Three bus companies – Arriva, Centrebus and Grant Palmer – will operate four new routes that together provide services between Dunstable and Luton up to every seven minutes at peak times.
“After 20 years in the planning and three years in construction, it is incredibly exciting to be announcing the opening date of the Luton Dunstable Busway,” said Cllr Dave Taylor, Portfolio Holder for environment at Luton Council.
Colin Chick, the council’s corporate director for environment and regeneration, said the Busway will be a key asset in delivering sustainable economic growth, better access to jobs and environmental benefits in Luton and Central Bedfordshire.
The core Busway route comprises 6.1 miles of segregated bus-only road between Blackburn Road in Houghton Regis, through Dunstable and into Luton town centre.
Within this, a 4.8-mile section of concrete guideway has been built along the disused Luton-Dunstable railway line so that standard buses fitted with two small guide wheels can join and leave the track, and travel on it in both directions smoothly and safely at speeds of up to 50mph.
It will mean faster journey times and improved connections for businesses from 5.30am until late on weekdays.
Cllr Nigel Young, portfolio holder for sustainable communities at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “The Luton Dunstable Busway is far more flexible than rail could ever be, and quicker and more reliable than conventional bus services, which makes it absolutely the best way to travel between Houghton Regis, Dunstable and Luton.”
Cllr Taylor added: “People in Luton, Dunstable and Houghton Regis have been waiting a long time for a significant improvement to the public transport network.
"These journey times are not only extremely fast, in some cases more than twice as quick, but also frequent and reliable, and therefore offer a high quality and real alternative to the frustrating traffic queues we all know.”
The Busway is the second longest in the world and the largest in any town or city. It has been under constrtcuion since 2010, during which time six bridges have been demolished and rebuilt and three new ones added.
The separation of buses and normal traffic will ensure that services can bypass congestion hotspots and deliver the shortest possible journey times for passengers.
Mr Chick said: “The Busway’s unique attraction is that by joining up residential areas with onward connections, employment, education, health and leisure facilities, it offers not only an unrivalled opportunity to change people’s local travel habits but also potentially life-changing opportunities for many people in four of the conurbation’s poorest wards.
“We are looking forward hugely to the benefits this will bring for passengers.”
Bus services using the Busway will be:
• Service A operated by Arriva from Parkside, Houghton Regis, to London Luton Airport via Dunstable and Luton Station Interchange, seven days a week – featuring Monday to Saturday services approximately every 15 minutes at peak times (hourly in the late evening) plus regular Sunday service.
• Service B operated by Centrebus from Downside estate to Luton Station Interchange via Dunstable, seven days a week – featuring Monday to Saturday services approximately every half an hour at peak times plus regular Sunday service.
• Service C operated by Grant Palmer from Beecroft estate to Luton Station Interchange via Dunstable, six days a week – featuring Monday to Saturday services approximately every half-hour at peak times.
• And service E operated by Centrebus from Toddington Green to Luton Galaxy Centre via Dunstable White Lion, six a days a week – featuring Monday to Friday services approximately every half-hour at peak times, plus regular Saturday service.
Cllr Young said: “By working together so closely, the councils and operators have delivered four great routes and ensured that the Busway will open up a wealth of opportunities for hassle-free journeys to work, college, shopping, the theatre or just catching up with friends.”