Coachway stations on the strategic road network

The majority of express coach services in the UK still travel via the centre of every settlement on its route leading to excessive delays for longer journeys and increased operating costs. For the coachways model proposed here to be successful it is essential that the long distance vehicles stop on, or very close to the strategic road network. Coachway stations, or coachway stops  (also referred to as transitway stations and busway stations) also need to be linked into local transport systems to allow people to complete their journeys. The smaller ‘coachway stops’ may consist of a basic bus-style shelter at an appropriate point on the network with links to existing local transport. The bigger ‘coachway stations’ will have better weather protection and facilties including toilets and cafes.

There are five main models for coachway stations which are described below. The first two are ‘opportunistic’ designs making use of existing infrastructure which while not ideal, are often available. The final three will normally have to be constructed at some cost:

1. Ad-hoc interchanges on junction slip-roads

Simple coachway stops can be created on junction slip road with the installation of a bus shelter and layby which then links into local bus services and other transport options. A successful example of this approach is Lewknor (junction 6 of the M40 ) which is served by the  Oxford to London coach route. The junction geometry could be improved to avoid two 90 degree turns by the coaches. The use of a regular junction means that coaches may be delayed by any congestion at busy times.

Position of Lewknor Coach Stops: M40 Junction 6

2. Opportunistic ‘off-alignment’ coach stations

Most towns in the UK now have one or more ‘out-of-town shopping centres’ or park and ride sites close to the strategic road network and these often already have existing local transport links and other facilities. Potential locations include retail and leisure centres; office complexes; university campuses; park and ride sites; and motorway service stations.

The Reading Coachway is a good example which is based around regular bus stops in a Sainsbury’s supermarket car-park  close to junction 12 of the M4. Proximity to a well-used supermarket  reduces the sense of isolation that waiting passengers may feel at out of town locations and may provide a retail benefit to the supermarket. The main disadvantage of these ‘off-alignment’ stopping points is the additional delay incurred to services diverting from the main express route and the potential to get caught up in local traffic congestion.

Reading Coachway streetview

3. Side platforms on over/under bridges

This design relies on providing new side platforms alongside the main carriageway, ideally at a point where it crosses a suitable local road. A short slip-road will be provided to bring vehicles to the ‘platform’ where passengers can transfer. The coach then rejoins the main carriageway leaving passengers to make their way to the local bus stops on the cross street or make other arrangements to complete their journey. If there is no suitable under/over bridge then a pedestrian bridge may need to be provided together with a pedestrian route to the local transport opportunities. This approach does require some modest re-engineering to provide slip-roads, shelters and pedestrian access routes as a minimum but ensures the minimum disruption to passengers continuing their journey on the coach. A good design will leave the coach traveling in an almost straight line while providing some grade separation to traffic noise levels for people waiting for the vehicles. This design is used on various stations along the  Silver Line route on the Harbor Transitway and the El Monte busway in Los Angeles.

A simple side coach stop on the A40 trunk road

4. Island platforms on over/under bridges

Island platforms may also be constructed in the central reservation of motorway or trunk road carriageways in cases where coach priority lanes are provided in the median lane of the carriageway. Some significant engineering is required for passengers to access the local street and if no suitable bridge is available then a footbridge will need to be constructed. Waiting passengers will need to be adequately protected from danger and noise from fast moving traffic on both sides. The strategic road will need to be realligned to accommodate the island platform (in very much the same way as this is achieved on a railway line). A further complication is that unlike with a side platform or conventional bus stops, passengers need to alight on the driver side of a coach; this can be averted by enabling coaches to ‘cross over’ on the approach to the stop so that the platform is on the correct side of the vehicle. An example of an island platform configuration is on the Transmileneo bus rapid transit system in Bogata, Columbia.

An island platform on the Transmilenio BRT

5. Full scale ‘off-alignment’ coach stations

Dedicated multi-modal coach stations can also be constructed at suitable locations near to motorway or trunk road junctions. Milton Keynes Coachway is one such example and there are proposals for a similar facility at High Wycombe. Fully equipped coach stations may be appropriate at key ‘hubs’ on the network which involve the highest level of interchange between modes. However, such interchanges must still be located as close as possible to the main express route otherwise the benefits of high quality infrastructure become outweighed by the disbenefits of  delays to services. A disavantage of such stations which use general traffic junctions, is that vehicles are likely to get caught up in congestion at busy times.

Milton Keynes Coachway

Case studies

Examples of good coachway interchanges in the UK:

Examples of potential coachway interchanges in the UK:

Further reading

General interchange design good practice is very well expressed in Transport for London’s “interchange best practice” guide.

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