STOP the closure of the A417.  Stand up for Oxfordshire Communities and keep our roads OPEN.
  • Petitioning Oxfordshire County Council

This petition will be delivered to:

Ian Hudspeth, Leader, Oxfordshire County Council
Oxfordshire County Council
Judith Heathcoat, Cabinet Member, Oxfordshire County Council
Oxfordshire County Council

STOP the closure of the A417. Stand up for Oxfordshire Communities and keep our roads OPEN.

    1. Alex Meredith
    2. Petition by

      Alex Meredith

      Faringdon, United Kingdom

Network Rail are electrifying the Great Western Mainline which runs through (but does not stop in) the Vale of White Horse District.  As part of the works, road bridges are being replaced.  One of the bridges is at Challow on the A417 (this used to be the site of Challow Station).  

Oxfordshire County Council has given its inital agreement to allow Challow Bridge to be closed for FOUR months by Network Rail from September to complete the works. 

The Vale of White Horse is already set for a summer of traffic mayhem as a result of the closure of the A420 at Watchfield.  That travel misery now looks set to drag on until Christmas.  Faringdon and Western Vale residents will be particularly hard hit by the double whammy of the closure of the A420 and A417 consecutively.  The A417 is a vital route for businesses and citizens of the Vale, particularly those who need to travel between Faringdon and Wantage - two of the largest centres of population in the District.  Both of these town centres (which have struggled, but are now seeing a revival in interest and trade) will suffer badly. 

Oxfordshire County Council found a solution for the same problem on the A338 by insisting that Network Rail installs a second bridge that will eventually permanently replace the original. 

We ask that Oxfordshire County Council enforces the same solution at Challow. 

The A417 is a vital route for our community's economy and can not be allowed to close for a quarter of the year (including the Christmas period).  Please stand up for your consituents and insist that Network Rail provides a satisfactory solution that will keep our roads open.


Oxfordshire County Council, Ian Hudspeth, Leader, Oxfordshire County Council
Oxfordshire County Council, Judith Heathcoat, Cabinet Member, Oxfordshire County Council
Do not permit the closure of the A417 for FOUR MONTHS this winter. Stand up for your constituents and insist that Network Rail installs a replacement bridge at Challow

[Your name]

Recent signatures


    1. Response to Petition from Oxfordshire County Council

      Alex Meredith
      Petition Organizer

      I have now received a response from Oxfordshire County Council to our petition. The letter (set out in full below) is rather brief. There is no new information or proposal, but it does at least acknowledge that the thoughtful comments shared via the petition have been read. Disappointingly, there are no answers to some of the points raised in the petition and at the meeting relating to school transport. The letter also fails to give any comfort on the issues of enforcement of HGV restrictions that has been such a problem during the A420 closure. I understand that the OCC Officers have met local people in Kingston Lisle to try to establish better arrangements for the diversions proposed in that area. Should concerns not be adequately addressed when the closure comes into force we will need to raise them with Network Rail and the OCC via the hotline number 08457 11 41 41.

      I will close the petition shortly. Thank you again for all your support. We have gained more and better information from NR about the plans for Challow and held OCC to account for its inadequate consultation with local communities about this disastrous road closure. On that level the petition and meeting have been successful and we will keep pushing OCC to ensure that the hardships caused by the closure when it comes into force are minimised.


      The full letter is as follows:

      Dear Mr Meredith

      Petition against A417 closure at Challow

      Thank you for presenting the online petition at the recent public meeting in Faringdon requesting that the A417 is not closed for four months this winter and that Network Rail installs a replacement bridge at Challow. Your petition has been forwarded for consideration to me as Deputy Director who deals with this part of the Service and to Councillor David Nimmo Smith whose portfolio covers highway issues. This response is on behalf of both of us.

      I would like to thank you for your efforts in raising this issue and I advise that I have tasked senior officers to review the comments made within the documentation received but in the meantime, our officers will work closely with the local communities affected to ensure timely information is shared with them to enable them to plan their routine activities around the anticipated disruption.

