Guided Busways

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13.8.08 e-mail to Cambridge News (published)

I note that the head of delivery for the guided busway has "reassured travellers that the busway will be entirely safe to use". I have researched the history and practice of guided busways for an article published in July in Focus, journal of the Chartered institute of Logistics & Transport. This includes obtaining information on the systems in the UK. None of them have a foolproof system which would ensure that any guided busway system is 100% safe. Following tail-end collisions, buses on the system in Adelaide, Australia, were fitted with flashing lights to warn following drivers that a bus was stationary. Its effectiveness as a safety measure still depends on the frail hand of the driver. The Essen system - which he quotes in support - closed part of the system after a few years. They encountered serious problems when snow compacted within the busway rails and had to be removed by hand! They then installed costly under-surface electric heating. The only other system in the world outside the UK was in Mannheim, Germany. It was removed after a few years.

 

10.11.08 Cambridge News (not published)

Mr. Duggan’s letter, (4 November) urges readers to look into the history of guided busway failures and problems. The first detailed study of those issues is contained in my article written for Focus, the journal of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport. It identifies all the problems and disadvantages of guided busways. Bus only lanes could have been provided for less cost and, if necessary, securely blocked to all other traffic, by installing rising bollards in the road, controlled by transponders on authorised buses.

 

15.1.09 e-mail to Cambridge News (not published)

Regarding busways, (Cllr Bradney 18 November). “Edinburgh’s busway may still be open” – but not for long. It has been decided to convert the route to trams! Buses will be removed 19 January 2009, when work will begin to convert the route to trams! “In Germany the whole network” is not “still in use”. The original O-Bahn system in Essen, built 1980, used 2.5m wide buses. It was reported that snow could not be ploughed, so electric heating was installed. A section including underground was abandoned in 1994 and converted to light rail. When buses needed replacing in 2004, new buses were 2.6m wide. Replacement was deferred to 2009. As 2.5m buses are apparently no longer available, the options are reconstruction or abandonment. Guided buses introduced in Mannheim, Germany in 1992, were withdrawn in 2005. The Adelaide system was originally to be extended, but plans were dropped. Some direct services proved unviable, so feeders were provided which do not guarantee connections. Off-system journeys and onboard ticketing cause late running. Rush hour buses are usually in convoys. Following rear end collisions, flashing lights were installed on buses to indicate they had stopped. Speed reductions were imposed to combat tyre scrubbing on curved sections. Its 113 buses are past their sell-by date. Replacements cannot be bought, as Daimler-Benz no longer sells the O-Bahn idea. There are no breaks in the guided rails, allowing higher speeds and only two intermediate stations, both off-track. This is totally unlike UK systems. The sources of this information are contained in my article on the subject, which I will provide to interested parties. I note that the Council “has worked closely with other busways across the world”. Only two kerb guided systems exist outside the UK (see above)! Both have problems.

 

27.1.09 e-mail The Times (not published)

Kerb-guided buses (Times, 26 January) will be a nine day wonder. There are only two systems outside the UK, and no more planned. The quick-witted will realise that ‘the Cambridge system will be the longest’ because others in the field are not extending, or are dropping the idea. The first system opened in Essen in 1980. After a few years, a section was converted to trams. A system in Mannheim closed after 13 years. The system in Adelaide was to be extended, but plans were dropped. Some direct services were unviable, so feeders were provided which do not guarantee connections. Off-system journeys cause late running. Rush hour buses are usually in convoys. Following rear end collisions, flashing lights were installed on buses to warn they had stopped. Speed reductions were imposed to combat tyre scrubbing on curved sections. There are no breaks in the guided rails. This is totally unlike UK systems. Studies in Dublin established the most beneficial system was Light Rail. Light Rail scheme costs include vehicles, busways do not. The first UK system opened in Birmingham and closed after three years, at a restoration cost of £100,000. Edinburgh opened a system in 2004 on a former railway. It was closed twice in the first year to repair the route. They may well – like Cambridge - have expected it to last 40 years without maintenance! It is now closing and will be replaced by trams.

Buses ‘picking up at the door’, sounds good, but they will fail to return to the guided system on schedule. Moreover, if buses will pick up at the door, why is Cambridge building two expensive Park & Ride facilities? Comparing journey times for cars overlooks that they are door-to-door; buses involve walking and waiting time. Rides may be smooth with new buses, but my experience of the older Leeds system is of rattling, noisy buses.    

When the DfT looks at other rail routes, they may hopefully pause to reflect on the massive cost of new bridges and deep piling on the railway formation. But, then again, having got a bee in its bonnet, perhaps it won’t. Still, let’s look on the bright side – the financial crisis can be blamed for failure.

 

28.1.09 e-mail to Cambridge News (not published)

I hope promoters of guided buses are proficient at whistling, especially when it's dark! The reality will come with the dawn, when an operator withdraws buses, or goes bankrupt. Birmingham’s system was abandoned three years after being built, (not 150 years – which Cambridge councillors are forecasting guided buses will last), because the operator ceased to provide services and the replacement company refused to provide guided buses. Restoration cost £100,000 – and that was for 600 metres. On that basis, restoration in Cambridge would cost £4.5m – I’ll bet that isn’t in the budget. What are the manpower plans and costs for mowing grass within the guided system, which the Cambridge January 09 Newsletter mentions? Their belief that the infrastructure will last for 40 years was probably held by Edinburgh authorities. It closed twice for repairs in the first 12 months, and has now closed permanently - coincidentally after three years - for conversion to trams. Experience abroad is limited to two countries: Essen reduced its system, the Mannheim system closed and Adelaide did not extend as planned, but depends on off-system connections that are unreliable.  I am puzzled why costly Park & Ride facilities are provided when the claim is that buses can convey passengers door-to-door, even from off-system areas.

 

29.1.09 e-mail to Cambridge News (published)

It has been argued that because there were only two or three accidents on the Adelaide guided bus system, that guided buses on the Cambridge system will be equally safe. The Adelaide system has no cross roads or ‘breaks’ in it. It is totally unlike the Cambridge system. Information from the County by e-mail states there will be eight breaks in the Cambridgeshire system, which are cross roads, etc. Every one of these represents a collision risk. How many pedestrian crossings there will be was not mentioned. These represent a fatality risk. Exponents try to claim that the buses can go off system and pick up at the end of the street, and yet they are building Park & Ride facilities. Experience in Australia and the UK is that buses that go off-system cannot return to it on schedule, for obvious reasons.

 

3.2.09 e-mail to Cambridge News (not published)

There is no gentle way of telling Cambridge County Council this. If they were seeking to encourage healthy living and get cyclists off the A14 – as is reported recently - they need not have built a £116m guided busway! Here in Cheshire and neighbouring Staffordshire, local authorities converted longer disused railway lines into cycle tracks for quite modest expenditure. They require little maintenance. New bridges were not required, nor was deep piling needed. Moreover, they made them suitable for joggers and horse riders, so avoiding traffic delays and reducing accident risks.

 

1.3.09 e-mail to Cambridge News (not published)

I am astonished by the photo in the article (16 February) showing an enormous length of guided busway stretching to the horizon. One should not be merely concerned about the cost to the taxpayer of delays and damage caused by flooding (revealed in the photo). The sole justification for guided systems is in allowing buses to bypass congestion. There cannot be congestion on this route. Why has a guided system been laid there? If this is the route which had to have deep piling to create a smooth surface for guided buses, that cost could have been avoided by using CCTV. Other alternatives, used elsewhere, include barriers or rising bollards, controlled remotely or by transponders. Bob McKenzie pooh-poohed the risk of vehicles being blocked behind broken down buses on the grounds that they had junctions every 400m. Where are they? When a breakdown occurs on this route, whilst the fields are flooded, they will need helicopters to rescue passengers.

 

17.4.09: e-mail Daily Telegraph (Not published)

I challenge the claim that the guided bus system in Cambridge will be longer than that in Adelaide, Australia, (Daily Telegraph, 17 January). Unlike the latter, which has no breaks, the Cambridge authority informed me that their system has eight breaks for cross roads and footpaths. Hence, it will be at greater risk to accidents, not least because in the UK, red lights - never mind, amber - are routinely ignored. In a radio debate on 29 January, their spokesman, Bob Menzies invited me to keep my diary open for the rest of this year, to join him on radio on the opening day of the system, which is still unspecified. I would be more interested in debating its mishaps, problems and complaints a year after opening.

 

23.5.09 e-mail to Cambridge News (published)

Your reader (Mr. I. Cannon) asks what would happen if the route was blocked. I answer this point, and identify many other problems they will face, in a paper on my new website: www.transportmyths.co.uk   Your reader (Jane Lovett) said the busway will be the longest in Europe. She may be right, but it will not be longer than the present longest - that in Australia. The Cambridge system may be nominally longer overall, but having eight breaks in it, leaves the Australian system, which has no breaks as the longest in real terms. This crucial difference means that it cannot be as safe as the Australian one. The web site covers many aspects of this ill conceived technology.

 

10.6.09 e-mail to Cambridge News (Not published)

Bob Menzies states that there are several breaks in the Adelaide system (6.6.09). There are no breaks for cross traffic in the Adelaide system. They have two locations (not “a number”) where the continuity of the guideway ends – both at intermediate stations. No traffic can drive across at these points. If cars attempt to enter the system at these stations, the vehicle is wrecked by “sump-busters” whose purpose is obvious. A full description, including route map clearly showing the absence of routes for cross traffic may be found by searching for “Adelaide guided busway” on Google. From the various Wikipedia sites, select “O-Bahn Busway”, which has a map of the route revealing that cross traffic & pedestrians are routed via bridges! The Cambridge system has eight breaks which are safety hazards. Consequently, the accident record in Cambridgeshire will be worse than the Adelaide system. Adelaide has had “collisions, rock throwing, dislodgements, etc.” Another page gives access to a video of the Adelaide system with a driver’s eye view of the cross-traffic free route!! Bob must be the only man who believes that “new” means defect-free, and which will not ever have a damaged guide-wheel nor catch fire nor be recalled for defect correction. To ensure that a bus does not get trapped behind a breakdown, no bus must pass beyond a “road junction” before the preceding bus has passed beyond the next junction, because guided buses cannot safely reverse within guideways. Is that their intention? How quickly will a vehicle be removed? Thirty minutes to an hour is my guess, depending how far the breakdown is from the location of the rescue vehicle.

 

3.2.09 Cambridge News

There is no gentle way of telling Cambridge County Council this. If they were seeking to encourage healthy living and get cyclists off the A14 – as is reported recently - they need not have built a £116m guided busway! Here in Cheshire and neighbouring Staffordshire, local authorities converted longer disused railway lines into cycle tracks for quite modest expenditure. They require little maintenance. New bridges were not required, nor was deep piling needed. Moreover, they made them suitable for joggers and horse riders, so avoiding traffic delays and reducing accident risks.

 

13.2.09 Cambridge News (not published)

In my critical comments on guided buses, I missed one country of the 191 in the United Nations which has them: Nagoya, Japan, has four miles! Their buses are used by 8% of the population, trains by 27.2%. Only  2% of countries have them, with a mind-boggling 10 miles outside the UK that has taken 30 years to achieve. No new system has opened outside the UK since 2000. Surely, that contains a warning. That the system in Essen was closed ‘because it was made of wood and become worn’ – is irrelevant. If it had worked satisfactorily, it would have been renewed. A major study by experts states that the ‘guided bus is only of marginal importance for public transport in Essen’. It is said that the Edinburgh system was always intended to be replaced by trams, after £10m on infrastructure and £4m on guided buses to last three years! If my local authority had said that, I would have organised petitions and campaigned to replace those concerned. Cambridgeshire councillors believe that because the Adelaide system has had few reported accidents, the same holds true for the totally dissimilar Cambridgehire system. There are no ‘break-throughs’ in Adelaide. There are to be eight in the Cambridge system – every one will cause traffic delays, and pose accident risks. Adelaide bus drivers are not happy with the safety of the system because they have petitioned the State Government – on the Internet - to take remedial action to prevent accidents.

 

 

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