Award for York Electric Park & Ride Buses

Irony lost on Council as it downgrades its “green” specification for new park and ride contracts
Electric bus fleet

Electric bus fleet

Only a few days after the York Council leadership agreed to consider tenders for new park and ride services which do not include the use of ultra low emission vehicles on most routes, its existing electric fleet won a sustainability award. The service has been run in partnership with First from the sites at Poppleton and Monks Cross for the last couple of years.

Fears about the cost of replacement batteries, led the Councils Executive last week to downgrade its emission expectations when discussing a new contract specification for park and ride services in the City.

A contract for the new services attracted no tenders when it was advertised earlier in the year.

A media release for the Council today says, “York’s Park & Ride Scheme, which is run in partnership with First York and City of York Council, is setting the standard for other Park & Ride sites across the country, after scooping a prestigious accolade for its contribution to sustainable transport, at the North of England Transport Awards.

The North of England Transport Awards reward and encourage innovation and excellence and help disseminate the very best practice throughout the north of England, and this year, York’s Park & Ride scheme received the Contribution to Sustainable Transport Award.

In particular, First York was recognised for its wider commitment to providing greener travel for the region, with its fleet of electric vehicles, helping to reduce CO2 emissions in the city.

First York operates two fully electric Park & Ride routes at Poppleton Bar and Monks Cross, working in partnership with City of York Council and local bus manufacturer, Optare. The two schemes, which launched in 2014 (Poppleton Bar) and 2015 (Monks Cross), run 12 zero tailpipe emission electric vehicles, and were one of the first fully electric Park & Ride schemes in the UK”.
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York Council stuggling with new Park & Ride tender specification

 

It looks like a lower specification for park and ride services in York will apply soon.

Park and ride busesThe Council failed to find any tenderers for a new contract offered earlier in the year.Now they seem to set to compromise on the type of vehicle that will be allowed and perhaps fare levels and frequencies.

The earlier failure by the industry to step up to the mark prompted talk of cartels and accusations of insider knowledge of the Councils “bottom line”

The Council in a statement today said,

Following dialogue with a number of bus companies which helped to better understand any issues which prevented them from submitting a viable bid for the Park & Ride contract earlier this year, City of York Council is confident that a new operator for the service will be now secured.

It’s expected that a new tendering exercise to secure an operator for the Park & Ride service from February 2018 will start shortly after the decision by the Executive (Wednesday 7 December).

In the interim, the council has negotiated a 12 month extension to the current contract with First York, whose contract expires at the end of January 2017. This will ensure that residents and visitors will continue to benefit from a high quality Park & Ride service until a new operator is in place.

As a result of the review, alterations to a number of the key specification areas have been considered and drawn together into these three main options:

Option 1 providing maximum flexibility for the bidder to tailor the Park & Ride network. For example, the operator would determine the level of service and fares to be charged.

Option 2 (the recommended option) – providing a level of flexibility for bidders whilst retaining council control and influence in a number of key areas. The service specification would identify the boundaries for fares and service frequencies but would allow greater flexibility in other areas such as vehicle type.

Option 3 – providing a level of service similar to the unsuccessful tender earlier in 2016. It retains maximum council control of the Park & Ride service in all areas except fares.

Executive Members will be asked to consider all of the options at a public meeting on 7 December. Option three is considered the least likely option to secure a compliant bid from the market. This is due to the lack of flexibility given to the bidders and the financial expectations placed upon them. However, under options one or two, compliant bids could be expected and the scoring of tenders would include an assessment of the quality of the service proposed by the operator including the proportion of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) proposed within the bid.

Executive takes place on Wednesday 7 December from 5.30pm at West Offices and is open to members of the public or is available to watch live online at www.york.gov.uk/webcasts

 

Extra Christmas Park & Ride services

There will be extended Park & Ride (P&R) services on Thursdays and Boxing Day.

Park and ride busesIn the lead up to Christmas, the council is working with First York to provide a late night shopping service on all Park&Ride routes every Thursday, with the last bus leaving the city centre on all routes at around 9.30pm. For exact timings visit www.itravelyork.info.

The extended service will run from Thursday 17 November to coincide with the biggest Christmas market in York’s calendar – York Christmas Festival (which includes St Nicholas Fair), which runs between 17 November and 23 December.

In addition to this, passengers will also be able to take advantage of travel on Boxing Day on three P&R routes (standard fares apply):

  • Askham Bar (white line – route 3) – First bus at 7am from the site, last bus back from Tower Street at 6.40pm
  • Designer Outlet (red line – route 7) – First bus at 7am from the site, last bus back from Rougier Street at 6.40pm
  • Monks Cross (silver line – route 9) – First bus at 7am from the site, last bus back from Rougier Street at 6.40pm

All three services will operate at a 15 minute frequency throughout the day for all passengers and will serve all bus stops along the route.

