Transport Minister Norman Baker officially opened the £91 million project yesterday.
He is pictured (centre) with (l-r) Central Bedfordshire Council leader Cllr James Jamieson, Luton Borough Conuncil’s portfolio holder for environment Cllr Dave Taylor, executive member for sustainable communities at Central Bedfordshire Council Cllr Nigel Young and Cllr Hazel Simmons, leader of Luton Borough Council, as he cut the ribbon on the 4.8-mile concrete guideway
The minister also unveiled a plaque at the new Luton Station bus-rail passenger interchange and conducted a ceremony to mark the start of on-line works for the £24 million Luton Town Centre Transport Scheme that will see long-awaited completion of the inner ring road together with improvements for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists in the town centre.
The government has supported both major local infrastructure projects, with £80.3 million awarded for the Luton Dunstable Busway in March 2010 and £15.8 million provided for the Town Centre Transport Scheme.
Mr Baker said: “An efficient and reliable transport system is the heartbeat of every local community. This area is currently undergoing a major rejuvenation and it will now have a much improved public transport system to match.
“This scheme will make a real difference not only to those taking the bus but to everyone using the roads. It will encourage greater integration between services and, importantly, ease congestion in a busy area.
“Boosting public transport is a great way both to help the economy of our town centres and to cut carbon.”
The busway was officially opened in Dunstable by Cllrs James Jamieson and Nigel Young, along with town councillors from Dunstable and Houghton Regis.
The Luton Dunstable Busway enables fast, frequent and reliable services linking Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Toddington with Luton town centre and on to London Luton Airport.
Three bus companies – Arriva, Centrebus and Grant Palmer – are operating four initial busway routes that together provide core services between Dunstable and Luton up to every eight minutes at peak times and link the two town centres in just 15 minutes.
Colin Chick, corporate director for environment and regeneration at Luton Borough Council, said: “After 20 years in the planning and three years in construction, it is incredibly exciting to be officially opening the new Luton Dunstable Busway.
“People in Luton, Dunstable and Houghton Regis have been waiting a long time for a significant improvement to the public transport network.”
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 it, a 4.8-mile section of concrete guideway has been built along the disused Luton-Dunstable railway corridor 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.
The busway is seen as a key asset in delivering sustainable economic growth, better access to jobs and environmental benefits in Luton and Central Bedfordshire.
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.
“We have delivered the second longest busway in the world and the longest in an urban environment, serving more than 125,000 people living within walking distance of a bus stop, and we are looking forward hugely to the benefits this will bring for passengers.”
For more information and timetables, visit www.busway.net