a reputation for being pricey and or challenging, but having heard some favourable reports, I was determined to give it a try for myself at some point.
Normally I go to Oxford from Bicester by train. If I am on my own it is the cheapest and quickest option (£3.20 for an Off-peak return and a journey which takes 15 minutes). If there is a group travelling together then we sometimes go by bus. Or sometimes we use the Park&Ride (any of Pear Tree, Oxford Parkway or the new Bicester Park & Ride).
But on a soggy Valentine’s Day we set off by car. The decision to drive was influenced by the weather – none of us fancied getting wet! – and also that four of us were travelling together. Westgate does have a shiny new underground car park which is actually not too expensive.
One thing you do notice is that the centre itself is open to the elements. In that respect it is different from say thecentre:mk (Milton Keynes), the Oracle in Reading, Castle Quay in Banbury or Birmingham’s Bullring. Another bonus is the (previously unseen) vista from the roof terrace looking over towards Christ Church.
It is a long time since I have driven into Oxford and actually used any of the parking facilities. Parking costs were quite reasonable – we stayed for 2½ hours and paid £5 for parking. (For comparison, red zone parking outside centre:mk is £2/hour). As we were driving it didn’t cost any extra when all four of us travelled together. The downside was getting stuck in the traffic – both on leaving Oxford and also on the A34 on the way back. The traffic was beginning to build up, even before rush hour, reminding me why I try not to drive in Oxford if I can avoid it.
Westgate Parking Tariff
|Monday to Sunday|
|Up to 1 hour||£3.00|
|Up to 2 hours||£4.00|
|Up to 3 hours||£5.00|
|Up to 4 hours||£7.00|
|Up to 5 hours||£9.00|
|Up to 7 hours||£11.00|
|Up to 9 hours||£18.00|
|Up to 12 hours||£25.00|
|Evening Rate: (Enter and leave between 17:00-06:00 to qualify)|
|Up to 1 hour||£3.00|
|Over 1 hour||£3.50|
We did manage the journey door to door in about an hour; at peak times congestion means it takes more. Early on a Sunday morning you could probably halve the time.
Where the train wins is consistency in time. It is quicker and more environmentally friendly. Whether travelling at peak times or not it still takes the same time. But you can struggle to get a seat when it is very busy. The 2 trains per hour train service is also less frequent than the bus (there are 4 S5 buses, plus 2 X5 coaches per hour) but is set to improve once East West Rail opens through to Bletchley in 2023.
I rarely use the bus into Oxford because the train is quicker and cheaper. A return on the S5 costs £5.30 whereas I normally travel off-peak (after 0930 Monday to Friday or any time at weekends) when the cost is £3.20. That said, the Bicester Duo ticket (available after 0900 Monday to Friday or any time at weekends) is excellent value. It allows 2 people to travel together and is valid for a return trip anywhere on route S5 for the same £5.30 – for example from Bicester town centre or the Park&Ride to Oxford city centre and back.
Where parking is free at the Bicester Park&Ride it is chargeable at any of the recognised Oxford Park&Ride sites (e.g. Pear Tree, Seacourt or Oxford Parkway). Parking costs £2 for up to 24 hours (1 to 11 hours at Oxford Parkway or £4 up to 24 hours). A return ticket on the bus to Oxford city centre then costs £4.80 (2 to go ticket valid for 2 adults). You can also purchase a combined bus and car parking ticket for £6.80. Up to 3 children under 16 can go free with a fare-paying adult.
If travelling alone, you can save some money as a peak return on the bus costs £2.80 (off peak £2.60).