Sadiq Khan has accused Westminster Council of “betrayal” after it pulled the plug on his plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street.
Promised in his election manifesto, the scheme would have seen the popular shopping destination closed to motor traffic between Orchard Street and Oxford Circus.
Last November Mr Khan hailed the scheme as an “exciting moment for the capital” and promised it would see the street “transformed into a traffic-free pedestrian boulevard.”
However the proposals were unpopular with local residents and the capital’s passenger watchdog warned they would cause “considerable hardship to a large number of bus passengers” who would face additional walks and bus trips to complete their journeys.
Responding in January to a consultation on the plans, London Travelwatch said passengers would be inconvenienced by bus routes being terminated sooner, forcing them to either walk hundreds of metres to catch an additional bus, or have to complete their journey by the more expensive Tube.
The street is controlled by Westminster Council which, in a letter published by the Better Oxford Street Campaign, announced it “has taken the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street off the table for good.”
The council says its decision was made after consultations showed “the majority of Westminster residents” do not support the proposals.
Instead of working with the Mayor and Transport for London on the pedestrianisation scheme, Westminster says it will work to “make the street and surrounding roads safer for everyone to accommodate the increase in people coming into the West End via the Elizabeth Line, which opens later this year.”
Mr Khan says the decision “will be seen as a betrayal of the millions of Londoners and visitors to out city who would have benefited from making Oxford Street a safer, healthier and better environment.”
Pointing out that the scheme had the backing of all the main candidates at the last mayoral election, he described it as “a good example of political parties putting politics aside, working together to improve our city for everyone.”
The Mayor claimed not proceeding “poses a real threat to the future of Oxford Street,” and pointed to news that the House of Fraser branch on the street is to close as an example of the challenges facing the area.
He added: “I won’t walk away from Oxford Street. It’s too important for our City”
However the council’s decision has been welcomed by the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, the body which represents London’s black cab trade.
Chairman Richard Massett said: “The LTDA welcomes the announcement by Westminster City Council that they are going back to the drawing board on plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street.
“We had significant concerns regarding the previous proposals, which would have made Oxford Street less accessible and caused unbearable congestion on surrounding roads.
“The transformation of Oxford Street must balance the diverse needs of different road users in a fair way.
“We are looking forward to working with Westminster City Council and the Mayor of London to develop a scheme which will keep the street open and accessible to all.”