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Combined Authority Board to hear outcomes of tendering process for withdrawn bus services

Combined Authority Board to hear outcomes of tendering process for withdrawn bus services

The Board of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority is set to be recommended to agree to new contracts with bus operators to continue services which Stagecoach East announced would be withdrawn from October 30.

On September 20, Stagecoach East announced they were pulling out of 18 services completely and reducing a further 5 significantly. The Combined Authority went out to urgent tender with potential operators the following day with the aim of continuing as many of those services as possible.

The report to the Board, which also focuses on a wider Bus Strategy for the region, states the current position which is that 14 of the 18 services cut by Stagecoach, along with all of the five reduced services, have all received tenders from new operators.

The priority now is for the Combined Authority to understand how best to provide services for the communities on the four routes where bids have not been received, or only partially covered.

Currently, routes where no bids have come in are the 23 and 24 from Queensgate to Lynch Wood, Peterborough, the 915 from Royston to Cambridge and part of service 39 running from Chatteris to March. A verbal update on the latest situation will be provided to the Combined Authority Board on Wednesday (October 19). Discussions with operators about what they may be able to provide, even if this meets only part of the withdrawn route initially, are ongoing.

The routes, therefore, which have received tenders from bus operators are:

Citi4 along St Neots Road and within Cambourne
5A (Citi5 beyond Northstowe),
8A (Citi8 beyond Cottenham)
9A Ely City Service
33 March Town Service

The Wednesday (October 19) Board meeting, chaired by Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Dr Nik Johnson, will make the final decision on whether to approve the new contracts which would keep services running until the end of March 2023.

For legal reasons around the tendering process, the Combined Authority is not yet able to confirm which bus operators are the preferred bidder for each route and nor is it able to confirm the route timetables. Timetables may change as a result of the tendering process. Operators and new timetables will be confirmed at the end of what is called a standstill period lasting 10 days. This is a legal requirement attached to this tendering process which allows suppliers an opportunity to challenge any decision. That means the names of the bus operators and timetables can only be made public from October 24.

The Combined Authority will publish updates about this process on its website news page and via social media on Twitter and Facebook: https://cambridgeshirepeterborough-ca.gov.uk/news/

The routes will require some of the £1.7m set aside by the Combined Authority for subsidies to operators to keep them running. The current position is that the total cost is expected to be about £1,076,658 to keep the services which have tenders running. The tender process has shown that the money made available by the Combined Authority is very likely to be enough to cover all the routes, where there are operators with the capacity to run them.

The report to the Board includes a wider update on the Combined Authority’s Bus Strategy work, which is the plan to invest in better buses across the region, which connect more people and places, and serve as an attractive alternative to the car.

Part of the Bus Strategy work involves the Combined Authority exploring more options for funding this new network, including further approaches to Government to make the case for additional resources. This also includes options for funding to keep any services going beyond the end of March 2023.

The Bus Strategy is due to be presented in draft form to the Transport and Infrastructure Committee in November. Alongside the bus strategy will be a new Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) to be submitted to Government before the end of November. The objective of both is to set out a clear vision and direction, and a powerful case for investment in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough bus system.

Work to develop further the business case for bus franchising also forms part of this wider strategy.

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson said: “This tendering process was entered into with the intention of saving as many services as possible and, so far, operators have been found for most of the routes, which is very encouraging.

“A small number of routes so far have no operator willing to take them on, despite us having funds available. We will continue to work with bus operators to see if we can plug these remaining gaps.

“The Combined Authority Board will make a decision on these services, but I am certainly very supportive of the outcomes of this tendering process. I know from all correspondence I’ve received just how much of an impact this decision by Stagecoach has had on people. There has been a widespread concern across the region to get something done to keep these bus routes going and that’s what the Combined Authority is working hard to achieve.

“People will understandably want to know timetables and names of bus operators, and I also understand people want to make plans for journeys after October 30. We are obliged to follow a sound legal process and that does unfortunately mean more detail won’t be available until Monday (October 24), but we will be sharing that information as soon as we have it.”

“The bigger picture is that we are working on a longer term Bus Strategy which will seek to deliver a sustainable bus network, that is high quality, affordable, reliable and accessible to people right across the region. The status quo is not meeting people’s needs, and that’s why change is needed.”

To read the report to the Board, visit this page and scroll down to ‘Additional Meeting Documents’ item 4.1.