 

To find out more about the Christmas bus offer or to find the best bus route through York, try out the council’s  i-Travel York online Journey Planner at www.itravelyork.info

No takers for York’s new Park and Ride contract

First gets 6 month extension on present contract terms

Park and ride busesCity of York Council opened a tender process for bus operators to bid for a new contract to manage one of the UK’s most successful Park&Ride services in June.

With over four-million passenger journeys each year, the council was confident the tender would attract a number of high profile bids to continue offering the best possible deal for residents and visitors.

There was speculation that the low emission specification for the required buses, combined with a tight financial expectations, have combined to make the contract unattractive to commercial bus operators. At the moment the Council makes around £100,000 a year in revenue surplus from the service. The scale of the service means that the number of bus companies that could tender is restricted to only the largest operators.

The Council now says, “although there was strong interest in the contract, at this stage of the procurement process no responses meeting the council’s financial expectations against the specification tendered were received.

The council is confident that an operator will be secured in the coming months and following dialogue with a number of bus companies, options for addressing the concerns of potential suppliers will be developed. Subject to Executive approval on 13 October, the results of this review will be brought before the council’s Executive in December, prior to the issue of a further invitation to tender.

The council has negotiated a six month extension to the current contract with First York, whose contract expires at the end of January 2017. This will ensure that residents and visitors experience no changes to the Park&Ride and will continue to receive the same level of service until a new operator is in place.

New electric bus fleet

York’s electric bus fleet

Executive will be asked to approve this extension at a public meeting on13 October.

Councillors will then be asked to determine which elements of the specification they would wish to alter at December’s Executive.  This could include alterations to the frequency of service, type of bus used on the service and fares charged”.

Cllr Ian Gillies, Executive Member for Transport and Planning said: “We’re pleased that this tender received strong interest and we have already approached operators to establish what alterations to the Park&Ride specification might be required to enable them to bid again.

“Whilst it’s disappointing that no compliant responses were received at this stage of the process, we’re confident we will secure a new operator who will work with the authority to provide a service, which will work towards achieving its targets over the length of the contract.”

Executive takes place on Thursday 13 October from 5.30pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch live online from:www.york.gov.uk/webcasts

To find out more about the report, or to attend, click here

York’s first Park&Ride service started in the late 1970s, operating from two free under utilised car parks just beyond the city walls, catering for peak demand for Christmas shopping and the first permanent Park&Ride site opened in 1990.

Growth in demand is shown below.

  • 1990 – 159,690 passengers
  • 1995 – 734,150
  • 2000 – 1,146,379
  • 2005 – 2,625,250
  • 2016 – now over four-million passenger journeys each year

Details of Christmas bus services in York

“Free” Park and Ride from some sites on Boxing Day

All Services
Click to access
Click to access

[5]Additional buses from:

  • (1) Wigginton at 0607, 0633, 0725 /
  • Chapelfields at 0625, 0655 /
  • (5/5A) Strensall at 0620 /
  • Acomb at 0620, 0650 /
  • (11) Bishopthorpe at 0703 /
  • Ashley Park at 0753 /
  • (12) Foxwood Lane at 0635, 0725 /
  • Monks Cross at 0658, 0728
Park and Ride
Click for full timetable

Click for full timetable

[6] Free buses on 3, 7 and 9 running every 15 minutes, calling at all stops: York Boxing Day timetable

Electric bus award nomination for York service

 Electric bus on chargeCity of York Council along with partners First York and Optare have been shortlisted for an award at the prestigious UK Bus Awards.

The nomination is for the Environment category and notes the work that the council, First York and Optare have completed by creating and running a fully electric Park&Ride service from the newly built site at Poppleton, which was opened in June 2014.

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Future of York’s Park & Ride service

Park and ride busesA new eight-year contract for York’s Park&Ride service, which attracts over 4.5million passengers annually, will be awarded next year following a procurement exercise which will commence shortly.

Ahead of this procurement process, a report examining the options for the delivery of the service after the end of the current contract in 2017 will be taken to an Executive meeting on 24 September.

To ensure that the most effective solutions for the service are presented to members for consideration, a comprehensive review of the existing operation and potential amendments has been undertaken.

This included a review of Park&Ride operations around the country, surveying the views of the service users, visiting other Park&Ride sites and undertaking pre-procurement engagement with potential suppliers of the service.

During the Executive meeting, members will be asked to consider approving the principles for the service and delivery, which will enable a new eight-year contract to be prepared.

Currently operated on behalf of the council by First York, the current eight-year contact will come to an end in February 2017.

A new contract will commence at the end of the current contract and be awarded in Spring 2016. This is in order to meet with the council’s own financial regulations, ensure best value and transparency in accordance with EU procurement legislation.

Find out more about York’s Park&Ride Service at www.itravelyork.info/buses

Executive will take place on Thursday 24 September at West Offices from 5.30pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch live online from: www.york.gov.uk/webcasts

To find out more about the report, or to attend, visit:http://democracy.york.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=733&MId=8841

Electric buses off the road in York?

