Leigh-Salford-Manchester Bus Rapid Transit

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Leigh-Salford-Manchester Bus Rapid Transit
A Vantage bus at Newearth Road bus stop on the guided busway section
Owner Transport for Greater Manchester
Locale Wigan
Transit type Guided busway and Bus rapid transit
Website www.tfgm.com/buspriority
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. Built by Balfour Beatty at a total cost of £122 million to improve links from former coalfield towns into Manchester city centre, the busway proposal encountered much opposition and a public enquiry in 2002 before construction finally started in 2013. The branch route from Atherton and extension to the Manchester Royal Infirmary were added to the original scheme.

Twenty-five purple-liveried Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5LH hybrid double-decker equipped with CCTV and next stop audio and visual announcements operate the service. Stops on the guided busway section have level-boarding from platforms equipped with passenger information display screens.

From Leigh, the V1 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 V2 service from Atherton to Manchester joins the guided busway at Tyldesley. Both services run via Manchester University to terminate at Manchester Royal Infirmary.


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 transport connections to neighbouring towns. A guided busway scheme using a kerbed concrete track was proposed using the former railway trackbed from Leigh to Ellenbrook to improve access to Manchester city centre from Leigh, Tyldesley and Ellenbrook and regenerate areas of the former Lancashire Coalfield. A long legal process preceded the busway's construction, including a public inquiry in 2002.[1] The decision of the public inquiry 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.[2] Powers to build it are set out in the Greater Manchester (Leigh Busway) Order 2005 in the Transport and Works Act.[3] GMPTE had estimated that the busway would generate around 2 million passenger trips per annum.[4] After the public inquiry, a branch bus route from Atherton to Tyldesley and an extension from Manchester city centre to the Manchester Royal Infirmary were added to the scheme.

When proposed, the busway was controversial and encountered much local opposition.[5] It was branded the 'Misguided Busway' by a Salford councillor.[6] Critics contested claims by TfGM that the creation of within-carriageway bus lanes would 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.[7]


The guided busway under construction at Cooling Lane, Tyldesley in January 2016

Site clearance for the dedicated busway section between Leigh and Ellenbrook took place between November 2012 and March 2013.[8] Balfour Beatty began its construction in September 2013.[9] 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[10] to coordinate with associated road and tram works in Manchester city centre.[11][12]

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.[10]


Cooling Lane stop on guided section and multi-user path
     Leigh-Salford-Manchester Bus Rapid Transit
Leigh bus station BSicon BUS.svg
Leigh The Loom
Leigh East Bond Street – guided section begins
Leigh Holden Road
Leigh Higher Folds/Tyldesley West Cooling Lane
Tyldesley Astley Street BSicon BUS.svg
Tyldesley Hough Lane
Tyldesley Sale Lane
Ellenbrook Newearth Road – guided section ends
Boothstown Newearth Road/East Lancs Road – buslane begins
Worsley East Lancs Road/Walkden Road
Worsley East Lancs Road/Old Clough Lane
Wardley East Lancs Road Park & Ride Parking
Swinton East Lancs Road/Moorside Road
Swinton East Lancs Road/Worsley Road
Swinton East Lancs Road/Barton Road – buslane ends
Pendleton Pendleton Church
University of Salford Frederick Road Campus
Salford Crescent station National Rail
University of Salford Peel Park Campus – buslane begins
University of Salford - Adelphi House
Salford Cathedral
Salford Central station National Railbuslane ends
Manchester Bridge Street for Deansgate
Manchester John Dalton Street
Manchester Albert Squarebuslane begins
Manchester Princess Street Manchester Metrolink
Manchester Portland Street
Manchester Oxford Road station National Railbuslane ends
Manchester Metropolitan University John Dalton Building – buslane begins
Manchester Metropolitan University All Saints Campus
Manchester Museum
University of Manchester
Whitworth Art Gallery
Manchester Royal Infirmary BSicon BUS.svgbuslane ends[13]

