THE main work to construct the Leigh-Ellenbrook Guided Busway is under way in Atherton and Leigh town centres.

Roadworks – which are expected to cause disruption in both towns – started on Monday and will continue in Leigh until November and Atherton until October when work in Tyldesley town centre will begin.

The busway continues to provoke a large reaction from Journal readers, so this week we put some of your questions to the people in charge of the project.

Q. What would you say to those residents who think that a train station and line would be better than the busway?

A. Lord Peter Smith, leader of Wigan Council: “I don’t think there is a choice. The Government has refused to fund the cost of actually building a railway and the cost of running it when it was built.

“This is a real alternative to that. When we did the analysis for Greater Manchester, the Leigh guided busway came out third in terms of the impact on the economy so we are grateful we have got this link into Manchester.

“Railway was alright but it wasn’t a possibility.”

Peter Boulton, head of programme management at Transport for Greater Manchester: “A consultation in 2002 proved the economic reasons for delivering the busway over any other means of transit. A rail station and line would be extremely expensive but that is not to say that TfGM does not share those aspirations.

“But in terms of the funding that is available to enable us to improve accessibility to and from Leigh this is the best opportunity we have had.”

Q. Some commuters have said they can already get to Manchester in 50 minutes. How will the busway benefit them?

A. Lord Smith: “It will help people who need to get to work, not only in the centre of Manchester but universities and of course the link to Salford and MediaCity. It gives people a real range of employment opportunities. People will have access to all the jobs in Greater Manchester.”

Mr Boulton: “The buses from Leigh into Manchester, certainly at the time that people will be travelling to access jobs at peak times, are traditionally unreliable and can take anything up to an hour-and-a-half.

“The busway will almost guarantee journey times of under 50 minutes due to the bus priority measures and will really help to improve the reliability.”

Q. Is the disruption going to be worth the proposed benefits?

A. Lord Smith: “Where there has been a similar system built in Cambridge it has had a real impact. When you build something there will be a bit of traffic disruption but once that’s over and it is up and running, I think it will be really good. I’m very confident this will have a real impact on Leigh.”

Mr Boulton: “The busway will enable people to get from Leigh into Manchester, Salford and beyond.

They will be able to get to the healthcare corridor and the education corridor and to access the facilities and jobs.

“It equally allows people to get to Leigh and access things like the development of the Loom and hopefully drive up the economy.”

  • TfGM officers will be holding awareness events to discuss the busway at Tesco in Atherton on Monday from 2.30pm until 6pm and at Spinning Gate Shopping Centre in Leigh on Monday, July 21 from 10am until 2pm.