The guided busway between Leigh and Manchester is said to be on schedule and due to open on April 3, 2016.
The busway service has been branded Vantage by First Greater Manchester (see CBW1224). It will see up to eight buses per hour connecting communities and business centres along the route.
The new service aims to reduce journey times from Leigh to stops in Manchester city centre to 50 minutes from the currently timetabled one hour and 20 minutes.
As well as quicker connections, a 4.5 mile guided section of the route, alongside bus priority measures along the A580, is expected to improve punctuality and reliability.
Vantage will start at 0400hrs and run beyond midnight, providing a service for shift workers. The hybrid Wrightbus Gemini 3-bodied Volvo B5LHs will include free WiFi, USB charging points, climate control and on-board next stop audio-visual announcements.
The scheme includes three Park & Ride sites in Leigh, Tyldesley and on East Lancs Road, which will be free for all bus users and aim to ease demand on rail services during morning and evening peaks.
Manchester city centre is currently undergoing a major £1 billion investment package of significant infrastructure improvements, including the Metrolink Second City Crossing, bus priority measures, six new cycle routes into the city centre and major rail improvements.
The North West’s first ever guided busway is a flagship element of a bus priority package in Manchester. Work is also ongoing to enable cross-city bus services and improve the busy Oxford Road corridor.
Cllr Andrew Fender, Chairman of the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) Committee, said: “The Vantage bus service will provide the local communities all along its route with a level and quality of service seldom seen outside first-class travel and it is exciting to see guided busway services getting off to such a great start.
“It will ensure people living in these areas can access the many opportunities for work, leisure and study anywhere between Wigan, Salford and Manchester. This investment will benefit all the communities it serves by providing them with easy, reliable connections.”
Ian Humphreys, Head of Commercial for First Greater Manchester, said: “First Greater Manchester is proud to be the bus service partner of this important transport project in the region that will provide faster and more reliable connections with high quality services.
“We’re looking forward to delivering a premium service at everyday fares helping connect existing and new customers across this busy corridor.”
Cllr David Molyneux, Wigan Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said: “The guided busway will open up new opportunities for our communities and bring a huge economic boost to the towns of Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley and the surrounding areas. It will open up new employment opportunities for our residents and connect our businesses with new customers.
“We are delighted we are approaching the beginning of this new chapter for public transport in Wigan Borough and want as many residents as possible to reap the benefits the guided busway will bring.”