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A coachway interchange is a stopping point located along a coachway corridor at which passengers join or leave a coachway service. Coachway interchanges range from simple roadside coach stops to fully equipped coachway interchanges such as the Milton Keynes Coachway. The Coachways vision is based on the principle that inter-urban express coach travel can be made more competitive by locating coachway interchanges at motorway and trunk road junctions, rather than in town and city centres - Reducing coach journey times between urban areas by removing the need for coaches to travel through congested urban areas into town and city centres.
The role of coachway interchanges
A typical door to door journey using the coachway network will comprise at least 3 legs:
- Leg 1: involves a trip from the journey origin (e.g. work or home) to a coachway interchange, using the local transport network (public transport, walking or cycling, driving or taking a lift);
- Leg 2: involves a trip between towns using the coachway services (which may require one or more changes between coachway services); and
- Leg 3: involves a trip from a coachway interchange to the final destination (e.g. home or work), using the local transport network (public transport, walking or cycling, driving or taking a lift).
The design and location of coachway interchanges is therefore critical to the successful operation of the coachway network. Passengers must be able to easily get to and from coachway interchanges, and be able to seamlessly transfer between coachway services, otherwise the system fails.
The primary role of coachway interchanges then, is to facilitate one or both of the following two types of passenger interchange:
- transfers between the local transport network and coachway services (and vice versa); and / or
- transfers between one coachway service and another.
Transfers between coachway services and the local transport network
While locating coachway interchanges on the outskirts of urban areas reduces town to town journey times, it poses a challenge with respect to seamlessly integrating coachway services with effective local transport networks (which facilitate legs 1 and 3 of the journey). Local public transport networks in the UK are predominantly based on a town centre hub and spoke configuration. Such central ‘hub and spoke’ local public transport networks, however, are unlikely to adequately serve the multi-directional needs of passengers arriving at out of town coachway interchanges:
The development of the inter-urban coachway network must therefore be complemented by effective, flexible local transport solutions (feeding the coachway network) which enable passengers to travel in many different directions to or from the coachway interchanges. These might include:
- The establishment of orbital local public transport routes providing links between points on existing radial public transport corridors;
- The establishment of demand responsive local shuttle buses that provide a flexible, multi-directional transport service. These might operate in a similar way to airport transfers whereby passengers book a place on a minibus (or texxi) service during the coachway leg of their journey and on leaving the coachway service, share a lift with other passengers to their intended destinations;
- Providing drop off areas for kiss and ride at interchanges (kiss and ride is where passengers are dropped off and picked up at the coachway interchange by friends or family);
- Providing park and ride facilities at coachway interchanges where appropriate. Care needs to be taken not to overly congest the road network surrounding a coachway interchange by attracting too many park and ride cars;
- Providing appropriate facilities for passengers arriving by bicycle or on foot, including integration with local bicycle hire schemes;
- Locating coachway interchanges close to local heavy and light rail networks where possible;
- Providing car club cars and taxis at coachway interchanges.
Transfers between coachway services
Some coachway interchanges can also be used as places to transfer passengers between coachway services travelling on differing corridors. It is envisaged for instance that an interchange at Chievely (M4 junction 12) would interchange coachway services travelling east to west along the M4 with coachway services travelling north to south along the A34.
Accordingly, the coachway timetables and interchanges should be designed to provide a smooth transfer between services, with minimal waiting times. Consideration should be given to:
- Synchronising coachway schedules so that services arrive at interchanges at approximately the same time or alternatively, operating services on a frequent “turn up and go” headway so that the next departure is no more than say 10 minutes away;
- Minimising the distance passengers are required to walk between platforms at coachway interchanges when changing between services; and
- Providing clear and simple signs at coachway interchanges, directing passengers to their next platform or to onward local transport services.
Infrastructure requirements at coachway interchanges
Coachway interchanges may vary in their level of infrastructure provision, ranging from a simple roadside coach stop at one end of the spectrum, to a fully equipped coachway transport interchange at the other. As a minimum level of service, a simple roadside coach stop would be provided with a covered passenger waiting area equipped with real time service information. The road layout at roadside stops should also provide appropriate turning areas enabling coaches to re-join their route in the correct direction of travel.
A fully equipped coachway transport interchange on the other hand would comprise:
- junctions providing safe access and egress points for coachways services and passengers transferring to or from local transport services (public transport, cars, bicycle or pedestrian networks);
- an amenity building equipped with comfortable waiting areas, toilets, convenience store and real time transport information;
- sheltered bicycle parking areas;
- platforms with sheltered waiting areas; and
- at some points across the coachway network, it will be necessary to provide layover areas where coaches can park out of service in preparation for their next scheduled departure.
