The Leigh to Ellenbrook Guided Busway

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The Leigh to Ellenbrook guided busway

The Leigh-Salford-Manchester scheme (LSM), which opened in April 2016, has delivered a high quality public transport service linking Leigh, Atherton, Tyldesley, Ellenbrook, Salford and Manchester via a guided busway and on-highway bus priority measures.

Services run on 21km of segregated bus measures, of which 7.5km, between Leigh and Ellenbrook, is a kerb-guided busway, with the remainder on-highway.

The scheme includes:

  • A guided section including seven pairs of high quality stops
  • Park and ride sites at three locations for 450 cars.
  • Enhanced passenger waiting facilities at Leigh Bus Station
  • Highway and bus priority improvements within Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley town centres.
  • A new premium bus service between Leigh, Atherton, Tyldesley and Manchester city centre – 8 services per hour timetabled with additional services in the peak to accommodate demand. (4 services per hour to/from Leigh and 4 services per hour to/from Atherton)
  • Extensive pedestrian and cycling improvements along the corridor such as a 4.5 metre shared/recreational use path alongside the guided section and enhanced crossing facilities on the A580.

In April 2017 the service will be fully extended along a transformed Oxford Road in Manchester city centre, creating better links to key sites along one of Europe’s busiest bus routes.

The scheme is expected to deliver high value for money, with an estimated BCR of up to 2.8 including wider economic benefits.

Key Statistics

Location: Guided section - Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley in the borough of Wigan to Ellenbrook in Salford. On highway measures from Ellenbrook in Salford through to the Manchester city centre.
Key Stakeholders:
  • TfGM
  • Salford City Council
  • Wigan Council
  • Manchester City Council
  • First Manchester
Construction start date: July 2013
Construction completion date: April 2016 (Busway service started)
Cost: £68 million

Sources of funding



Greater Manchester Transport Fund: £68 million
The Leigh to Ellenbrook guided busway

Transport and the Economy

The corridor between Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley and Manchester city centre has suffered from poor public transport accessibility and connectivity for many years. Over time a range of modal options have been considered, including heavy and light rail, and bus solutions.

The busway scheme is an integral part of the overall £122 million Greater Manchester Bus Priority Package, which also includes the Cross City bus scheme. This scheme has already seen substantial changes within the city and is expected to start delivering radical highway changes in the spring of 2017. The two schemes complement each other and have synergies from a deliverables and benefits perspective.

Rationale for investment

The scheme has been designed to address existing transport and socio-economic problems in the area. These are:

  • Transport problems:
    • Congestion on radial routes to the city centre
    • Overcrowding on rail services to the city centre
    • Poor interchange facilities
    • Poor public transport access to key facilities and development sites.
  • Socio-economic problems:
    • High economic deprivation – several areas served by the scheme are amongst the most deprived 5% and 10% in England
    • Need for better access to health facilities which have been relocated (Booth Hall Children’s Hospital and Manchester Children’s Hospital (Pendlebury site).

To tackle these issues, the following strategic drivers of the busway were identified:

  • Provide a high quality public transport link between Leigh, Atherton and Manchester via Tyldesley, Ellenbrook, the A580 and Salford and to improve access to the local, regional and national public transport systems
  • Assist in traffic restraint and to reduce congestion, moderating the impacts of rising demand for car travel by promoting the use of public transport
  • Improve labour market connectivity and reduce social exclusion
  • Increase accessibility to the healthcare and education facilities on the A580 and Oxford Road corridors
  • Stimulate inward investment in the surrounding areas, and support the further development of Leigh as a commercial and business centre within Greater Manchester.

The scheme has a strong fit with national, regional and local strategic objectives and is an integral part of the Greater Manchester Strategy – the framework for achieving economic growth in the Manchester city region.

Scheme objectives

In summary, the objectives of the scheme are to achieve:

  • Shorter journey times, more punctual and reliable bus services
  • Better passenger travel experience
  • More passengers to get to their destination in a single bus journey – without the need to interchange
  • Increased direct access to employment opportunities across Greater Manchester
  • Improved access and connectivity to the hospital site along Oxford Road for staff, visitors & patients
  • Improved access and links to Salford University and Manchester Universities
  • Improved links to wider public transport network (Rail and Metrolink)
  • Improved cycling and pedestrian crossing facilities
  • Investment along the corridors in key towns and communities
  • Improved residential appeal of local communities served by the scheme.

Appraisal and selection

The scheme was the subject of a lengthy Public Inquiry held in 2002. The Public Inquiry Inspector concluded in 2005 that the preferred busway option provided the best Cost Benefit Ratio of all the options considered, including heavy and light rail. Furthermore the PI Inspector concluded that a heavy rail link would be impracticable because of the lack of adequate forecast patronage to support the anticipated construction and ongoing revenue costs to support such a solution; the reduced frequency that a heavy rail option would support; the physical barriers to connecting into the wider heavy rail or light rail network; and the increased level of benefits offered by a high quality, high frequency and flexible bus service that would diminish the benefits of higher running speeds offered by a heavy rail solution.

In 2009 the scheme was prioritised for inclusion within the Greater Manchester Transport Fund (GMTF) and was successful in securing the required funding to deliver the scheme. The key drivers for inclusion within the GMTF were the transport need and projected economic growth.

Once funding had been secured in 2009 the busway scheme was developed to a sufficient level where a reference design and performance specification could be established that could be used in the procurement of a contractor to construct the guided section of the scheme. The design and construct responsibilities post reference design were then handed to the contractor.

Business case development

Detailed modelling and appraisal of the scheme has been undertaken and was updated in October 2011.

The scheme has a Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR) of 2.1:1, showing high value for money, using a methodology consistent with that used by DfT, and a BCR up to 2.8 if wider economic benefits are included.

The key driver of the overall value for money (BCR) of the busway scheme is the net revenue position, as the surplus revenues off-set the capital costs.  This net revenue position is sensitive to assumptions regarding the operating costs of the LSM service and the revenues taken on the service.

The table below summarises the key appraisal ratings for the busway against a range of economic, environmental, safety, accessibility and integration metrics.

Summary of Appraisal

ECONOMYBenefit to Cost Ratio (BCR)2.1
BCR uplifted for wider economic benefits2.3 - 2.8:1
Estimated impact on GVA£130m by 2021
Wider Economic ImpactsBeneficial
ENVIRONMENTNoiseSlight Adverse
Local Air QualitySlight Adverse
Greenhouse GasesModerate Beneficial
LandscapeSlight Adverse
Heritage of Historic ResourcesNeutral
BiodiversitySlight Adverse
Water EnvironmentNeutral
Physical FitnessModerate Beneficial
Journey AmbienceModerate Beneficial
SAFETYAccidentsSlight Beneficial
SecurityStrong Beneficial
ACCESSIBILITYOption valuesModerate Beneficial
Access to the Transport SystemModerate Beneficial
INTEGRATIONTransport InterchangeModerate Beneficial

Please note: As part of project proposals, TfGM worked with the Forestry Commission to plant 25,000 trees to create a 10ha Community Forest at Higher Folds. The forest includes compensatory habitat and Hibernacula as part of mitigation proposals for Great Crested Newts. The introduction of 25,000 trees in this development will introduce prime habitat for wildlife in the area and would improve this rating to Moderate Beneficial.

The primary benefits of the scheme identified in the scheme’s appraisal are:

  • Improved quality and frequency of public transport through improved reliability and high quality bus services
  • Journey time benefits
  • Transport integration, providing a cross-Manchester service
  • Traffic restraint and congestion relief
  • Improving economic development and labour market connectivity in an area with high levels of deprivation
  • Improved access to health care, in particular to relocated health care facilities.

Monitoring plan

The Busway project will be monitored and evaluated in full in conjunction with the wider GM Transport Fund Programme. The main criteria against which the scheme will be evaluated are:

  • Value for Money (VfM)
  • Impact on employment, GVA and wider economic benefits
  • Impact on car mileage (overall and geographic distribution)
  • Traffic flows, vehicle speeds and journey times on the corridor will be analysed to evaluate the success in reducing congestion and improving reliability
  • Assessment of accident levels on the corridor
  • The Manchester Air Quality Management Area will be assessed to establish the impact that LSM has had on air quality
  • Abstraction from other forms of public transport
  • Passenger surveys which will determine the purpose and satisfaction of Busway trips. This will assess the project’s performance in providing a link to employment, education, healthcare and shopping facilities and assisting in economic growth
  • User satisfaction survey to assess the level of satisfaction that LSM users have with the facilities that have been provided.

Through the analysis of information associated with the above factors, the performance of the project will be evaluated in terms of the Outputs and Benefits set out above.


The Busway scheme was implemented through a number of contracts. These faced the following challenges:

Infrastructure / service deliveredDescriptionContract awarded toContract managed byKey challenges
Guided section – Leigh to EllenbrookHigh quality sustainable public transport link connecting destinations in Wigan, Salford and ManchesterBalfour BeattyTfGM
  • Significant negative community feeling towards the scheme

  • Significant quantity of earthworks material that needed to be moved

  • The innovative nature of the construction techniques

  • Significant environmental challenges

  • The formation and planting of a 25,000 tree community woodland on an adjacent site

  • The level of direct interface with key stakeholders and the general public along the corridor

  • Minimising disruption in the interface with 8 highway junctions and the highway network.

  • Significant utility diversions were required

Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley town centresRange of on-highway junction, bus, pedestrian and cyclist improvementsNorth Midland ConstructionWigan Council
  • Agreeing the final schemes and associated highway changes with stakeholders initially and

  • Managing the construction of the various scheme elements whilst still operating a live highway network and maintaining town centre activity.
Leigh Bus Station£1 million of investment in the fabric and facilities at the bus stationJamieson ContractingTfGM
  • Delivering the improvements whilst maintaining an operational bus station
A580Delivery of a range of bus priority, junction and pedestrian improvements between Ellenbrook and Pendleton in SalfordGalliford TrySalford City Council
  • Managing the construction of the works whilst maintaining through flow along and across the A580 for the large numbers of vehicles that use the corridor

  • Completing a significant programme of utility diversions

  • Managing the design and construction of the scheme in close proximity to Highways England infrastructure.

Busway serviceFirst ManchesterTfGMn/a

Despite these challenges, the scheme was delivered successfully. Overall, innovation was at the heart of its construction and the quality of the final product is testament to the approach taken. Lessons have been learned for future delivery, and the construction techniques have been refined so that future slip formed busways should be easier to build.

The busway service was procured through a Competitive Dialogue procurement process and was awarded to First Manchester in October 2014. The service commenced on 3 April 2016.

Assurance processes

The scheme was included within the Greater Manchester Transport Fund Programme and subject to all necessary TfGM / GMCA approvals in relation to funding, expenditure and assurance. In addition a range of powers and consents were secured by local authority partners as part of the scheme and these were subject to the appropriate levels of scrutiny and challenge.

Evaluating the investment

A full evaluation of the scheme against the business case objectives will be carried out as part of the wider bus priority programme evaluation.

Based on the latest data, the premium service on offer, both in terms of journey time improvements and facilities provided, has resulted in a large uptake in the first nine months of operation, exceeding forecasts and shifting local expectations of what a bus service can and should provide.

A summary of the key findings based on patronage and customer satisfaction data collected during the first nine months of operation is provided below:

  • Over 50,000 passengers per week were carried prior to Christmas on the service, having increased from 28,000 at service launch. Year one forecast now anticipated to be over 2 million passenger trips. This is compared to the anticipated 2.9 million trips at year 3 of operation within the business case
  • 98% of customers surveyed within the evaluation were satisfied with their overall journey
  • 97% of those from the evaluation survey claim they would recommend the guided busway to a friend or relative
  • Proportion of trips extracted from solo car driving (20%)
  • More than a third (36%) of respondents from the evaluation could have made their journey by driving a car
  • Even though relatively small in number, the only significant area for potential improvement was accessibility of the provided Wi-Fi, and reducing delays brought on by city centre congestion.


The North West’s first guided busway and associated on-highway priority measures delivered as part of a £122 million package to enable more people to enjoy faster, more punctual and more reliable bus services across Greater Manchester. Opening in April 2016 the busways are providing a wide range of benefits to the communities they serve.

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