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. All stops along the A580 bus lanes are bus bays so that conventional stopping services can be overtaken by limited-stop expresses. It passes Salford University/Salford Crescent railway station before continuing through Manchester city centre and along bus-only lanes on Oxford Road to Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester University and the Central Manchester Hospitals.[14][15] After 29 January 2017, buses will be able to use Bolton Road in Salford when Broad Street is congested and some afternoon peak-time journeys will take longer.[16]

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.[17] For cyclists the path from Tyldesley to Ellenbrook is part of the National Cycle Network Route 55.[18]

The route from Leigh to Central Manchester Hospitals has 36 stops and the connecting route from Tyldesley to Atherton has five.[13] Park and ride facilities are provided at East Bond Street, Astley Street and Wardley (where the A580 road passes under the M60 motorway).[19]


First Greater Manchester runs the service, branded Vantage.[20] Service V1 operates from Leigh and V2 from Atherton.[21] Timetabled journey times are 55 minutes from Leigh and Atherton to Albert Square, Manchester at peak periods; 45 minutes off-peak.[22] In daytime operation from Monday to Saturday at least eight buses per hour run in each direction on the guided section, four on the Leigh to Tyldesley section and four from Atherton joining the Tyldesley to Ellenbrook section.[23] The earliest weekday departures from Leigh/Atherton are at 04:00/04:29 respectively; and last trips from Manchester Royal Infirmary at 24:00/23:45.[24] Four additional V1 services run from Leigh into Manchester in the weekday morning peak; three additional services return to Leigh in the weekday evening peak.[25]

The introduction of the Vantage services resulted in the withdrawal of a number of services by operator First.[26] Others were amended to join the A580 bus lanes east of Boothstown.[27]


Vantage bus on the guided busway
A Vantage bus crosses tramlines in St Peter's Square in Manchester city centre

After light-controlled junctions along the East Lancashire Road were upgraded with SCOOT adaptive signalling in July 2016, TfGM reported in the October that traffic journey times on this section had returned to pre-construction levels in the morning peak while accommodating significant additional traffic.[28]

In the first six months of operation, more than 900,000 passenger journeys were made. A survey of users published in October 2016 revealed that 20% of passengers had switched from using their cars for the same journey, and nearly all respondents would recommend the service.[29][30] More than a quarter of busway users walked or travelled more than a kilometre to reach the busway.[31] The service attracted about 28,000 passengers per week when it started in April 2016 rising to 45,000 by the autumn and 55,000 in the run up to Christmas.[32] More than 2 million passengers were carried in the first year of operation.[33]


Services were initially operated by 20 Wright Eclipse Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5LH hybrid double-decker buses in purple-livery. They are equipped with CCTV and next stop audio and visual announcements, USB charging points and free Wi-Fi.[10] Five more buses were purchased in January 2017 to provide extra capacity at busy times and facilitate the extended service to Central Manchester Hospitals.[16][34]

Stops, signalling and ticketing[edit]

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.[35] No special ticketing system exists for the service and ticketing operates just as per other First buses in the TFGM area.


The scheme won the Transport Policy, Planning and Implementation award at the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport North West Awards[28] and the award for sustainability at the 10th annual North West Construction Awards in 2016.[36] The launch of the Vantage service won the Transport Project of the Year category and the Leigh to Ellenbrook Guided Busway section was the winner in the Construction and Engineering category at the National and the North of England Transport Awards in December 2016.[37]


