2015 BRT UK Conference Review

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Glasgow, the city of choice for the 2015 annual conference

Dave Haskins, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, BRT UK Chair


As the incoming Chair of the BRT UK organisation, what I took away from the 2015 BRT Conference in Glasgow was a feeling of optimism. The theme of “Smarter Transit for Future Cities: The Next 10 Years” provided speakers the opportunity to offer up insights based on their global experience, and to be able to crystal ball gaze with a certain sense of some conviction.

The BRTuk conferences always set out to offer something a bit different, and this year was no exception. We had a site visit out to look at the new FastLink BRT scheme, updates from some of the UK BRT scheme promoters, as well as a wide range of topics covered across Day 2 – including leading industry speakers from Germany and Spain. Plenty of time was built in for questions and discussions within each of the sessions. The audience was diverse and included a broad mix of operators, vehicle manufacturers, Transport Authorities, Contractors and suppliers.

In between this a notable aspect of all BRTuk conferences is the social dimension and the ‘family’ feel. Being held on St Andrew’s Day provided a great opportunity/excuse for attendees to continue their transport-related discussions in a very convivial atmosphere.

You can download all the presentations and listen to the audio files from them HERE.

David Eve, BD Manager UK, Bouygues Travaux Publics

I was heartened to see an increase in attendance in 2015 which is a trend I hope will continue. The technical visit had the right balance of detail and length. The content of the presentations was very interesting and I don’t recall losing interest in any of the sessions. I recognise that we are BRT ‘UK’ but our foreign visitors always seem to liven up the room when they present. As an organisation international involvement is something that we aim to continue. I was particularly engaged by the Minister and George Hazel’s presentation which left us all with some food for thought. George’s presentation was not only thought-provoking but some also felt a little controversial and I honestly believe we need more of that. If we’re not prepared to hear some of the challenges to come we can’t hope as an organisation to develop strategies to address them. I enjoyed the discussion/debate about multiple doors which was effective in drawing out where the different parties sit on the debate. I’d like to see more ‘robust’ conversations like this.

John Rimmington, Development Executive Arriva plc.

Once again the BRTuk conference provided a fascinating site visit, this time in Glasgow where we were conducted over the recently opened ‘Fastlink’ between Central Station and the Southern General Hospital. It was clear the areas of redevelopment  along the Clyde corridor would benefit from the improved profile of the Fastlink project. The dedicated service using the infrastructure started from across the eastern side of the city providing new through links to the employment opportunities and the new hospital. The busyness of the bus station at the hospital underlined the market share of bus public transport.

Doors and dwell times was another key thought we took away from the conference sessions, the speed of boarding and alighting from a BRT bus service set against all the time savings hard won through infrastructure improvements and priority measures. Smartcards and contactless payment are clearly the way to reduce time spent paying the bus driver and allow for multi-door boarding. Learning to overcome the fear of fare evasion is a UK challenge, perhaps less of a fear in Europe where farebox recovery ratios are much lower and the taxpayer digs deeper.


Alan Brett, Director Transportation, Atkins

For the second year running I had the honour of chairing the Monday afternoon session of the conference (did I do something right the first year?), following the visit to Fastlink.  This can be a challenging session given the number of speakers and the desire to ensure adequate time for discussion following the presentations.  The session was started with Alan Bailes talking about his BRTuk sponsored work looking at BRT standards, and particularly the applicability (or otherwise) of standards suggested by an international review.  This linked well into the usual first day ‘wrap-up’ comprising a series of short updates on active BRT projects in the UK, this year we looked at the BRT activities in Bristol, Birmingham, Swansea and Manchester, with the speakers able to consider how their BRT measured up against the standards presented by Alan.  Chairing the session proved to be an easy and pleasurable task – with all the speakers responding to their brief regarding timing and the final presentation finishing just ahead of programme.

The punctual finish to the presentations enabled a full and lively discussion session – ranging from slip-forming to ticketing and passing through areas such as electric propulsion.  There was considerable discussion around the standards for BRT and what is appropriate for the UK context, where population densities tend to be much lower than international locations with ‘big’ BRT systems and with urban and road space in the UK typically much more constrained.   The question was raised as to whether there are certain BRT features that should be ‘non-negotiable’  – such as wi-fi, whereas others may be context driven – such as the features required to deliver reliable journey times.  There was particularly animated discussion about numbers of doors on vehicles, with a potential conflict between enabling rapid boarding and alighting to minimise dwell times and the commercial requirements of revenue protection – leading on to the issue of ticketing systems.  Time rather than willingness to debate brought proceedings to a halt – encouraged by the prospect of the Civic reception in the magnificent Glasgow City Chambers provided in advance of the conference dinner!


Claire Taggart, Marketing Manager, Wright Bus

As Marketing Manager for a manufacturing company the most interesting session of the BRTuk conference for myself was the evening session on Day One. The following is my review of this session, taken from a manufacturers view point

Bristol Metrobus

50km of network to be delivered. The planning stage is now complete and implementation is commencing. Many legal objections have held up the scheme such as a requirement to shift allotments costing £1m in legal fees. Scheme completion is still 2 years away.

Birmingham Sprint

The promoting authority believes that the standard and size of vehicles to be operated will be very important in achieving modal shift. They have therefore decided to order 24m Van Hool euro 6/diesel vehicles. They stated that they will be seeking to apply for derogation in June 2016 to get consent on length and also front axle loading which needs to meet the 20 percent required.) The West Midlands Combined Authority originally desired zero emissions or hydrogen vehicles for the scheme. 2/3rds of this scheme is being funded by a LEP and the bus operators of the scheme will be expected to fund half the cost of the vehicles. Most planned routes have been given partial go-ahead to commence 

Swansea update

The ftr vehicles have now been moved from this scheme and are now running on the stretch between the University campuses, being paid for by the university.

Media coverage was positive for the scheme at the start and perceptions only changed after two fatalities on the route, one involving an ftr and one involving a standard bus. First have been vocal in the area about the costs of operating ftr vehicles and have now replaced them with StreetLite (we should remember ftr were Euro 3 diesel engines manufactured in 2006 – many fuel efficiency advances have been made since then). On top of this two way running on the BRT route has been disbanded, and standard buses are now using parts of the dedicated scheme. The scheme now goes into the station and waits causing journey time delays. Vehicles no longer run every 10minutes. All in all the rapid transit measures have all been diluted. This scheme is now being used an an example of the case for tram because of the way the setup has allowed measures to be diluted or removed

Leigh Salford, Manchester

One of the key aims of TfGM is to improve 40km of bus network

LSM’s 12 mile cross city route is aiming to cut journey times to 50 minutes end to end. The £122m investment work started on the scheme in 2009, promoted by TfGM. This scheme is pitched around growth and employment, not around the bus type The busway is currently in construction The slip form dual guideway portion is now in place and has been tested using buses in the last few weeks The city centre route is to be completed by the end of March 2016 and the final route, Oxford Road, is to be ready at the end of 2016.

Erik Lenz, Vossloh-Kiepe

The conference provided a very good overview of different issues from practical bus operation, perception of citizens and future targets in the UK and in comparison with the rest of the world. A very pleasant and informative atmosphere with fruitful discussions around areas such as whether electrical powered BRT should be classified higher as “Gold Standard” due to the silent, emission free and most environmentally friendly transportation. The possibility of In Motion Charging allows interesting off wire operation of trolleybuses for existing networks as Wellington as well as for cities, which have no network yet.


The BRT UK 2015 Conference was sponsored by

VIXTransport Scotland TTC Atkins


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