      At the recent public meeting in Faringdon, I thought Network Rail senior managers outlined a sound rationale as to why it was not possible to keep the A417 open to traffic during their proposed reconstruction work at Challow. As commented, the electrification programme through Oxfordshire is part of a national investment programme funded through the Office of Rail Regulation and Department for Transport. From a county council strategic perspective, it is an investment we very much support as this plays in our growth agenda in delivering a thriving Oxfordshire.

      Thank you again for sharing the petition with us.

      Yours sincerely

      Mark Kemp

      Deputy Director – Commercial

      Environment & Economy

      cc Cllr David Nimmo-Smith, Sue Whitehead, Yim Kong

    2. Petition Presented - Awaiting Official Feedback

      Alex Meredith
      Petition Organizer

      ***I have posted a copy of this update, with some photos from the meeting at:***

      The petition against the closure of the A417 (with over 1000 signatures) was presented to Oxfordshire County Council at a packed public meeting in Faringdon on 22nd July. Thanks to everyone for signing and supporting the meeting!

      The meeting provided for a very constructive discussion.

      In particular, some important new details came to light:

      - a second road bridge at Challow would cost £1.4m more than the closure solution, for which Network Rail does not have funding sanctioned by its regulator. To challenge this we need to address the Office of Rail Regulation who set NR’s budget;

      - NR recognised the additional burden in terms of petrol costs (in particular) being placed on local people’s shoulders (a figure of £7m was suggested). Again they suggested we take this up with ORR or national politicians who have decided that the works should go ahead and not agreed funding for a suitable compensation package;

      - NR would not have agreed to a new bridge at Grove if it had the information on cost and impact to programme it has now;

      - cyclists will be able to cross the replacement pedestrian Challow bridge as well as pedestrians;

      - there will be no other scheduled maintenance work by OCC on the diversion routes during the diversion (this does not mean utilities won’t be working);

      - due to the sequencing of the bridge replacement works more manpower won’t speed up the programme, though NR are considering increasing evening/weekend working if it is shown to save time. Closing the railway for longer is not an option;

      - Road closure signs will have emergency Network Rail numbers to call in the event of a problem on one of the diversions;

      - Diversionary routes (even the optional ones) will be gritted.

      There were also two new ideas/offers:

      - NR will pay for a bus to transport people from either side of the closure to the other side (to be reviewed if it is not utilised);

      - the NR Director will meet residents and the Councillor for Kingston Lisle to drive the ‘optional’ diversionary one-way system and establish what improvements can be made to the scheme.

      Though questions were asked on these topics, there remain some gaps in our understanding:

      - Oxfordshire County Council did not give full responses on the provision to be made for school buses, and in particular SEN transport. We await more information from the school bus companies/OCC when plans are finalised for the new term;

      - it was still not clear when and why the Kingston Lisle one-way and Cow Lane access-only ‘optional’ aspects of the diversion scheme would be brought into action. It just seems that OCC will make a call if the traffic in these areas gets ‘really bad’;

      - a pledge from OCC to fill pot-holes and clear drainage ditches on diversion routes before the closure happens was offered in quite a half-hearted manner, suggesting that the amount of work considered necessary by residents may not be undertaken in time for the diversion.

      Credit goes to Network Rail who brought the right people to answer the questions, including Robbie Burns, the regional Director and Faringdon resident, and a representative from Murphy (the contractor) to explain the technical detail of the bridge works.

      One of the most important outcomes from the meeting was the realisation on the part of Network Rail that this was the sort of meeting that they should have proposed in the first place (and a long time ago). NR felt that the opportunity to set out their plans in detail and take questions was extremely valuable. They intend to adopt this approach to bridges further down the line. They appreciated the opportunity to engage with the public.

      We hope that as a result of the petition and the turn-out at the meeting, Oxfordshire County Council feel the same, and that they will take the initiative to engage with the public in Steventon on their planned closure. It’s regrettable that the initial feedback from some Councillors has not been positive with comments they made during and after the meeting attracting complaints and causing offence to meeting participants. These will be taken up directly with the Councillors concerned.

