Room temperature transformation from anatase (A-TiO2) to rutile (R-TiO2) thin films through an intermediate mixed phase on stainless steel driven by a controlled oxygen flow rate (OFR) is investigated. Such OFR dependent phase transition is confirmed by X-ray diffraction and also consistent with X-ray absorption spectroscopy at Ti L and O K-edges, showing a long range ordering in TiO6 octahedral symmetry. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy reveals a gradual reduction in Ti2O3 and/or TiO intermediate phases with increasing OFR. Finally, an enhanced photocatalytic activity is observed in the mixed phase and discussed in terms of photo-generated charge transport in the type-II staggered band structure between A-TiO2 and R-TiO2 phases. © 2018 Author(s).