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Operators riled as TfGM attaches 11 conditions to tendered services cash

03 April 2020

 

Transport for Greater Manchester has attached 11 conditions to some of its support for the bus industry during the Covid-19 lockdown. An operator said TfGM had “put a gun to operator’s heads”, a view that LTT understands is shared by other operators in the conurbation.  

TfGM chief executive Eamonn Boylan wrote to operators on 27 March, following receipt of the DfT’s guidance letter (see left) and taking into account the Government’s Procurement Policy Note 02/20 – Supplier Relief Due to COVID-19.

“We are now able to confirm our position on payments for tendered services and concessionary re-imbursement for the forthcoming month of April,” said Boylan. To help operators with cashflow, payments were made on the 1 April rather than the normal date of 15 April. “During April we will continue to review appropriate arrangements for subsequent months.”

April’s reimbursement payments for the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) will be based on the average level for the last three months.

Operator reimbursement for all local concessions wil reflect the impact of Covid-19. 

Payments for tendered bus services will be made at the same level as paid in March, subject to 11 conditions. 

Julian Peddle, a director of High Peak Buses, which operates in the conurbation, said this week: “TfGM has put a gun to operator’s heads by saying it will withhold this money, which would have been paid on 1 April, unless operators agree to an 11-point list of demands.”

He criticised TfGM’s response to the pandemic more generally. “Many school buses are still operating despite schools being closed and tendered bus services still appear to operate without change.” 

Peddle said little had changed since High Peak issued a press release on the 25 March saying: “Buses are running around completely empty under instructions from TfGM. One operator is being ordered to run 27 school buses every day without carrying a single child, another reported that a bus was running for five hours yesterday evening and carried only one passenger.”

Another operator this week concurred with Peddle’s assessment, telling LTT: “We are certainly not all in this together. Clearly to some in Greater Manchester a national crisis is just an opportunity for a bit of bureaucratic posturing.”

The 11 conditions are:

  1. No changes to an operator’s network should be made unless expressly agreed with TfGM and these agreed levels will be maintained. Should the network be forced to close due to further Government restrictions we reserve the right to review payments
  2. The operator agrees to work flexibly and proactively with TfGM to redeploy resource as required and react to specific times of day or areas of demand as they become apparent
  3. Continued acceptance of ENCTS customers before 9.30am on weekdays at no additional cost or enhanced charges as would otherwise be considered, and to continue to work with TfGM to consider and support the implementation of further temporary concessions as the need arises
  4. The operator agrees to share with TfGM its workforce plan, including specifically any plans for furloughing staff
  5. The operator maintains adequate financial records and agrees to comprehensive open book access
  6. The operator agrees to repay any monies that could not be demonstrated to have been needed
  7. The operator agrees to remain flexible in terms of potential operations within the Easter holiday period 
  8. Social distancing on transport should be implemented and communicated in line with national guidance. This may preclude the use of smaller vehicles. Revised capacities or vehicle types should be discussed with TfGM
  9. Commit to enhanced cleaning standards of touch-points in vehicles to ensure virus spread is controlled
  10. Updated timetable information is provided at the earliest point to TfGM
  11. Day-to-day service disruption must be communicated to Traveline and/or in the agreed format to TfGM

Commenting on the conditions, Peddle said: “The effect of these would see TfGM seek control of the bus route network and bus operators’ employees, whilst leaving the ongoing cost risks with the bus operators. Any director agreeing to such proposals would be breaching his or her responsibility under the Companies Act, as they could be trading whilst insolvent.

“I understand bus companies have sought, without success, a discussion with senior officers of TfGM. There is a real possibility that unless there is a compromise, many services will cease to operate, leaving NHS and key workers without bus services.”

Boylan said TfGM would also give operators financial relief in the coming months by:

  • suspending April’s increase to bus station departure charges for the foreseeable future
  • giving operators who occupy accommodation at TfGM facilities a three-month rental holiday

“We are also continuing to explore other aspects of current operations where operator relief may be appropriate,” said Boylan. 

 
 
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