A guided busway is usually a dedicated, buses-only route with buses running on a purpose-built track. The bus is guided along the route so that steering is automatically controlled and, like a tram, the vehicle follows a set path. The bus driver controls the speed of the vehicle.
Kerb guided buses are normal, every day buses with a driver at the wheel. What makes them different is small guide wheels attached to the front wheels of the bus, that run along the vertical face of kerbs on a purpose built track called a guideway. The guide wheels steer the bus whilst it’s in the guideway. Guideways can be used for part or all of a bus route. Guided buses can be either low-speed operations, introduced to relieve congestion in busy towns, or high-speed operations, which provide ‘light rapid transit’ (LRT) over longer distances. Other guided bus technology uses remote guidance by radio, electro-magnetic or optical systems, but Britpave, and this website, is concerned with kerb guided bus systems, and the role of slip-forming in constructing the guideways.
Britpave (the British in-situ concrete paving association) promotes and develops the use of concrete paving in all areas of transport infrastructure including bus and rail. It is particularly involved in guided busway schemes constructed in slip-formed in-situ concrete. Britpave liaises with government agencies, local authorities and private clients in maintaining and developing the best practice and standards. Britpave lobbies MPs, commissions research, promotes the use of concrete, improves understanding among the public and official bodies of its activities and contributes to the preparation of British and European standards. It provides knowledge and networking opportunities through its websites, seminars and study tours. It aims to develop technical excellence through its publications and other media. Members are based in the UK and internationally, including contractors, consulting engineers and designers, suppliers of plant, equipment and materials, academics and clients.
Slipforming allows a guideway to be created on site (in-situ). Ready-mixed concrete is poured into the front of a paver (effectively a large, slow moving mould), which places the concrete so that it emerges in the shape of a guideway from the back of the paver.
Like a railway line, the guideway excludes all other traffic, giving the bus a clear road ahead, even in congested areas during rush hours. Therefore the service is fast and reliable: at peak periods, guided buses can arrive at frequent intervals. All these factors mean guided buses can deliver a high quality of public transport akin to a metro, light rail or tram system. Unlike a train or tram, though, the bus can leave the busway at certain junctions and drive on normal roads, giving it the flexibility to provide on-road services too, allowing passengers get on or off close to their homes, or at any key location in the area.
Guided busways operate using standard buses that are cheaply and easily modified. The guideway can be designed to take double-decker buses and flexi-buses if required. No special facilities for the vehicles are needed; they can be serviced and maintained along with the rest of a bus fleet at any depot.
Bus lanes and bus-only roads are open to illegal use by other road users for queue jumping and parking. This abuse slows bus journeys and drains resources as breaches of bus lanes need to be monitored and fines have to be issued for misuse. With its kerbs and narrow width, a guided busway is not accessible by most vehicles, virtually eliminating the abuse of the bus route. Guided busways can also be built in areas too narrow for standard bus lanes, including disused railway lines with embankments - land that could never be made into a road.