LOCAL AUTHORITIES are switching their attention to guided buses after the government axed many light rail schemes in July.
Officials from Cambridgeshire, Kent, Edinburgh and Luton have been visiting Crawley's Fastway guided bus system, which is one year old and exceeding traffic forecasts.
'The relative costs of Fastway type schemes as opposed to tramways are very attractive, ' said West Sussex County Council Fastway project director Paul Wreyford this week.
'And they can be constructed under existing Highways Act powers.'
Guided buses use sections of dedicated 'guideways' which prevent unauthorised use by other road traffic. A guidewheel mounted on the steering mechanism of the bus runs along the face of the guideway kerb, steering the bus along its route.
The three phase Fastway scheme links Gatwick airport to Crawley and Horley.
In its first 10 months of operation almost 1.6M passengers have used phase one of the service. This is close to 50% of the target patronage for the completed scheme.
Phase one of Crawley's Fastway runs 20 hours a day between the south Crawley suburb of Bewbush, Crawley and Gatwick airport.
Contractor Nuttall is carrying out work on phase two which involves upgrading the Crawley section of phase one. Work should be complete later this year.
Phase three will take guided buses to Horley and Three Bridges railway station and is also being constructed by Nuttall.
When all three phases are complete in October 2006 the scheme is expected to cut bus journey times by up to 30% and attract 9,000 passengers a day.
The first phase of the £32M, 24km scheme was completed to within £50,000 of budget and costs on phase two are similarly under control.