Luton Borough Council has hosted a groundbreaking start of works ceremony for the £89M Luton Dunstable Busway this morning, ending months of uncertainty over the scheme.
Councillor Roy Davis, portfolio holder for regeneration at Luton Borough Council, officially launched the scheme by turning the first sod of earth. He said it was “a landmark moment” for the guided bus project which has been 16 years in the making.
Fears had been growing for the scheme after contract award was delayed until after the General Election and the announcement of the new coalition government’s £6bn cuts package. Bam Nuttall was named preferred bidder in early March having already carried out advanced site clearance work in January.
Detailed design work is also already under way, with site works proper due to start shortly. The 13.4km long busway is scheduled to open in 2012.
It will link the town centres of Luton, Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Luton airport. Services will be provided by specially-adapted buses capable of running both on their own track and on public roads. The majority of the busway will be a segregated route between Blackburn Road in Houghton Regis, through Dunstable, into Luton town centre and on to Kimpton Road, with most of this section being on the guideway. The route will then continue on the highway towards Luton Airport using a new bus lane.
Government funding of £80.3M has been awarded, with the total cost of the busway put at £89.2M including land and compensation, real time passenger information, 265 bus stop improvements and supervision of the works.
Luton Borough Council environment director Colin Chick said the start of works marked the end of years of hard work.
“The busway will dramatically reduce journey times between Houghton Regis, Dunstable, Luton town centre and the airport. It will help boost the economy by joining up residential areas with business, employment and educational opportunities.
“The busway forms a vital and fundamental part of the strategy for delivering business growth, regeneration and new jobs across Luton and Dunstable.
“And, since all the modern buses using the busway will produce lower emissions, it will deliver environmental benefits too.”
Bam Nuttall operations director David McGowan said his firm was “pleased” to be working on scheme. “We are looking forward to working together with Luton Borough Council to successfully deliver this project for the benefit of the local community,” he said.
Bam Nuttall is the UK’s leading contractor in guided busway construction, after building similar schemes in Crawley and Cambridgeshire. It is currently working with Cambridgeshire County Council to tackle problems that have delayed the opening of the £117M Cambridgeshire scheme.