New electric bus fleet launched last week

New electric bus fleet launched last month

As we said yesterday, it would be prudent to suspend the use of electric buses in York until the cause of yesterdays vehicle fire had been established.

It seems that, after some dithering, First intend to do just that.

Safety must come first and we were concerned that comments from the York Council (which lets the contract for the Park and Ride services on which the buses are used) and local bus managers implied yesterday that the buses would continue in use.

In petrol powered engines, fires were not uncommon. Fires are comparatively rare in newer vehicles and, those that do occur, can usually be traced to faulty electrical components.

New technology – like that deployed in the battery powered bus fleet – is another matter. The technology is in its infancy and , although inherently safer than the internal combustion alternative, deployment needs to be cautious.

A quick investigation should reveal the cause of the fire.

If, for example, it turns out that a spanner was left by maintenance staff in the engine compartment, and this led to the short circuit which caused the fire, then that would  be one thing. A relatively easy fix (count the spanners!) and get the buses back on the road!

If a component has been incorrectly fitted then again the remedy is obvious.

Only if faulty components or – heaven forbid – a design flaw is revealed would an extensive and debilitating delay become inevitable.

We are after all just going through the first sustained period of warm weather since the large scale introduction of the buses in the City and who knows whether that might be factor?

So full marks to First for adopting a cautious approach, albeit a little late in the day.

They, and the Council, now face the headache of back-filling the gaps in the Park and Ride fleet.

Hopefully the York Council will now be open and transparent about the incident and the action that is being taken.

UPDATE: First say that the vehicle manufacturers are undertaking precautionary checks on the fleet. Park and Ride services are unaffected.

Bus use in York stable but fears for subsidised services grow

Some park and ride sites to operate free service on Boxing Day

Labour Councillors have announced that they will be considering reducing subsidised bus services in the City at a meeting which will be held on 11th December.

Labour were criticised during the recent Westfield by election for keeping secret their plans to reduce services like the number 13A which serves the Hamilton Drive area.

There has so far been no consultation on the proposals which will seek to reduce the annual £800,000 spend by the Council on sustaining off peak bus services and those to remoter parts of the City.

The latest crisis reflects problems which started to develop when Labour took control of the Council in 2011.

Bus service usage figures at Nov 2014 2

 

They concentrated their efforts on scrapping the popular (with passengers) ftr service but failed to put anything in its place. Routes were chopped and changed with stability only achieved during the last 12 months.

Now even that seems to be under threat.

Bus service usage peaked at 12 million passenger journeys with the introduction of the ftr in 2006 before declining last year to 10.4 million.

Overall bus usage has held up with a gradual increase in the numbers using Park and Ride services which themselves peaked last year at 4.4 million.

 Further increases are expected this year with the opening of the larger Askham Bar site and the new service from Poppleton Bar.

NB. The Council has announced it’s Christmas Park and Ride services.

A late night shopping service on all six Park&Ride routes will operate every Thursday, with the last bus leaving the city centre on all routes at around 9.30pm (for exact timings visit http://www.itravelyork.info/).

The first extended service will run from the 20 November ahead of the biggest Christmas market in York’s calendar – St Nicholas Fair starting on 27 November.

In addition to this, passengers will also be able to take advantage again of the, now traditional,  FREE travel on Boxing Day on the three key P&R routes which will be operating.

Three Park & Ride services will operate on Boxing Day:

  • Askham Bar (white line – route 3) – First bus at 7am from the site, last bus back from Tower Street at 6.42pm
  • Designer Outlet (red line – route 7) – First bus at 7am from the site, last bus back from Rougier Street at 6.40pm
  • Monks Cross (silver line – route 9) – First bus at 7am from the site, last bus back from Rougier Street at 6.43pm

All three services will operate at a 15 minute frequency throughout the day and will be FREE for all passengers (and will stop at all usual stops along the route).

To find out more about the offer or to find the best bus route through York, try out the council’s new i-Travel York online Journey Planner at http://www.itravelyork.info/

Council to seek compensation for Poppleton Park and Ride delays

The York Council is to seeking liquidated damages for the 5 month delay in completing the park and site and associated highways works at Poppleton.

Weeds2 Park adn Ride siteIt says that the issues will be assessed during the preparation of the final accounts for the scheme which was completed using “using a standard construction contract which includes liquidated damage clauses if the works over run beyond the contract completion date

The ongoing road works became something of a joke for residents living on the west of the city with deadline after deadline passing without completion.

The roadwork’s were temporarily lifted for the start of the Tour de France but were re-imposed shortly afterwards.

Even the Park and Ride site itself was opened 2 months before necessary landscaping work was completed.

The extent of any compensation likely to be claimed is not yet known.

Residents living near the A59 roundabout are understood to be seeking compensation from the Council for the delays and inconvenience that they suffered