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WMCA pledges public funding for bike hire

25 October 2019

The West Midlands Combined Authority is offering public funding to the operator of the conurbation’s public bike hire contract, reversing the previous policy.

In 2018 Transport for the West Midlands awarded Nextbike a contract to provide a bike hire scheme for the conurbation, with the contract featuring no public funding. Nextbike’s contract was terminated this summer, with TfWM saying the company had made persistent contract breaches (LTT 02 Aug).   

Procurement of a replacement operator is underway. They will be required to supply a minimum of 1,500 bikes within the first two years of the contract, of which a minimum ten per cent must be e-bikes. The contract won by Nextbike had required at least 3,000 bikes.

The change of thinking about public funding is revealed in the invitation to tender. It states: “WMCA has a budget to contribute towards the scheme and is expecting a risk-sharing approach with the successful supplier to create a commercially-viable scheme.”

WMCA is studying expressions of interest for the new contract and plans to shortlist three bidders for a competitive dialogue, with contract award expected next March.

The contract will operate for five years with potential for up to three one-year extensions. The operator will be required to provide a scheme covering the urban areas of the seven constituent districts. 

WMCA’s preference is for most bikes to be physically ‘docked’, suggesting that facilities could be “Sheffield stands, traditional physical docking infrastructure, or integration with existing street furniture”. It is also open to options such as geo-fenced docking stations, subject to agreement from the highway authority.

The bike hire payment system should be integrated with the conurbation’s existing public transport payment system “though this integration may be phased”.

The contract will enable other public bodies to access the infrastructure, bikes and services of the successful bidder.

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