Identifying suitable locations for coachway interchanges
To be consistent with the Coachways vision, coachway interchanges should be situated in close proximity to motorway or trunk road junctions that are:
- located on the edges of urban areas;
- accessible by one or more nearby population centres;
- located along inter-urban transport desire lines that are connected by the trunk road and motorway networks (bearing in mind that coachway corridors should compliment rather than directly compete with the rail network);
- at locations that are already connected to or can be reasonably easily connected to local public transport networks.
Having identified a motorway or trunk road junction that meets the above criteria, a second stage is to survey the surrounding area to find a shortlist of sites that could host a coachway interchange. There are essentially two options here:
- locate a new coachway interchange on land directly adjacent to the junction (herein referred to as an ‘at junction’ coachway interchange). Such locations almost certainly require the provision of new infrastructure which may vary in the level of specification; or
- re-use an existing piece of infrastructure that is in fairly close proximity to, but nevertheless offset from a motorway or trunk road junction: For example, a motorway service station (as at Scotch Corner Services on the A1(m) outside Darlington which is served by Megabus), an out of town shopping centre (as at Reading Calcot Sainsbury's at junction 12 of the M4 which is served by a number of National Express routes) or simply an existing roadside bus stop (as at Lewknor at junction 6 of the M40 which is served by the Oxford Tube to London).
This decision represents a trade-off which will vary from location to location: Providing new, ‘at junction’ infrastructure is more costly, is likely to require more work to establish links with local public transport networks, but nevertheless reduces coachway service journey times. Adaptations to existing infrastructure on the other hand, are likely to be a great deal cheaper and quicker to deliver, at locations which may already be served by local public transport, but coachways service journey times will increase (due to the need to divert off the main trunk road).
Given the ambitious nature of the Coachways vision, a 3-stage incremental approach to delivery, using a mix of adaptations to existing infrastructure and new construction, offers a realistic way forward:
- In stage 1, existing inter-urban express coach services are optimised, a process which should require little capital expenditure: For instance, further existing near junction stopping opportunities (similar to Reading Calcot at M4 junction 12 or the Lewknor coach stop at M40 junction 6) that have the potential to deliver passenger benefits, are identified and coach services re-routed accordingly.
- In stage 2, a small programme of targeted infrastructure improvements, requiring moderate capital expenditure, is delivered: For example, constructing the M40 High Wycombe coachway; linking existing park and ride sites by establishing new coach routes; incrementally developing a network of high occupancy vehicle lanes along congested motorways.
- Finally, having demonstrated the potential to increase the coach market share through stages 1 and 2, stage 3 involving a major remodelling of the inter-urban express coach network, becomes a viable prospect – A comprehensive UK wide network of dedicated coachways lanes, together with a full programme of new ‘at junction’ coachway interchanges is delivered.
Positioning new coachway interchanges at junctions
Following a decision to construct a new at junction coachway interchange, it will be necessary to evaluate options for positioning the new station relative to the junction.
Design possibilities will vary according to differing junction layouts and land availability. However, at many grade separated junctions, offsetting the coachway in one corner of the junction offers a simple, yet effective solution (see the configuration of Gordano Services at junction 19 of the M5 for an example of such a layout):
In cases where the major road crosses over the top of the minor roads, and where space permits, an alternative is to position the coachway interchange within the roundabout itself. This layout is in someways more efficient, reducing the distance coachway services operating in either direction have to travel around the junction in order to access the interchange:
Coach stops on motorway carriageways – A future vision
Now imagine a future Coachways vision in which coaches are allocated a dedicated lane adjacent to the central reservation, across the entirety of the UKs motorway network. Under this scenario, safe passenger platforms could be established within central reservations, reducing coachway journey times by removing the need for coaches to leave the main carriageway. Lifts or escalators would be available at grade separated junctions to transfer passengers from the motorway based coachway network to the local road network (above or below), where they continue their onward journey using local public transport:
Coachway platform configurations
There are two possible types of coach platform configuration at coachway interchanges:
- drive through; and
- drive in, reverse out.
The drive through configuration offers time savings as stopping to pick up passengers requires comparatively fewer vehicle manoeuvres. This is the preferred coach stand configuration for coachway corridors. Drive through stands can be configured using one or more linear platforms:
or a carousel configuration. This is less desirable as passengers arriving by local transport other than the bus, will be required to cross the coach docking area to reach the platform (causing delays to buses and introducing passenger safety issues):
Although the drive in, reverse out configuration delays coaches, it allows a greater number of stops to be provided along a platform and this may offer a more suitable configuration where space is limited:
Docking on the move – A future vision
Now envisage a future Coachways vision in which passengers are able to transfer between coachway services without stopping. Vehicle platooning technologies (which already exist) enable moving coaches to dock with each other in designated docking areas established adjacent to the main carriageway. Passengers transferring between moving coaches experience nothing more daunting than walking between moving train carriages: