The Leigh to Ellenbrook guided busway is a 4.5 mile dual track bus rapid transit system. It provides bus infrastructure improvements between Leigh-Salford and Manchester and forms a key part of the wider £122m Greater Manchester Bus Priority Package – a programme of bus infrastructure improvements across Greater Manchester which are now reducing journey times and improving reliability for thousands of bus passengers each day. The busway incorporates seven pairs of stops and two Park & Ride sites. A multi-user path runs parallel to the track which provides amenity for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.
The busway follows the route of a disused railway line. Construction began in September 2013 with the first passenger service starting in April 2016. The track was constructed using slipformed concrete rather than pre-formed concrete slabs which helps to ensure a smooth passenger experience.
The aim of the guided busway was to provide a viable alternative to the private car as a means of accessing the various work, leisure and healthcare opportunities situated along the Leigh-Salford-Manchester corridor. The disused railway line formed a linear park previously and so it was important that the design of the guided busway not only catered for, but actively encouraged, those wishing to make local non-motorised journeys.
Additionally, through pre-construction and delivery the project aimed to reduce the use of natural resources in construction and provide social benefits to the local community. Successes included reducing water usage by 90% by utilising innovative technologies, hosting work placements, undertaking school visits, providing local apprenticeship and employment opportunities and undertaking a number of volunteering and charitable activities.
Challenges and achievements
Due to the scale of the project the challenges which presented themselves were varied, a selection of the challenges and achievements which were considered in the CEEQUAL submission is provided below.
Balancing cut and fill
As the guided busway was constructed on a disused railway line there was a significant amount of earthworks required to deliver an at-grade solution, thereby maximising benefits for passengers. A cut and fill exercise was therefore undertaken which identified approximately 131,335m3 of material which needed to be utilised or disposed of. Around 69,000m3 of this material could be reused in the construction of the guided busway. The balance of the material was unsuitable for use in the construction of the busway. In order to minimise the amount of material to be taken to landfill, a solution to use around 53,000m3 of material to create a community woodland on an adjacent Forestry Commission site was developed. This greatly reduced the number of vehicle miles accumulated in the transportation of the material and thus reduced the carbon footprint of the guided busway. In addition, by adopting this approach we greatly reduced inconvenience to the neighbouring communities.
During pre-construction surveys, a number of Great Crested Newt (GCN) populations in the vicinity of the route were identified. A comprehensive plan was subsequently developed to mitigate against the potential negative impact of the guided busway on the GCN’s habitats and movement patterns. This began with a GCN relocation exercise and the erection of amphibian fencing to protect the populations whilst construction took place. Two amphibian tunnels under the busway and several new ponds were provided to mitigate against the potential severance caused by the busway. A GCN monitoring strategy is now in place to record changes in the population of GCNs which will assess the success of the implemented mitigation measures and inform whether any further measures are required.
Minimising water use
The guided busway track was constructed by Extrudakerb, working with Balfour Beatty, using a slipforming technique. In order to minimise water use during the track construction process an innovative solution was developed which resulted in a 90% reduction in water consumption. The solution involved a modified water treatment unit being towed behind the grinding machine which reduced daily water use from 9000ltrs to 1000ltrs. Over the entire construction project this approach saved circa 720,000ltrs of water.
Achieving modal shift
Since opening in April 2016, patronage figures on the guided busway have been a significant achievement; in its first full year of operation the guided busway carried in excess of 2.1 million passengers, a significantly higher level than had been originally envisaged. It is anticipated that this figure will be surpassed in the second year of operation with the current demand for the service being over 55,000 passenger journeys per week. Additionally, passenger surveys indicate a modal shift from car to bus to in the region of 20%.
The multi-user path (MUP) which runs the length of the guided busway has been a huge success in its own right. Surveys indicate that circa 220,000 trips are made on the MUP every year, 160,000 by foot and 60,000 by cycle. Notably, circa 10% of those surveyed said they would have made their trip by car previously and 58% said the construction of the MUP had led to them leading a significantly healthier lifestyle.
How did CEEQUAL influence your project?
The tenets of CEEQUAL have been integral throughout the design, construction and operation of the guided busway. The compilation of evidence for the submission has served as an educational tool, it has enabled project team members to reflect on success and failures and highlight where environmental record keeping needs to be improved. On future projects it is envisaged that greater reference will be made to CEEQUAL evaluation criteria which will ultimately improve the environmental credentials of future project’s design and construction.
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