Leigh-Salford-Manchester Bus Rapid Transit
The busway under construction at Cooling Lane, Tyldesley in January 2016
|Owner||Transport for Greater Manchester|
|Transit type||Guided busway and Bus rapid transit|
|Began operation||3 April 2016|
|Operator(s)||First Greater Manchester|
|System length||22 kilometres|
The Leigh-Salford-Manchester Bus Rapid Transit scheme in Greater Manchester, England provides transport connections between Leigh, Atherton, Tyldesley, Ellenbrook to Manchester city centre via Salford. The guided busway and bus rapid transit (BRT) scheme promoted by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) opened on 3 April 2016. From Leigh, a limited-stop bus service joins 7 km of guided busway to Ellenbrook, 6 km of bus lanes on the East Lancashire Road and sections of reserved bus lanes through Salford and Manchester city centres. The service will extend to the Central Manchester Hospitals on Oxford Road in 2017.
Leigh is one of the largest towns in Britain without a railway station since the closure of the Tyldesley Loopline in 1969 and suffers from poor connections to neighbouring towns. The Leigh-Salford-Manchester guided busway was proposed to improve access to Manchester city centre from Leigh, Tyldesley and Ellenbrook and regenerate areas of the former Lancashire Coalfield. A public inquiry was held in 2002 but the decision was delayed because of great crested newts occupying a site on the route. The Department for Transport granted powers to build the busway in 2005 and it was projected to be built by 2009 but preliminary work only started in 2012. After the public inquiry, a branch bus route from Atherton to Tyldesley and an extension from Manchester city centre to the Central Manchester Hospitals were added to the scheme.
The controversial busway proposal encountered much local opposition. It was branded the 'Misguided Busway' by a Salford councillor. Critics contest claims by TfGM that the creation of within-carriageway bus lanes will not reduce general traffic capacity along the East Lancashire Road, a heavily congested radial route for traffic heading towards Manchester and Salford city centres; but instead increase it. GMPTE estimated that the busway would generate around 2 million passenger trips per annum. Journeys between Leigh and Manchester city centre are timetabled to take 50 minutes at peak times, which TfGM claims is a saving of 30 minutes.
TfGM spent £122 million on bus priority investment of which the guided busway track and infrastructure cost £68 million and the rest was spent upgrading associated local roads, bus lanes and junctions. The Greater Manchester Transport Fund provided most of the funding and the Department for Transport contributed £32.5 million.
A long legal process preceded the busway's construction, including a public inquiry in 2002. Powers to build it are set out in the Greater Manchester (Leigh Busway) Order 2005 in the Transport and Works Act.
Site clearance for the dedicated busway section between Leigh and Ellenbrook took place between November 2012 and March 2013. Balfour Beatty began its construction in September 2013. A short section of the busway west of Newearth Road was completed in early 2015 and in the April was used for a trial of the construction method and the bus guidance system. Following delays due to bad weather and other problems, the busway works were rescheduled to be completed before the end of 2015. The service began on 3 April 2016 to coordinate with associated road and tram works in Manchester city centre.
Route and service
|Leigh-Salford-Manchester Bus Rapid Transit|
The BRT route begins at Leigh bus station, and joins the guided section at East Bond Street. It proceeds through Leigh and along the converted rail alignment via Tyldesley to Newearth Road in Ellenbrook. An improved bus route from Atherton joins the route at Astley Street, Tyldesley. From Ellenbrook the route continues via bus lanes alongside the A580 East Lancashire Road, serving Worsley and Swinton before joining the A6 at Irlams o' th' Height. It passes Salford University/Salford Crescent railway station before continuing through Manchester city centre and will pass along bus-only lanes on Oxford Road to Manchester University and Central Manchester Hospitals.
The guided section has stops at East Bond Street, Holden Road in Leigh and Cooling Lane between Higher Folds and Squires Lane in Tyldesley, Astley Street, Hough Lane and Sale Lane in Tyldesley and Newearth Road in Ellenbrook. The multi-user path for walkers, horse riders and cyclists alongside the guided section provides access for emergency vehicles and maintenance. For cyclists the path from Tyldesley to Ellenbrook is part of the National Cycle Network Route 55.
The route from Leigh to Central Manchester Hospitals has 29 stops and the connecting route from Tyldesley to Atherton has five. On Monday to Saturday at least eight buses per hour operate in each direction on the guided section, four on the Leigh to Tyldesley section and four more from Atherton joining the Tyldesley to Ellenbrook section. Park and ride facilities are provided at East Bond Street, Astley Street and where the A580 road passes under the M60 motorway carriageway.
First Greater Manchester runs the service, branded Vantage. Service V1 operates from Leigh and V2 from Atherton. Timetabled journey times are less than 50 minutes from Leigh and Atherton to Manchester city centre, and will be less than 60 minutes to Central Manchester Hospitals. Services run through Manchester to a temporary terminus at Stevenson Square until roadworks are completed in 2017, when they will terminate at Central Manchester Hospitals. The earliest weekday departures from Leigh/Atherton are at 04:00/04:30 respectively; and last trips from Manchester are at 24:00/23:45.
Three conventional buses per hour operated by Stagecoach Manchester, services X34 and 34 between Leigh and Manchester via Astley, join the A580 east of Boothstown. All stops along the A580 bus lanes are bus bays so that conventional stopping services can be overtaken by the limited-stop expresses. The Vantage services, new service 35 and re-routed X39 peak period service replace First's 12/25, X34, 39 Night Bus and 26 journeys.
Services are operated by 20 Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5LH hybrid double-decker buses. They are equipped with CCTV and next stop audio and visual announcements, USB charging points and free Wi-Fi. The purple-liveried buses have aubergine and grey e-leather seating.
Stops, signalling and ticketing
Stops along the guided busway section provide level-boarding from platforms and are equipped with passenger information display screens. The guided busway crosses local roads on level, light-controlled junctions at which busway services have priority. Tickets are sold by the bus drivers and all First Group ticket products apply to Vantage services, including multi-buy phone tickets and TfGM cross-user System One tickets and travelcards.
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- "Positive reviews following "teething problems" for new guided busway", Leigh Journal, Newsquest Media Group, 7 April 2016, retrieved 7 April 2016
- Vantage, First Greater Manchester, retrieved 6 April 2016
- System one travel, systemonetravelcards.co.uk, retrieved 6 April 2016