      Though this leaves a slightly sour taste, I am determined to stay positive. Receipt of the petition has been acknowledged and we await a formal response from the Council. I will therefore close the petition, and send a final update once we have that response.

      Many thanks to everyone that supported the petition and the meeting. We may not have the solution we want, but I hope we have moved the discussion forward in a constructive way and gained some important insights and concessions.

      If you have any further questions that you would like me to take up with OCC or NR on this issue, please don’t hesitate to email me on:

      Thanks again!


    3. 1000 Reasons to Keep the A417 Open - Public Meeting this Evening

      Alex Meredith
      Petition Organizer

      Our petition has reached 1000!! Thank you for your support.

      I will be delivering the petition to the OCC Cabinet Member for Transport this evening at the public meeting.


      Faringdon Corn Exchange

      You have provided 1000 great reasons for Oxfordshire County Council to change their mind on this disastrous road closure. Please come and make sure that they are listening.

      Thanks again for all your support. Please contact me on if you would like any further information on this campaign.


    4. Reached 1,000 signatures
    5. Approahing 900 - Consultation Open - Public Meeting 22nd July

      Alex Meredith
      Petition Organizer

      Network Rail has released its formal application for closure of the A417. The NR proposal raises a number of important questions.

      1. The closure is scheduled for 6th September for 'approximately 4 months'. The lack of certainty is ominous though not unexpected.

      2. The diversion plans show (as expected) that the main diversion will be via the A420/A415/A338. These roads are already overcrowded and jammed at peak times. The A338 will be dealing with the upgrades to its bridge at the same time so welcoming up to 7000 additional vehicles will be a huge challenge for those using the road.

      3. There is a one-way 'mitigation option' through Kingston Lisle, but it is not clear when/if it will be brought into action (described as 'if required'). This idea appears to have been drawn on a map with a felt-tip, so one wonders how much consideration this plan has actually received.

      4. Denchworth is marked as 'Access Only' but again it is hard to tell whether there will be a serious attempt to protect small villages with single track roads from the inevitable attempts to cut through in both directions.

      It is ridiculous that we have been put in this position - Network Rail has had 5 years to come up with a way to upgrade the bridge without closing the road. The idea that the 'only viable option' is a 4 month complete closure is unconvincing. Also the idea that this work will be completed on schedule through the winter seems unlikely to me. On a procedural level I am also disappointed by the apparent way that OCC officers cut a deal with NR to close this bridge in exchange for a new bridge on the A338.

      The public meeting at 7pm on 22nd July at Faringdon Corn Exchange has been called to give everyone a chance to discuss the proposal, get more detail on the mitigation solution and to give their views as to whether OCC should approve the application. This should be a 'consultation' after all!

      A Senior Programme Manager from Network Rail will be there, along with the OCC Cabinet Member for Transport. I will take the opportunity to present our petition against the closure. We now have nearly 900 signatures, which is fantastic - thank you for your support. If we can raise 1000 by the time of the meeting that would be even more compelling.

      The public meeting is the last chance to put forward your views on this road closure with all key stakeholders present. Please do come to the meeting and make sure your views on this closure are heard.

      Alex Meredith

      Oxfordshire County Council: STOP the closure of the A417. Stand up for Oxfordshire Communities and keep our roads OPEN.

      Network Rail are electrifying the Great Western Mainline which runs through (but does not stop in) the Vale of White Horse District. As part of the...

    6. On the way to 1000 - Drop in Feedback

      Alex Meredith
      Petition Organizer

      Thanks to everyone for your support for the petition - we are well on the way to 1000 signatures!

