DRIVER-training on guided buses on the St Ives-Cambridge busway, in preparation for the opening of the 16-mile track on Sunday August 7, will start on Monday.

Buses have run on every section of the track at full operational speed in the past, but Cambridgeshire County Council bosses will be carrying out final checks and inspections as the next step to get ready for the opening.

New busway contractors Jackson Civil Engineering and Cambridgeshire Highways have completed work on the guideway on schedule to allow buses access to the track while work is completed next to the guideway.

No public access is allowed to any part of the route until passenger services begin in early August. This includes the path that will be used by walkers, cyclists and horse-riders next to the guideway, on which work is being carried out.

Stagecoach and Whippet will both run bus services on the busway and require four weeks to complete driver training. Training will generally be carried out between 7am and 7pm, but some evening running after dark will also be completed to prepare drivers for the start of services.

Ian Bates, the council's cabinet member for growth and planning, said: "At the beginning of next week the council engineers will work with both bus operators to check everything on the route is ready for the opening.

"As we approach the opening, people will get accustomed to seeing more and more buses running on the route, and it is now just a matter of weeks before people will be able to bypass the traffic backed up on the A14 by using the busway."

Andy Campbell, managing director of Stagecoach in Cambridge, said: "Our drivers are raring to get going, and everyone at Stagecoach is looking forward to the route opening. We have around 50 drivers to train to make sure we can offer a premium service to our passengers on luxury buses."

Stagecoach spent £3million on a fleet of 20 air-conditioned buses more than two years ago in the expectation that the busway would open to passengers on schedule in April 2009.

Peter Lee, director of Whippet Coaches, which has bought three guided buses, said: "We are looking forward to getting on to the guideway once again to make sure our drivers are ready for the start of services. We believe the busway will offer people a reliable and quick way to beat the frequent and long queues into Cambridge."