GLASGOW'S new Fastlink will give the benefits of a tram system but for a fraction of the cost, it has been claimed.
Transport bosses said the priority bus project is more cost effective than trams and is more flexible than a light rail based system.
As the Evening Times revealed exclusively yesterday, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the Scottish Government funding of £40million for the core Fastlink route, which will run from the city centre to the SECC and the new South Glasgow Hospital being built in Govan.
News of the funding decision was welcomed in Glasgow, with transport bosses stating it will reduce congestion and provide quicker journeys to key venues and public services.
The final route, which was approved yesterday, will link Buchanan Bus Station and Queen Street and Central railway stations before running along Broomielaw to the Clyde Arc, where it branches north and south.
In the city centre, a new bus hub will be created at Union Street, with priority for Fastlink buses and changes designed to end the congestion, which often sees dozens of buses blocking the street tailing all the way up Renfield Street.
Fastlink buses in the city centre will run from Broomielaw, up Oswald Street and Hope Street, east along West George Street to George Square, turning left up North Hanover Street at Queen Street Station to Killermont Street at Buchanan Bus Station. They will then turn right, down Renfield Street, Union Street and Jamaica Street back to the main Clydeside Fastlink route on Broomielaw.
A new six-stance Bus Hub will be built in Union Street, with priorities for Fastlink services and to allow buses to pull in and out easier and reduce congestion.
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport said: "Fastlink will offer a high quality, attractive and affordable public transport system and a credible alternative to the car.
"Fastlink is able to use existing roads or bus lanes. The infrastructure costs are significantly less for the Fastlink system than for a traditional light rail tram network and, unlike a tram system, allows the network to be extended or adapted if necessary."
"Bus Rapid Transit systems operate in a number of countries. The Zuidtangent in Amsterdam and the Transmilenio in Bogota, Columbia are two best practice examples."
The cash announcement was also welcomed by council and transport bosses in Glasgow.
Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, said: "I have long talked about how important this project is to the city's transport infrastructure, and the Evening Times has been right alongside me demanding that ministers commit to it.
"So I am delighted the Scottish Government has finally announced we are to get the money we have been asking about for at least five years.
"Fastlink will make a real difference to the city's plans for increasing the number of people attending conferences and entertainment events at the SECC. It will also make a huge difference for people who need to get to the hospital."
Gordon Maclennan, SPT's chief executive, said: "We are delighted with the funding news. SPT's enhanced Fastlink business case, which was submitted to the Scottish Government earlier this year, showed the improved network would boost the number of people using public transport, cut congestion and improve bus journey times by up to 20%."
Mr Maclennan added: "We know we can make a real difference with simple measures, for example, dedicated controlled bus corridors that will vastly improve access to the city centre.
"Direct links from Glasgow's existing bus and rail hubs to the South Glasgow Hospital and the SECC – a key Commonwealth Games site – will make public transport a credible and attractive alternative to the car."
Plans for Fastlink were first developed more than five years ago when planning permission was granted. Preparatory works on Broomielaw have already taken place.
The system can still be extended west to Glasgow Harbour and eventually to Clydebank and to Braehead. SPT yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with Renfrewshire Council that Fastlink will come to Braehead.