      If you have any feedback or comments from the drop-in sessions run by Network Rail that you would like to discuss then please email me:

      Please remember that the public meeting to discuss all the questions and concerns about the A417 closure will be on:

      Tuesday 22nd July 2014
      Faringdon Corn Exchange

    7. Reached 750 signatures

      Alex Meredith
      Petition Organizer

      To accommodate the attendance of Network Rail's Senior Programme Manager for the electrification project we have decided to push the date of the Public Meeting back. The meeting will now be held:

      Tuesday 22nd July
      Faringdon Corn Exchange

      Please can you put this date in the diary, we will hand over the petition and it will be the only opportunity for people to fully air their views on the proposed closure with all relevant stakeholders present. If we want to change minds on this issue, this will be the time to do it!


    9. Reached 500 signatures
    10. Approaching 400 - Closure Decision Looks Flawed

      Alex Meredith
      Petition Organizer

      We are nearly at 400 signatures, which is fantastic! Please keep sharing the petition.

      By way of update, I raised the issue of the closure of the A417 at the Faringdon Traffic Advisory Meeting on Friday.

      Cllr Heathcoat (Faringdon) and Network Rail tried to say that 'nothing is set in stone' and that 'discussions were ongoing' until the formal decision. However, both NR and OCC have put out public statements confirming the closure.

      No formal analysis of the alternative options (eg. second bridge) for Challow was presented at the meeting. Network Rail gave a series of platitudes about how Challow bridge is 'on a tricky bend'.

      The decision to close the A417 looks increasingly flawed. We have seen the A338 decision reversed, and another flawed OCC speed bump consultation in Bicester has just been sent for review. OCC can be made to change its mind!

      A motion on a public meeting to discuss this issue will be discussed by Faringdon Town Council on Wednesday. We'll keep fighting!

    11. 300 up & BBC Oxford News

      Alex Meredith
      Petition Organizer

      Thanks again to everyone supporting the campaign to keep the A417 open. For those that missed it BBC Oxford ran the story in this evening's news. You can catch it at about 4:50 on this link (for the next day or so):

      I'm looking forward to discussing the way forward with Cllr Heathcoat tomorrow at the Traffic Advisory Meeting in Faringdon (9:30, Old Town Hall) and I have tabled a motion for Faringdon Town Council to call a public meeting as soon as possible. It is intended that the public meeting will bring together representatives from all the communities affected by the closure.

      In the meantime, please do continue to share the link so we can keep the pressure on.

      Oxfordshire CC are saying that this is a done deal, but having had no consultation, no engagement and no support measures proposed whatsoever it is absolutely essential that we keep pushing to get this terrible decision overturned.

      Alex Meredith

      BBC Oxford News, 05/06/2014

      The latest news, sport, weather and features from Oxfordshire and the surrounding region.

    12. Reached 250 signatures
    13. Heading for 250 & BBC South interest

      Alex Meredith
      Petition Organizer

      Thanks to everyone who has signed the petition to stop the closure of the A417. We have nearly reached 250 signatures which is brilliant, and the stories people are telling about how this terrible decision will impact them should make OCC see how important this campaign is.

      BBC South have also shown an interest so I will meet with them tomorrow morning and hopefully they will put something out on the news. I will also keep pressing to get something on BBC Radio Oxford in the morning slot as that will help reach a very wide local audience.

      We will hear the other side of the story when Cllr Heathcoat reports on Friday morning. However thanks to your support the pressure is mounting to reverse this flawed decision, taken behind closed doors in Oxford without due concern for the terrible impact on people and families in rural Oxfordshire.


    14. Reached 100 signatures


    Reasons for signing

      • 2 months ago

      because it will cause traffic chaos and financial loss in the area

      • 2 months ago

      Hitting the area like this is unacceptable for any period of time but closure over a long period of time will damage Wantage and Faringdon centres and cause chaos with A420 works

      • 2 months ago

      I use this road 6 days a week to get to and open my business

    • Penelope Eastman FARINGDON, UNITED KINGDOM
      • 2 months ago

      We regularly drive between Faringdon and Surrey and would experience considerable inconvenience were this closure to go ahead.

      • 3 months ago

      Part of my commute to work.


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