Bus priority in practice: Benefiting towns and cities across the country

Barking: A force for regeneration

In Barking, the East London Transit scheme has contributed to a more prosperous town centre. 


More convenient journeys for shoppers and smarter streets have created better trading conditions for retailers, helping them to combat difficult economic conditions. “We expected trade to fall during the recession, but in fact we held our own,” said Simon Green, manager of Vicarage Field shopping centre. 

The improvements are repeated across the 11km Ilford-Dagenham Dock route. Pocket parks and wider pavements were built, and ordered facilities for parking and loading were provided, easing traffic congestion. 

A range of measures enabled Transport for London to install bus priority despite constrained road space. They included widening a bridge to Barking Riverside, where a planned 10,800 home development is underway – also reducing risk of traffic tailbacks. 

Improved journey times are particularly notable in Barking. Previously it was quicker to walk across the town centre than take the bus. In addition, the project provided better links between East London business centres and to rail services. Smoother journeys, higher frequencies and high quality information have seen bus patronage rise 20%.

Chorlton: A more vibrant district centre

In Greater Manchester, the Chorlton bus priority scheme acted as the catalyst for developing a district centre with better trading conditions, improved traffic flow and a safer, more pleasant environment. 


The project included installing bus lanes on the approach to Chorlton and ‘built out’ bus stops to enable easier boarding and prevent buses being blocked by traffic. At the same time, more formal arrangements for parking were introduced along with revised traffic routing and new pedestrian crossings. 


As planned, the overall package removed conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists, parking and loading activity and vehicles. In addition, redirection of cars onto strategic routes rather than travelling through the district centre meant less traffic in Chorlton and quicker journeys. Built-out bus stops meant more space for roadside parking bays and loading facilities. 


All users of the street benefited. Morning peak bus journeys are five minutes faster, the number of passengers boarding buses grew by 23% and congestion fell. Better crossings saw pedestrian flows across junctions increase by 7% – which along with improved parking and loading created a more attractive shopping destination. 


The well planned arrangements meant initial concerns expressed during consultation over the impact of the scheme on traffic flow did not materialise in practice. 


Transport for Greater Manchester uses similar holistic approaches across its Quality Bus Corridor Programme.

Leeds: Better journeys for all road users

Journeys into Leeds on one of the city’s busiest commuter routes are quicker and easier following the opening of four kilometres of bus lanes on the Kirkstall Road. Initial monitoring shows bus user satisfaction with journey time and service reliability rose 60% and 44% respectively. 

The improvements to the bus route mean more people have chosen to use public transport – initial surveys show patronage up 9% with further increases expected. As buses are segregated from general traffic, journeys are more convenient for car drivers at certain times of day. Lower road congestion has taken over a minute off morning peak journeys, a large reduction given the length of the bus lane. Cyclists are permitted to use the bus lanes, contributing to a 33% rise in cycle trips on the road. 

Six new crossings built as part of the scheme are also making the road safer for pedestrians. 

Changes to traffic signals are expected to deliver further benefits for all traffic. Ongoing monitoring will confirm the impact of the scheme. 

James Lewis, chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said the project was: “undoubtedly one of the most significant transport improvements in Leeds in recent years.”

Mansfield: Delivering a safer, more accessible town centre

A new, fully enclosed bus station building was built, with a connecting footbridge to the railway station. Key features of the project include: a new signalised junction; a bus to train interchange and a pedestrian bridge linking bus and rail.


The new bus station was designed to address a number of specific issues with the old bus station, including: limited weather protection; the safety and security of passengers, particularly at night; operational safety; its accessibility; and links with the town centre.


The Mansfield Public Transport Interchange delivered benefits up to £6.50 in return for each £1 invested. The observed demand increase has exceeded expectations. Passenger satisfaction has improved significantly. The reliability of the bus service has improved further since the opening of the new bus station. Other aspects of the service such safety and ease of interchange to rail have also improved. Furthermore, Mansfield public transport interchange showed a 7% growth in its first year of operation alone.


A partnership agreement established at an early stage between local councils and the bus operators helped to ensure the seamless success of the Mansfield Public Transport Interchange.


Not only was the investment great value for money, but local bus infrastructure delivered a safer, more accessible town centre.

Rochester: Faster buses, attractive streets

A creative approach to bus priority in Rochester has delivered major public realm improvements as well as faster, more predictable bus journeys. 

A new bus lane on the main road into the town provided the opportunity to reduce a central reservation and increase public space on the side of the street. Trees were planted, new paving laid, guardrails removed and LED street lighting installed for the first time on a road of this type in the UK. The streetscene enhancements meant proposals for the 480- metre bus lane created minimal public objection. 

Peak bus journeys through sections of Rochester are now 40% faster, providing convenient access to employment and new housing across Medway. General traffic flow has also benefited as the bus stop is now within the bus lane rather than on the road, and National Cycle Route One was improved as part of the works. In addition, the bus lane means emergency services can by-pass traffic queues at peak times. 

“On the back of the bus priority scheme we were able to redesign the streetscape, creating a range of transport improvements, attractive public space and a more appropriate gateway to historic Rochester,” said David Bond, Transport Operations Manager at Medway Council.

South East Hampshire: Offering a viable alternative to the car

In South East Hampshire, effective bus infrastructure has been successful, with a significant increase in demand both as a result of new passengers and displaced passengers from other services.


Local decision makers in South East Hampshire wanted to remove the barriers to economic growth caused by the transport system. Phase 1 of the project, opened in April 2012, provided 3.4km of busway for the sole use of buses and cycles. The aim was to improve access to job opportunities, public health services and tertiary education by public transport.


The new route delivered up to £6.94 in economic benefits for each £1 invested. The project resulted in improvements to transport accessibility, safety, and the environmental impact of travel. The project also improved the image of public transport and increased the demand for public transport services, with patronage growing by 48% over the first two years of service. Passenger satisfaction has gone by more than 20% on average and the project achieved a monthly reliability between 85-99%.


The good relationship maintained between the operator and Hampshire County Council was an important factor in the delivery of the project, and the project delivered better access to jobs and services, and a greener, cleaner transport route.

West Sussex: Travelling the 'Fastway'

Along two core routes linking Horley, Gatwick airport and Crawley, the Fastway scheme has implemented a series of bus priority measures. The main elements were the construction of a new bus only link and the widening of existing highways to provide a dedicated bus lane including sections of segregated bus way with kerb guidance. The measures delivered a faster, more frequent and reliable service.


There had been a long-term decline in bus patronage across Crawley prior to the delivery of Fastway. West Sussex County Council decided that a big investment in service quality was needed to stimulate growth in passenger numbers. The project was designed to tackle issues around availability, speed, high fares and poor vehicle design.


Despite various challenges, the Fastway project delivered to users, non-users and the wider economy £4.67 of benefits for each £1 invested. This represents very high value for money. Moreover, Fastway has consistently succeeded in attracting increasing numbers of passengers over the last ten years, exceeding targets. Journey times have been reduced significantly, reliability is over 90% and satisfaction with the service is very high.


There have also been unanticipated benefits, including: greater service flexibility and ability to respond to customer demand; an impact on house prices in the area; and higher investment in bus infrastructure more widely across Crawley.


Effective bus priority measures in West Sussex have delivered a raft of benefits, not just for bus users, and there were a number of key lessons learned in the evaluation.

Greater Bristol Bus Network: A shining example

If you don’t know the true value of the bus lanes and priority measure that your services travel on each and every day, and you are thinking about carrying your own research in this area, then do take a look at the following comprehensive and well presented report on the Greater Bristol Bus Network.