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Location Map ( geo)
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Highway Authority
Forward Destination on
A34, A40, M40, A44, A420, A4142
Next Primary Destinations
Banbury • Cheltenham • Evesham • High Wycombe • Milton Keynes • Newbury • Northampton • Swindon
Other Nearby Primary Destinations
Places related to the A34
Places related to the A40
Places related to the M40
Places related to the A44
Places related to the A420

Oxford is an historic university city, geographically between the South East and the Midlands. Most through traffic runs on the Ring Road, built between the 1930s and 1960s.

A40 Improvements

The northern bypass opened in 1934 which diverted the A40 away from the city onto a new alignment on the edge of the northern suburbs. The road was built as a single carriageway with a wide right of way. Unfortunately housing development took place adjacent to the road in Cutteslowe and Headington almost as soon as it was built which would have effects later in the century. In the 1960s plans were drawn up to dual the section between Wolvercote Roundabout and the existing dual carriageway at Wheatley. GSJs would be provided at Cutteslowe and Marston. Headington Roundabout would be enlarged but remain a roundabout. This dualling was carried out in the early 1970s apart from the section between Wolvercote and Cutteslowe which remained a single carriageway. The grade separation of Cutteslowe Roundabout never happened.

In the late 1970s the M40 extension to Birmingham was given the go ahead. This would increase traffic on the A40 and what is now the A34 between Oxford and Wendlebury. Three schemes to upgrade the A40 were eventually planned as a result of this.

North of Oxford

This scheme concerns the section from Wolvercote to Marston. A consultation took place in 1978 with a choice of new routes running to the north of the urban area at Cutteslowe. By now the idea of improving the 1930s bypass had been ruled out thanks to the housing which sprung up around it. Online upgrades would require demolition and result in disturbance of the urban area so an offline route was the only reasonable option. However the scheme was suspended in 1980 before a final route was chosen. The scheme was revived in 1985 with a new consultation taking place in 1987. In 1989 a preferred route was announced which was modified in 1991 and in 1993 orders were published for this scheme. The section of the new bypass between a grade separated Loop Farm Roundabout and Marston Interchange would be D3. This scheme was withdrawn in 1994.

Headington Bypass

Headington Roundabout is another part of the 1930s bypass affected by residential development. No plans to grade separate this junction have ever been discovered, most likely due to the A40 requiring to TOTSO at this point. This scheme consists of an offline route between Marston Interchange and a new junction near Forest Hill. This scheme was withdrawn in 1994.

Witney to Cassington

This scheme would have provided a continuous dual carriageway westwards to connect to the Witney Bypass. A similar chain of events to the North of Oxford scheme took place. A consultation on a choice of routes took place in 1987 and a preferred route was announced in 1991. This scheme survived slightly longer than the others when the orders were withdrawn in 1996.

All three of these schemes really depended on each other if the overall improvement to the A40 would be worthwhile as building just one or two would simply move the bottleneck elsewhere. The first two in particular would have bypassed the three at-grade roundabouts which are a major cause of congestion.

Early 1990s A40 proposals

Later Developments

Following the detrunking of the A40 between 2002 and 2003 the road passed into the responsibility of Oxfordshire County Council. Various measures to increase capacity at the three roundabouts have taken place. Wolvercote and Cutteslowe have been signalised and Headington has a partial hamburger to allow westbound A40 to cut through the middle of it.

The former Witney to Cassington dualling scheme was revived in 2015 with proposals for a similar route as the original scheme but with at-grade junctions. A new roundabout is planned just west of the A34 bridge and a short link road to Loop Farm Roundabout will allow traffic to join the A34 and A44 without having to use Wolvercote Roundabout. In late 2019 the council secured government funding which means the scheme can now be taken forward and designed in detail.

Inner Relief Road

The most controversial road scheme the city faced was a planned inner relief road running around the south and west of the city centre. Early proposals for the road were made in the 1940s and various schemes were put forward during the following decades. The 1940s and 1950s schemes consisted of at-grade junctions with the majority being roundabouts and some of the proposals had the road continuing clockwise around the north of the city centre crossing the river towards Marston. By the 1960s GSJs started to feature and the standard of the road gradually improved from then on. The main sticking point was the need to cut across Christ Church Meadow, an area of open land near the city centre bordered on two sides by rivers. Public inquiries were held in 1956 and 1965 where routes passing to the south of the meadow received far fewer objections. The northern extension to Marston was also heavily criticized by locals and this no longer featured in later proposals. By 1968 the plan was for an urban motorway standard road with spurs intended to capture traffic entering the city from several directions and the limited access fork junctions at key locations were aimed to direct them onto the relief road. Central to this would be two large multi storey car parks with direct links to the new road enabling commuters and shoppers to drive their vehicles straight into a parking space without having to use surface streets, an idea several other cities promoted at the time. One of these car parks, St Ebbe's, was built and the one way road surrounding it was part of these plans. The car park was demolished in 2015. Several roads in the city centre would be pedestrianised or restricted to buses only to encourage traffic to use the new road. The 1968 plans included several alternative alignments for the relief road with the recommended option being to pass to the south of the meadow as recommended at the public inquiry. This scheme is shown here along with the restricted roads in solid grey. Despite saving the meadow the road continued to attract strong local opposition which inevitably resulted in its abandonment sometime in the first half of the 1970s.

