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BONUS article - What a difference a year makes to BRT

Former BRTuk chair Bob Tebb explains what he has been up to in the 12 months since he relinquished the role to Dave Haskins

Bob Tebb

I have certainly not been idle on BRT matters over the past year; initially the new Leigh-Salford-Manchester busway (guided from Leigh centre to the western edge of Salford) continued to keep me well occupied, as it moved from final construction matters to opening at the beginning of April, and thence (of course) day-by-day operation, where passenger usage has continued to climb. It has been a delight to ride LSM as an ordinary passenger and see groups of families and friends (and even a husband taking his wife out for just such a purpose) off for a ride to experience the new travel opportunities.

LSM has made an impact rather wider than ‘just a bus route’. The magnificent ‘shared path’ alongside the guided section has seen dramatic social use by walkers, cyclists, horse riders, etc. For the first time in my guided bus career (and I have been in that for a rather long time now!) I found the following positive quote about a BRT service on a non-technical Salford community internet site: “With the advent of the guided busway speeding us to town….”

Salford deserves its attention here, as the first true guided buses in Britain started in 1861 between Pendleton Church, Peel Park, and thence into Manchester; the new LSM services run along exactly the same roads at the western end of that first (horse-drawn) guided bus service! Déjà vu indeed!

Of course, the designing and building of any form of BRT system are but the first couple of steps in a very long-term commitment to providing, maintaining and developing attractive services to passengers. To achieve this, the infrastructure has to be both maintained and improved, the vehicles replaced in line with increasing expectations from passengers (eg wi-fi), and the services developed to cope with changing local and national economies.

Thus, much of my professional time has been spent in re-visiting and re-examining existing BRT systems. The ‘early’ guideways (notably in West Yorkshire) have now been in service for up to twenty years, and have withstood well the rigours of 24/7/365 operation, bearing in mind that those of us involved from the start were exploring what was basically a new and then little-proven technology.

A recent metre-by-metre inspection of the Bradford Manchester Road guideway (opened in early 2002) for example, revealed simply a need to refresh high friction surface dressing at the approaches to stops and junctions, and a solitary loose (but still safe) pedestrian crossing ‘entry funnel’. The continuing co-operation between the private sector (the bus operator) and the public sector (now the West Yorkshire Combined Authority) easily resolved this. Partnership works!

With national, local, and operator support, the bus itself has been revolutionised. The internal and external designs have evolved for the better, improving the ‘street ambience’ for all, whilst the developing (almost frenetic) evolution of drive-train technologies bodes well for the future.

BRT is an active and developing industry!

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