X56

Leeds

City Centre

to Whinmoor

This has got to me one of my favourite routes in existence. It provides a faster peak alternative through East Leeds using the guided bus lanes in the middle of the York Road. Including a relatively long non stop stretch, its only been in existance for a short period of time but is generally very well loaded.

The service operates only with the peak flow so into town in the morning and out in the evening. The nature of the guided bus lanes means that the evening service is much more interesting so that is what I shall predominantly focus on. Also, I'm going to talk about it from before the current roadworks on the Headrow which prevent eastbound operation along a stretch.
 

The first oddity of the route comes from the fact that most workings come empty to Albion Street meaning that they often exploit the width of the street to use it as a turning circle to start service. Given the very busy nature of the street with many buses and private hire vehicles this is quite an impressive feat.

From there the bus takes a left onto The Headrow (not currently possible, as mentioned) and then a right onto Vicar Lane where it stops almost immediately (seen right) for its second of three city centre stops. This is normally the point, in my experience, where it begins to get busy on board. Its also the bit where congestion often hits... Getting to York Street from there should be a short stretch followed by a simple left and another short stretch with a handful of traffic lights. However, often it can take quite some time...

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After fighting through to York Street the X56 makes its last stop, outside the City Bus Station main entrance, before becoming the special bus it really is.

Skirting the edge of the Kremlin (officially named Quarry Hill, home of NHS England) it begins to accelerate and its not uncommon to be behind other slower York Road buses at this point.

Passing under the A64(M) and turning right the other York Road buses pause. At the bus stop at the bottom of the slip road you overtake them and at this point you can see the bumper to bumper traffic on the A64. Still, the bus accelerates and before you know it you're climbing elegantly past the many other vehicles.

Before reaching the Torre Road Flyover its quite common to have caught up with another bus. As the cars are held at traffic lights, you'll follow this other bus over the flyover and with a bit of luck it will skip one stop before coming to a pause in the poorly surfaced bus lane come bus stop outside Iceland (or Kwiksave as the timetables used to say). 
 

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As it comes to a pause the traffic lights change in your favour (this is normally daft because all buses stop but this time is amazing). You overtake, travelling across the two lanes of traffic this is where the real fun begins, having overtaken the stopping bus the guideway is all yours.

You're at Shaftesbury Junction before you know it, having overtaken a country bound bus sat in the traffic. The lights turn to green and you crawl over the "points" and onto the next stretch. At the bus stop, passengers gaze briefly as you speed by (or they try and hail you not realising the superiority implied by the 'X'). 

The Guideway on approach to Shaftesbury Junction with Torre Road Flyover in the background

At this point you see a, more normal, 56 in front of you and this seems to spell bad news but in reality you catch up just before the end of that stretch of guideway at the junction with Selby Road. The traffic lights let you out in front of the cars waiting and the elaborate dance ensues. The 56 pulls out into the second of four lanes from left to right and you pull out into the first. At this point the 56 slows and you overtake onto the final stretch of guideway in the middle of the carriageway.

This bit really is the best. Traffic is queuing such that you only just squeeze onto the guideway behind the last car in the queue and then the guideway takes over and ultimate superiority of the bus is attained.

Leaving the guideway you will probably be held at a red at the junction and at this point, almost inevitably, you will here the futile ding. This seems to function more as a starter signal as the bus accelerates and to much protestation its flies past the ASDA and when you shortly arrive at Killingbeck Burger King said person hops off swearing (never to do it again...)

From here the X56 becomes a bit of a country bus. While the 56 forks right and up towards Cross Gates and the home of Optare and Charles H Roe, the X56 carries on along the A64 serving the few stops there are (country buses don't like stopping that much) before reaching the next roundabout in no time at all.

Here you pause in traffic for the first time since leaving the city centre and begin to realise what luxury you've been privvy to up to this point. 

Eventually the X56 gets through and takes a unique route to any other bus, heading along Barwick Road to rejoin the normal 56 at the crossroads where it takes a left.

At this point, normally a third of the bus alight and you appreciate the role this bus plays. All those people would've had to sit on an all stops 56 and also via Cross Gates and one can't help but think that they just wouldn't... 

As the bus continues to empty futher as it climbs through Swarcliffe one can't help but think that this bus could have a role in reducing all the congestion seen along the journey. It hasn't yet but then again its not marketed in the slightest, even its so called launch was all but non existent.

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Leaving the bus just before it goes towards the old Swarcliffe Terminus and onwards under the A64 to the 56 terminus in Whinmoor, one can ponder all this, walking to Seacroft Bus Station (and food) before a country bus back into town

This was a journey I've made a few times with very similar results each time but the nature of the ageing bus priority on the York Road does mean that it doesn't happen as reliably as it maybe should... And it also relies on meeting certain buses at the right spots but when it works I'm not sure there are any other bus routes I enjoy more

The morning working is quite similar but with a lot of the westbound bus priority being conventional bus lanes not guided ones. This, combined with much more intense congestion of buses often makes it much less satisfying and I've had several drivers stop intermediately where they shouldn't because they're already stationary at a bus stop behind another bus. The removal of several lay-bys for bus stops due to the cycle superhighway does seem to be the main cause of this as normally the problem of buses being unable to overtake others at bus stops is normally a key argument for conventional bus lane instead of a guided one.