  1. ^ Leigh Busway Inspector's Report (pdf), Transport for Greater Manchester, retrieved 6 April 2016 
  2. ^ Leigh Salford Manchester Busway Project (PDF), brtuk.org, archived from the original (PDF) on 20 May 2013, retrieved 7 August 2013 
  3. ^ The Greater Manchester (Leigh Busway) Order 2005 (pdf), Legislation.gov.uk, retrieved 6 April 2016 
  4. ^ Vaughan, Nick, The Leigh-Salford_Manchester Busway Project (PDF), retrieved 25 September 2016 
  5. ^ Gomm, Brian (19 August 2009), "Busway 'off the rails'", Leigh Journal, Newsquest Media Group, retrieved 7 August 2013 
  6. ^ "Salford Councillor says Busway will Cause Nothing But Chaos". Manchester Gazette. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  7. ^ "Get set for four months of jams on East Lancs Road as busway work begins". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  8. ^ Construction work, Transport for Greater Manchester, retrieved 7 August 2013 
  9. ^ Work starts on Greater Manchester’s first guided busway, Transport for Greater Manchester, retrieved 18 September 2013 
  10. ^ a b c Busway begins, Bus & Coach Buyer, 5 April 2016, retrieved 6 April 2016 
  11. ^ Bus Priority Update, Transport for Greater Manchester, retrieved 29 June 2015 
  12. ^ TfGM http://www.tfgm.com/buspriority/Pages/website/pdfs/Letter-110116.pdf
  13. ^ a b Stopping Places, First Greater Manchester, retrieved 27 April 2017 
  14. ^ Busway – Route, Transport for Greater Manchester, retrieved 7 August 2013 
  15. ^ Bus Priority Package (PDF), Transport for Greater Manchester, retrieved 13 January 2016 
  16. ^ a b "Service Changes in Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley". First Group. First Group. Retrieved 22 January 2017. 
  17. ^ Busway path completed, Leigh Journal, retrieved 19 May 2016 
  18. ^ Route 55 Map Sustrans, Sustrans, retrieved 19 May 2016 
  19. ^ Manchester Confidential http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/News/New-Park-and-Ride-For-East-Lancs
  20. ^ Guided busway service unveiled, Leigh Journal, 20 January 2016, retrieved 5 April 2016 
  21. ^ V1 V2 (pdf), Transport for Greater Manchester, retrieved 6 April 2016 
  22. ^ Timetable summary, First Greater Manchester, retrieved 27 April 2017 
  23. ^ Improving bus connections between Leigh, Salford and Manchester (pdf), Transport for Greater Manchester, 3 December 2011, retrieved 31 October 2015 
  24. ^ Full Timetables, First Greater Manchester, retrieved 27 April 2017 
  25. ^ Timetable, First Greater Manchester, retrieved 27 April 2017 
  26. ^ Four bus routes to change from April, Leigh Journal, 17 February 2016, retrieved 1 February 2017 
  27. ^ Stagecoach Manchester launch new bus service 
  28. ^ a b Busway priority update, Transport for Greater Manchester, 14 October 2016, retrieved 30 November 2016 
  29. ^ Our survey says…the busway is a hit with passengers, Transport for General Manchester, 6 October 2016, retrieved 7 October 2016 
  30. ^ Busway operational update, Transport for General Manchester, 18 November 2016, retrieved 11 November 2016 
  31. ^ Presentation to BRT UK (PDF), Transport for General Manchester, 16 September 2016, retrieved 27 March 2017 
  32. ^ Bus Priority Update February 2017, Transport for General Manchester, 10 February 2017, retrieved 3 February 2017 
  33. ^ Outstanding passenger numbers provide early birthday gift for the busway, Transport for General Manchester, 21 March 2017, retrieved 23 March 2017 
  34. ^ Extra buses added to cope with guided busway demand, Leigh Journal, 28 September 2016, retrieved 28 September 2016 
  35. ^ "Positive reviews following "teething problems" for new guided busway", Leigh Journal, Newsquest Media Group, 7 April 2016, retrieved 7 April 2016 
  36. ^ The North West Regional Construction Awards 2016, North West Regional Construction, retrieved 30 November 2016 
  37. ^ North of England Transport Awards winners announced, Transport Times, 8 December 2016, retrieved 1 February 2017 

External links[edit]