York scales back electric bus ambitions

York scales back electric bus ambitions

Following the failure of the earlier tendering exercise for the renowned York park-and-ride contract, the city council is now proposing to scale back its requirements in terms of vehicle, fares and frequency specifications. The earlier tender round which began in June 2016 ended without any compliant bids from bus operators, according to a city council statement in October.

In a report that will be discussed at a council executive board meeting on 7 December, council leaders have acknowledged that bus operators expressed concerns about the original tender requirements, including the need to supply ultra low emission vehicles - in effect, electric or gas buses - and taking responsibility for maintenance of park-and-ride sites as well as ceding control of fares and frequencies to the city council.

The council executive board is being asked to support one of three options for a further tender round, with the recommended option involving greater flexibility for the operators, including the ability to set fares and frequencies themselves within parameters set by the council and a requirement for ULEVs on only two routes with a minimum of Euro 6 buses elsewhere.

“We’ve had really positive talks with bus companies and are confident that the alterations to the park-and-ride specification will help to secure a successful tender, who will work with the authority to continue to provide one of the UK’s most successful park-and-ride services,” says Ian Gillies, executive member for transport and planning. 

A briefing note prepared for the executive board explains that meetings with operators who had expressed interest in the earlier tender showed that there were significant concerns about the risks involved in meeting the council’s original expectations. The paper proposes relaxing the requirement for ULEVs with a minimum of Euro 6 instead: “The key issue here is risk. Operators are not greatly familiar with the operation of ultra low emission vehicles – it is a developing market. With electric vehicles particularly, operators are concerned that the battery life might not last for eight years and factor in significant risk for battery replacement.”

The new tender is likely to come into force from February 2018 with First York receiving a 12-month extension to its current contract for the park-and-ride network in the interim.