Construction work has started on Greater Manchester’s first guided busway.
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has appointed Balfour Beatty to design and construct the 4.5 mile busway, which will run from Leigh, in Wigan, to Ellenbrook in Salford.
Due to open in 2015, the busway forms part of a 21km high quality bus priority route being developed between Leigh, Salford and Manchester.
The only vehicles able to use the guided section will be specially adapted buses, allowing them to avoid traffic congestion and offer passengers a smooth ride.
Services will run along on-highway bus lanes on the A580 through to Manchester city centre – providing the first cross city links from Leigh to key employment, education, health, leisure and retail destinations on Oxford Road.
Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM Committee, said: “This is a momentous day as we start work to deliver this major transport link.
“The Leigh Busway is the flagship scheme of a much wider bus priority package – one of the largest investments in Greater Manchester’s bus network for decades, with over 25 miles of the network being either created or improved.
“The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway has been successful way beyond expectations and I look forward to seeing the same success enjoyed here.”
Councillor Mark Aldred, Vice Chair and Wigan member of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “Thanks to the will of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to get this busway funded, Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley are in line to benefit from a really first class transport link.
“As well as providing a high quality local service, the busway will offer a reliable, shorter journey time all the way through to key employment, education and health sites along Oxford Road in Manchester.“
Peter Commins, Managing Director of Balfour Beatty’s North West Delivery Unit, said: “We are thrilled to be starting work on this high profile scheme.
“Our team worked very closely with Transport for Greater Manchester during the design phase to ensure that the new busway offers convenience and comfort for users. We look forward to strengthening this collaborative relationship during construction.”
The 14 stop route (seven in each direction) follows the former railway route between East Bond Street in Leigh and Newearth Road in Ellenbrook.
Walkers, cyclists and horse riders will be able to use a 4.5m wide path along the entire length of the busway, surfaced for use all year round.
All stops will be fully accessible, and will include shelters, CCTV and real time information.
Three park and ride sites will serve the busway, providing a minimum of 440 parking spaces. These will be located in Leigh, at Tyldesley Interchange and on the A580 East Lancashire Road near to the M60/61 junction.
The busway – between Leigh, Atherton and a section of the A580 East Lancashire Road to Walkden Road – will cost £68million. It is being funded through the Greater Manchester Transport Fund, for key transport priority projects.
When complete, the 21km bus route will improve the frequency and reliability of bus journeys between all stops on the route, reducing journey times from Leigh to central Manchester to less than 50 minutes.
More information about the Leigh-Salford-Manchester busway – and the wider Cross City bus priority package – can be found at www.tfgm.com/buspriority.