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Corporate Offer - Cycle Hub

New traffic tech could see the back of late running buses

Lee Howarth

A recent trial carried out by Transport for Greater Manchester could see improved bus punctuality on some of the region’s busiest routes.

The four-week long pilot used the latest traffic signalling technology to help late running buses make-up time on one of Greater Manchester’s busiest bus corridors, the A6 Stockport Road. The scheme monitored both benefits to buses and general traffic, as well as the impact on pedestrian wait times.

SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique), technology was used, which analyses real-time traffic data to optimise and co-ordinate traffic signal timings. The system was used to prioritise the journeys of Greater Manchester’s busiest bus service, the 192, at 14 sets of traffic lights along the busy route between Stockport and Manchester, by the ‘lateness’ of each given bus.

By using transmitters found on most modern buses, the SCOOT system would quickly identify the vehicle to extend the green time as it approached lights – effectively enabling late running services to pass through the junction without the need to stop and wait.

Results showed that of all messages received by the signals throughout the week, 11.8% resulted in priority being granted to buses running behind schedule, providing an average saving of 31 seconds per junction. Across an average commuter’s journey, these savings could add up to a considerable reduction in journey time.

Across weekday morning and evening peaks, respectively, 8.2% and 12.9% of messages resulted in priority being granted, with 11.5% over the weekend.

Punctuality and reliability are always cited by current or potential bus passengers as a key consideration when they are deciding whether to travel by bus or not. Delays to services are often caused by congestion across the region’s road network.

It’s estimated that congestion costs Greater Manchester’s economy around £1.3 billion each year in lost time and productivity, not to mention the health and wellbeing impacts it has on the region’s 2.8 million residents.

Alison Chew, Head of Bus Services at TfGM, said: “The A6 bus priority trial was extremely positive and could see us permanently extend the use of this technology across more of the region’s busiest routes.

“Tackling congestion and improving air quality are two priorities for us at the minute and clearly measures that improve the reliability of public transport is one way of encouraging more people to leave the car at home.

“Buses carry around 200 million passengers per year, representing 75% of all public transport trips in Greater Manchester. When you also consider that around three quarters of all journeys made by cars and vans in the morning peak only carry one person, and that a bus can carry in excess of 70 passengers, it’s clear that buses represent a more efficient use of road space.

“While it’s early days, the results that we’ve seen from this initial pilot suggest that if bus priority schemes were increased, services would be more punctual, encouraging more users to use buses and helping to contribute to reduced congestion across the region. Therefore benefitting not only bus users but other road users and pedestrians as well.”