In 1975 scaled down plans were made for the relief road. It would follow a similar route to the earlier scheme but would now be a single carriageway with at-grade junctions. The A420 Botley Road Bypass would be S3 with tidal flow. This meets the main north-south road at a large gyratory. The north-south road is now truncated and no longer extends as far north as Wolvercote or south to New Hinksey. These proposals are confirmed in a second report dated January 1976 but after that there is no more mention of it. We can therefore assume that by the end of 1976 all plans for the inner relief road were dead and buried for good never to re-emerge again.

1968 recommended scheme

Route To Notes


London, High Wycombe Via A40


The MIDLANDS, Banbury, Northampton (M40), Bicester Via M40


The SOUTH, (M4), Newbury, Abingdon


London, (M40 Accessed by M40


Cheltenham, Witney


Evesham, Oxford Airport


Swindon, Bristol (M4)


Ring Road


Ring Road


Reading, Wallingford, Henley (A4130), Sandford, Oxford Science Park, Littlemore Park





formerly A43


Wooton, Scout Camp Site, Boars Hill









Birmingham, now A44


Reading now A4094


Northampton, Bicester now A34


Named Junctions

Image Name Classified Road(s) Grid Reference More Info Map
Photo-required.png Botley Interchange A34 / A420 SP485066
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Photo-required.png Cowley Junction A4142 / B480 SP550038
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Photo-required.png Cutteslow Roundabout A40 / A4165 SP503102
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Photo-required.png Headington Roundabout A40 / A420 / A4142 SP554074
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Photo-required.png Heyford Hill Roundabout A423 / A4074 / A4142 SP528028
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Photo-required.png Hinksey Hill Interchange A34 / A423 SP511035
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Photo-required.png Kennington Roundabout A423 / A4144 SP519035
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Photo-required.png Littlemore Roundabout A4142 / A4158 SP535032
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Photo-required.png Peartree Hill Roundabout A4142 / A4158 SP491112
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Photo-required.png Peartree Interchange A34 / A44 SP492109
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Photo-required.png The Plain A420 / A4158 / B480 SP521060
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Photo-required.png Wheatley Interchange M40 / A418 SP627046
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Photo-required.png Wolvercote Roundabout A44 / A4144 SP496101
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NCN51 • A34 • A40 • A42 (Reading - Birmingham) • A43 • A44 • A420 • A423 • A4074 • A4141 (Oxford) • A4142 • A4144 • A4158 • A4165 • A4260 • B480 • B4014 (Oxfordshire) • B4027 • B4150 • B4495 • B4496 • E05 • Longest Lane • M40 • Oxford Ring Road • T10 (Britain) • T13 (Britain) • T42 (Britain) • T47 (Britain) • T114 (Britain)
Related Pictures
View gallery (31)
A34 - Planned Oxford junctions (1940's) - Coppermine - 11295.jpgOxpens Road, Oxford (1) - Geograph - 1571977.jpgOxford northern ring road - Geograph - 2001.jpgCutteslow Roundabout grade separation.pngOxford.JPG
Places in Berks, Bucks, Oxon and Hants
Major DestinationsBournemouth • Milton Keynes • Oxford • Portsmouth • Reading • Southampton • Winchester
Primary DestinationsAlton • Amersham • Andover • Aylesbury • Banbury • Basingstoke • Beaconsfield • Bracknell • Fareham • High Wycombe • Maidenhead • Newbury • Petersfield • Ringwood • Slough
Other PlacesAbingdon • Aldershot • Ascot • Bicester • Buckingham • Burford • Camberley • Chipping Norton • Chesham • Christchurch • Cowes • Eastleigh • Farnborough • Freshwater • Gerrards Cross • Gosport • Havant • Henley • Hungerford • Lyndhurst • Marlow • Newport • Princes Risborough • Romsey • Ryde • Sandown • Silchester • Southampton Airport • Thame • Wallingford • Waterlooville • Wendover • Windsor • Witney • Wokingham

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