A £2m transport system intended to serve the Millennium Dome is now unlikely to enter service before the attraction closes at the end of this year.
Operator London buses has admitted that the Greenwich Millennium Transit guided busway, already delayed for six months, has no prospect of entering service in the immediate future.
Services on the 1.3km route between Charlton station in south-east London and the Dome were due to start running last December. Engineers from Alstom’s transport division are working to solve problems with the buses’ guidance systems.
Some analysts see self-steering buses as a low-cost alternative to trams or light railways. Because they follow a well-defined path they take up less road space than normal buses. The driver only has to brake and accelerate.
Other guided busways in the UK use small horizontal wheels bearing on a concrete kerb for guidance. The system for the Greenwich busway uses electric cables buried under the surface of the road to create a magnetic field detected by sensors on the bus.
It is intended to provide smoother ride quality and very accurate alignment at stops, giving level boarding and minimal gap between bus and kerb.
A spokesman for London Transport, which is funding the system with development agency English Partnerships and the New Millennium Experience Company, said: `There are continuing difficulties getting the bus to line up at the stops.’
There are also problems caused by the buses having to pass so close together. `The tolerance on the offside has to be exact, and getting the buses not to wander is posing problems,’ he added.
The system has not been used for buses, but has been tried successfully in the service bore of the Channel Tunnel.
Warren Lister, managing director of Listavia International Consultants, who was seconded to Eurotunnel to design the Channel Tunnel system, said that vehicles in the service tunnel pass each other with a 40mm gap at 100mph.
Because it is a safety-critical system, used to evacuate passengers in emergencies, it had to be a very thoroughly engineered job: `The vehicles are guided on every axle and have very sophisticated anti-wander technology. That’s fairly high-tech and so fairly expensive,’ he said.
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