Four Bus Rapid Transit schemes have one thing in common – construction firm BAM Nuttall.

The last few years have been an exciting time for anyone involved in the promotion of Bus Rapid Transit in the UK. Several schemes
have opened for business and it seems that the bus is being realistically viewed as a viable option for high quality mass transit that is flexible and affordable.

One company that has been involved in several high profile BRT schemes in the UK is construction firm BAM Nuttall. The company already has a strong presence in the highways area and has been involved in a number of high profile construction projects around the country. That expertise is now being transferred to the BRT area where BAM Nuttall has been involved in four major schemes: Cambridgeshire, Crawley, Hampshire and Luton.

Perhaps the most ambitious BRT scheme in the UK at present is the recently opened Cambridgeshire Guided Busway. The delays to the project have been well documented, but there is little doubt that what has been achieved is impressive.

The scheme utilises a disused railway alignment between the outskirts of Cambridge and St.Ives. Rail passenger traffic ended in 1970 with a freight-only service to Fen Drayton surviving until the early 1980s. A number of studies by Cambridgeshire County Council examined options for the corridor, brought about by the ever increasing congestion on the A14 corridor, with a guided busway identified as the one option offering the benefits.

However, the Cambridgeshire Busway scheme is actually a scheme in two parts. Buses utilise the guideway along the former rail alignment before using existing roads to access the historic centre of Cambridge. They then rejoin the busway at the city’s railway station to access the expanding Addenbrooke’s Hospital site and the Trumpington Park & Ride facility to the south of the city centre.

The scheme went before a public inquiry in 2004 and Cambridgeshire County Council awarded a design and build contract to BAM Nuttall Ltd in the summer of 2006. The detailed design of the guided busway has been undertaken in a joint venture between Arup and Parsons Brinkerhoff. Construction finally commenced in 2007 with the lifting of the remaining rail infrastructure and the first sections of guideway being put into place.

For the construction work a 25-acre compound was constructed with a bespoke plant and precast concrete factory to manufacture the 6,700 guideway beams required for the project. In total 28 different moulds were used for this process and the factory could create up to 14 guideway beams each day. Careful attention was paid by the partners in the project to ensure vehicles on the busway could travel at high speed with maximum passenger comfort.

But there was also attention paid to making sure local communities and stakeholders were kept informed about the project. Two dedicated public liaison officers worked with the local community to keep them informed about the project through local liaison forums. They also produced newsletters, carried out letter drops and visited schools to ensure that local children were aware of the dangers that construction sites can pose. Environmental considerations were also a major factor from an early stage in the project and in total 16 new areas for wildlife have been created.

The busway finally opened for business earlier this month and it is forecast that more than 3.5 million trips will be made on the three routes serving the corridor in the first year. When development at Northstowe commences and the first residents move in, that demand will undoubtedly increase and it is expected that when the town’s 10,000 homes have been completed, demand will rocket with more than six million trips being made each year with headways of just a couple of minutes.

Crawley’s Fastway scheme is an integrated guided bus system linking major residential areas with Crawley and Horley town centres as well as Gatwick Airport and adjacent industrial estates. It also offers convenient interchange with four mainline railway stations.

When Fastway began in 2003 it was the result of several years of public consultation and research. The scheme’s primary aim was to combat the problems of high volumes of traffic, especially from commuters travelling to and from home from their workplace at the airport or Crawley town centre. It was estimated that around 80% of those working in Crawley travelled to and from work by car, 65% of local residents travelled less than 5km to work and around 30% of those employed at Gatwick lived within the Crawley and Horley area. Studies examined several high quality public transport options, but a guided busway system was identified as the most appropriate as it would be more cost effective and, more crucially, flexible and quicker to deliver.

The project was delivered by the Fastway Partnership, a consortium of private and public sector bodies that includes West Sussex County Council, BAM Nuttall, Crawley Borough Council, Gatwick Airport and bus operator Metrobus.

BAM Nuttall’s involvement in the project saw construction undertaken in three phases, each of approximately one year in duration. The contract was awarded under the ECC Option C Form of Contract whereby BAM Nuttall, having competitively tendered for the construction of Phase One of the project was awarded the subsequent phases, following a satisfactory performance against a range of key performance indicators and agreement of an acceptable target cost for each phase.

Plans for a Bus Rapid Transit scheme in South Hampshire evolved out of long held ambitions for a light rail scheme in the area. Unfortunately the government withdrew funding, leaving promoter Hampshire County Council to proceed with a bus-based solution instead as a means to mitigate some of the traffic congestion problems in the area.

Construction work for Phase One of Hampshire’s BRT scheme is now well advanced. As Jimmy Burns, BAM Nuttall’s western area manager notes, both from an engineering and environmental point of view the project is extremely challenging.

He adds that the public interface is also very important in a project such as this. “We used to say we would go out of our way. Now we don’t say that because it is part of our way of doing things,” he says.

Once again BAM Nuttall have employed a public liaison officer to ensure stakeholders are informed about the project. The company has also created an internet microsite that provides news on the scheme’s progress and project managers have been surprised by the interest in progression of the scheme from local residents.

Several measures have been taken to prevent harm to existing ecology, including the relocation of rare wildlife to new locations and the effects of noise and visual pollution once the 3.4km busway is open are being countered with the installation of barriers and extensive landscaping. All existing and new planting on site will be managed for five years to ensure successful establishment and achievement of the ecological objectives of the scheme.

Luton Dunstable
One final BRT project with BAM Nuttall’s involvement is the Luton Dunstable Busway. The scheme finally received governmental approval in June last year, will create a fast, frequent and reliable high quality service linking the towns of Houghton Regis, Dunstable and Luton in Bedfordshire.

The majority of the busway network will be along a guided busway between Blackburn Road, on the edge of Houghton Regis, through Dunstable and into Luton town centre. This section uses a disused railway alignment that finally closed to rail traffic in the late 1980s and will feature a total of nine entry and exit points where buses can enter and leave the busway, perhaps best demonstrating the flexibility that BRT schemes enjoy over other modes.

In total 7.3km of the scheme will be on a dedicated guideway, with a more conventional busway from Luton town centre towards the town’s airport that will also be used by other non-busway services such as express coach services as well as other local routes.
Construction is being undertaken as a design and construct contract with a joint venture between BAM Nuttall, Arup and Parsons Brinckerhoff delivering the scheme for Luton Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council. It is expected that the busway will open for full passenger service in April 2013.

There is close partnership working between all sides. “You need that continual involvement and dialogue,” says project manager Andy Welsh. “It’s not just about what’s in the contract, it’s about ensuring that everyone is committed to the project.”

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