Why a busway?

Here we answer your key questions, provide information on the main benefits and give a brief outline of our proposal.

What is a guided busway?

A guided bus is a dual-purpose vehicle – on normal roads it functions as a ‘normal’ bus, but it is also able to run on its own special guidance track using its special adapted guide wheels.

What is the special guidance track?

In our proposal, for a London Guided Busway, we plan to use land alongside railway tracks, converting them to a guided bus track. These guided bus tracks consist of twin track made from reinforced concrete with vertical guide kerbs.

The guided bus enters the track from the road and the guidance system automatically takes over the bus’s ordinary steering. The guide wheels maintain contact with the vertical guide kerb and steer the bus using the steering arms on the wheels.

There are seven operational examples of kerb guidance in the United Kingdom including major schemes in Cambridgeshire and connecting Luton and Dunstable. A key advantage of kerb guidance is that a two lane, two way guided busway can fit in the same space as a double track railway and make use of unused rail alignments.

Why is a guided bus any better than a normal bus?

Because the guided bus is kept within a guideway, it can travel safely at cruising speed within a narrower space. A normal bus would either need a wider road, or need to travel much slower. This makes a difference if a bus is on a disused rail alignment (of which there are many in the UK). Similarly, tunnels can be constructed to a narrower width, and so be less costly.

Guided busways also give a smoother ride than the normal road. There are none of the dips at the side of the road for drains, while the construction is to a high standard.

The reserved track means there is no other traffic to cause delays. The service is swift, punctual and reliable.

Will the drivers have to be highly trained in the use of guided buses?

Guided buses are simpler to use on their tracks than ‘normal’ buses are on the roads, so a guided bus actually requires less driving skill. Once on the guided track they don’t even need to be steered. However, bus drivers are always given comprehensive training.

Sounds fantastic – so what’s London Guided Busway about?

The proposal is for a new busway using kerb guidance to provide a fast and congestion-free route for buses and coaches from the M1 motorway, A1 and the North Circular Road near Staples Corner (Brent Cross) through to Central London at Marylebone Station.

To cause minimum disruption and keep costs down the plan makes use of the underutilised railway alignment next to the former Great Central route between Marylebone Station and Finchley Road. It then uses the land alongside the Midland Main Line (MML) between West Hampstead and Brent Cross to construct a two-way kerb guided busway.

This will connect to the local road network at Marylebone enabling buses and coaches to continue their journeys to the West End and the City.

If you would like to know more please read our proposal in full.

What is the total expected journey time, how does it compare
to other methods of transport?

The busway is only 5.78 miles long. At a constant 40mph and no stops it would take about 8 minutes.

The AA Route Planner shows a car journey time from Baker Street to Staples Corner of 18 minutes. This can be assumed to be a good value for the off-peak. For the peak period, a reasonable assumption is 25-30 minutes, saving 10 minutes off-peak and 17-22 minutes in peak periods.

How much will the journeys cost?

For London Buses the fare should be the same as for existing bus services running on-street (at present £2.40 single for cash payments and significantly less for Oyster or Travelcard users).

Will Oyster cards/Travelcards/etc be accepted?

If Transport for London provides bus services on the busway, Oyster Cards, Travelcards and bus passes will be accepted as they are on all other London bus services.

Oyster Cards and Travelcards will not be accepted for travel on any commuter or long distance coach services (e.g. National Express, megabus.com) using the busway.

Will it help reduce congestion?

Yes – offering an alternative will always reduce congestion with people shifting from car to the busway. It will also remove long distance coaches from Finchley Road and Edgware Road – which has the benefit of removing large vehicles from these congested urban roads, so improving the environment for pedestrians and shoppers.

The proposal suggests an area-wide network review of bus services, which could lead to the creation of some express services using the busway whilst leaving a good level of service on the road network.

How long would construction take and what will be the impact
on congestion during construction?

Construction will probably take 3-4 years.

There would be extra construction traffic to be accommodated. Most of the works take place on a segregated alignment away from the local main and secondary road networks and so the impact on congestion on the existing road system will be minimal.

By utilising land next to the existing railway the impact on the network should be minimal – as much of the work as posible will be accommodated at times when Network Rail plan to undertake maintenance works on their lines, thereby minimising disruption to passenger train services.

What are the benefits of a London Guided Busway?
  1. Quick – the journey time between Brent Cross and Marylebone will be 8 minutes.
  2. Reliable – the London Guided Busway will be congestion-free and there should be no delays.
  3. Predictable – every bus and coach should take the same time to travel between Brent Cross and Marylebone because no other traffic will use the Busway.
  4. Direct – the London Guided Busway will provide a direct public transport route between North West and Central London.
  5. Buses using the Busway can reach areas that are not well-served by rail or London Underground (e.g. Bushey, Harrow Weald, Belmont)
  6. The London Guided Busway will provide new opportunities for commuter coach services from areas not served by rail (e.g. communities like Redbourn, London Colney and Wheathampstead that lie between main radial railway lines)
  7. The Busway will provide much needed extra transport capacity without major land take – population and economic growth in Greater London are using up the new transport capacity being provided by projects like Thameslink faster than expected.
  8. A Guided Busway has lower construction costs per route mile than a new railway line
  9. Guided Busway has lower operating costs than rail.
  10. The London Guided Busway will enable more cost-efficient operation of both local bus services and long distance coaches.
  11. A seat for every long distance traveller using commuter coaches.
What’s the estimated cost? And how do they compare?

The construction cost for the guideway is estimated at £400 million for the 5.78 miles or about £69 million per mile. This is much lower than other projects with high capacity use.

Although very different, the elevated M74 extension in Glasgow cost £138 million per mile (2011).

The much more extensive Crossrail project will cost £15 billion.

Kerb guided busways and their associated infrastructure are not expensive to maintain. In our report we indicate a preliminary estimate of annual costs of £2.7 million. This included a wide variety of items including the annual costs of a coach station at Marylebone and the administrative costs of operating the busway and a tolling system in addition to busway and associated infrastructure maintenance.

What are the benefits