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BRTuk Research study into UK Bus Rapid Transit Systems

A comprehensive study undertaken by ttc transport planning consultancy.

BRTuk are developing a trust for ‘Education and Research’ with the objective of increasing awareness and education of Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) systems in the UK.  With this in mind, BRTuk commissioned The Transportation Consultancy (ttc) to conduct a research study into UK BRT Systems.
Example of Matatus in operation in Nairobi

Eclipse, the Bus Rapid Transit service between Fareham and Gosport 

BRTuk has an overarching objective of providing a wide dissemination of information and knowledge about BRT throughout the UK, leading to a greater awareness of its role and promoting the benefits of BRT as an important mode of transport to achieve sustainable transport objectives and encourage wider implementation.  As a result BRTuk are currently developing a trust for ‘Education and Research’ with the objective of improving the education of BRT in the UK through commissioning of research projects to enable the development of a wider understanding relating to the implementation and operation of BRT.  

With this in mind BRTuk recently commissioned ‘ttc’ to conduct one of the first pieces of research into Bus Rapid Transit Systems in the UK. It identifies the operational, proposed and ceased BRT schemes in the UK, with the objective of highlighting schemes for further investigation and establishing a common standard for UK BRT Systems.

Key stakeholders in the study


As an initial starting point, consultation with key stakeholders of BRTuk was undertaken to identify schemes for further investigation, namely:


  • Runcorn

  • East London Transit Scheme

  • Kent Thameside

  • Leeds NGT

  • Crawley Fastway

  • Tyne and Wear

  • Luton

  • Swansea FRT Metro

  • Cambridgeshire Guide Bus

  • South East Hampshire

  • Peterborough

Following the identification of current BRT schemes within the UK, the research paper set out to identify the operational characteristics which could be used to define a schedule for BRT Standards in the UK. Using the schedule of operational characteristics the current UK BRT systems were scored accordingly for each criterion and ranked accordingly. The research paper also assessd the World Bank BRT Standard as governed by a Technical Committee and Institutional Endorsers both of which are convened by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and attempted to make a comparison between the two systems.

The UK's specific needs

The paper highlights the fact that in comparison to other cities throughout the world, UK cities with operational BRT systems have completely different characteristics to the other parts of the world. No more so is this evident when examining the population demographics and population densities, that Bogota in Columbia (cited by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) as one of the leading BRT systems in the world) has an overall population of 8.8 million and a density of 13,500 people per sqm, compared to Cambridge in England, the population is 123,000 and it has a population density of 3,015 people per sqm, a difference of over 10,000 people per square kilometre. 

Both BRT systems are successful BRT schemes for their own population demographics, however, due in part to the fact that the ITDP criteria puts an emphasis on infrastructure such as ‘central stations’, ‘sliding doors at stations’ and ‘passing points at stations’ which due to the characteristics of UK cities is unlikely to be of benefit to UK BRT schemes apart from raising construction costs, UK systems are only ever likely to achieve a ‘Bronze Standard’ compared to Bogota’s ‘Gold’ Standard. 
The disparity between categorising of the UK systems and the rest of the world creates an argument to suggest that the ITPD scoring system is not applicable for use on UK BRT systems and a blanket based approach to BRT systems throughout the globe is not applicable when there are so many different variables which can contribute to a successful BRT scheme.

Developing a common standard for BRT systems


As a consequence, the research is currently examining the notion of developing a common standard for BRT systems in the UK to provide for a more uniform delivery to quantify the benefits of the existing UK schemes. This will provide a more detailed and comparable analysis of performance and patronage information to provide better guidance on what a ‘true’ BRT system is and further analysis to inform future BRT schemes on how to be successful and secure funding. 


Study findings

TTC presented the findings at the BRTuk 2016 conference and you can download the presentation here.

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