Belfast’s bus-based rapid transport scheme

The Belfast Telegraph picks up on the conclusions of the consultants engaged by the Department of Regional Development, KPMG and Atkins Limited, on the feasibility of a rapid transit network in the Greater Belfast area. As does this BBC report – more from the BBC here. The study had been extended by the Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, to include west Belfast in July 2007. The conclusions amount to a recommendation to introduce three pilot routes of bus-based rapid transit scheme rather than a light-rail service like Dublin’s LUAS. In the course of the study the minister had visited Amsterdam recently and stopped off, on his way back, at Wrightbus. [Word document] The Minister’s statement and the report can be seen here.From the Executive Summary of the feasibility study [pdf file]

1.25 Key Recommendations

The key recommendations for each of the individual routes are outlined in the panels below.

The Key Recommendations for the CITI Core Scheme are:

?? The CITI core rapid transit scheme is a worthwhile scheme. It should be progressed to preliminary / detailed design and Outline Business Case Stages;
?? The scheme should be a bus-based rapid transit scheme, with further consideration given to the type of vehicle and guidance technology (if any) to be adopted;
?? The scheme should connect Belfast City Centre and Titanic Quarter via Queens Quay, Sydenham Road and Abercorn Crescent;
?? The design of the scheme should consider the potential migration of the system to Light Rail in the future;
?? The design of the scheme should consider further opportunities for additional off-road segregation along the route through third party land e.g. Odyssey Car Park;
?? There should be resolution of the final format & timescales for implementation of the city centre traffic management proposals, including bus priority and the City Centre Ring Road / Bankmore Link proposals;
?? There should be resolution of the final route of the rapid transit scheme through the city centre – including location of stops, level of segregation and integration with other sustainable modes of transport;
?? There should be resolution of the status and timescales for the removal of Station Street Flyover and the impact of this on rapid transit scheme;
?? There should be resolution of the infrastructure requirements for the rapid transit scheme within Titanic Quarter and consideration of planning conditions and developer contributions; and
?? There should be resolution of the level of segregation and priority that can be achieved for the rapid transit scheme along Queens Quay and Sydenham Road.

The Key Recommendations for the CITI Extension to Belfast City Airport / Tillysburn are:

?? The extension of the CITI rapid transit scheme to Belfast City Airport / Tillysburn, along the route identified in the BMTP / draft BMAP is not a worthwhile scheme; and
?? Alternative route options for the extended route should be explored at the appropriate time i.e. once firm plans for Phases 3 and 4 of Titanic Quarter are known. These alternative route options should look to maximise the use of existing highway infrastructure and minimise the impact on commercial operations..

The Key Recommendations for the CITI extension to Queens University / Belfast City Hospital are:

?? The extension of the CITI rapid transit scheme to Queens University / Belfast City Hospital could be a worthwhile scheme in principle;
?? However before this principle can be confirmed there are a number of issues to be considered further;
?? There should be resolution of the final format & timescales for implementation of the city centre traffic management proposals, including bus priority and the City Centre Ring Road / Bankmore Link proposals; and
?? There should be resolution of the level of on-street priority which can be realistically accommodated along this route without unduly impacting on current and forecast traffic conditions.

The Key Recommendations for the EWAY scheme are:

?? The EWAY rapid transit scheme is potentially a worthwhile scheme. It should be progressed to preliminary / detailed design and Outline Business Case Stages;
?? The scheme should be a bus-based rapid transit scheme, with further consideration given to the type of vehicle and guidance technology (if any) to be adopted;
?? The schemes which connect into Titanic Quarter via Dee Street Bridge (Route Options 3 and 4) are considered to be better in economic terms. They should be progressed to preliminary design stage to determine in more detail their viability in engineering terms. For example, further consideration will be required to determine the future status of Dee Street Bridge in relation to the widening of Sydenham Bypass and the level of segregation along Sydenham Road;
?? The design of the scheme should consider the potential migration of the system to Light Rail in the future;
?? The design of the scheme should consider the integration of planned / committed schemes such as Sydenham Bypass widening, Dee Street Bridge and Connswater Community Greenway project. Other possible (but not planned) schemes include Holywood Arches Bypass and Connsbank Link;
?? There should be resolution of the final format & timescales for implementation of the city centre traffic management proposals, including bus priority and the City Centre Ring Road / Bankmore Link proposals; and
?? There should be resolution of the final route of the rapid transit scheme through the city centre – including location of stops, level of segregation and integration with other sustainable modes of transport.

The Key Recommendations for the WWAY scheme are:

?? The WWAY rapid transit scheme is potentially a worthwhile scheme. It should be progressed to preliminary / detailed design and Outline Business Case Stages;
?? The scheme should be a bus-based rapid transit scheme, with further consideration given to the type of vehicle and guidance technology (if any) to be adopted;
?? The schemes which connect into the proposed development at Glenmona (Route Options O3 and O4) are considered to be better in economic terms and should be progressed to preliminary design stage to determine in more detail their viability in engineering terms;
?? The design of the scheme should consider the potential migration of the system to Light Rail in the future;
?? The design of the scheme should consider the integration of planned / committed developments in West Belfast such as St Patrick’s / Glenmona, Hannahstown Hill, Dairy Farm and Andersonstown Gateway project;
?? The design of the scheme should consider the integration of planned developments at Royal Victoria Hospital and integration of the route round or through the site;
?? There should be resolution of the final format & timescales for implementation of the city centre traffic management proposals, including bus priority and the City Centre Ring Road / Bankmore Link proposals;
?? There should be resolution of the final route of the rapid transit scheme through the city centre – including location of stops, level of segregation and integration with other sustainable modes of transport; and
?? There should be resolution of the level of segregation and priority that can be afforded to rapid transit in West Belfast and the potential impact that this will have on localised widening of roads and on-street parking.

Also from that report

Bus Rapid Transit Systems

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a rubber-tyred rapid transit service that transcends conventional bus services by providing a high quality and rapid transit service that is on par with other rapid transit options such as LRT. It combines high quality stations / stops, distinctive and high quality vehicles, off-board ticketing, dedicated running ways, a flexible operating plan and new technology into a high quality, customer focused service that is frequent, fast, reliable, comfortable and cost efficient.

BRT can provide a similar user experience to LRT including the use of high quality design for stations/stops, a branded and highly visible service and attractive vehicles. The frequency and speed of service is also higher than conventional bus and similar to LRT.

How BRT systems have been developed varies considerably – some systems use standard buses while others use high-order BRT vehicles; some use relatively modest levels of on-street priority whilst others use busways that are fully segregated from other traffic. BRT has enjoyed increasing popularity throughout the world due to growing traffic congestion, increasing pressure on budgets and a trend to lower density and decentralised development in all countries.

In the UK, a true high order BRT system does not yet exist, although a number of projects have been developed in recent years that integrate elements of BRT. This includes schemes in Crawley, Kent and Edinburgh. Examples of BRT systems in Europe include Rouen and Amsterdam.