Agenda item

Park and Ride Contract Renewal

The attached report sets out the options available to the Council to renew the contract to run the bus services between the Park & Ride sites and Bath city centre.  This is due to the expiry of the existing contract in August 2022 that commenced in 2012.


Cllr Manda Rigby introduced the report, moved the officer recommendations, and made the following statement:

“The last time we undertook a process for awarding a park and ride contract was 12 years ago, and the world certainly in terms of park and ride provision was completely different. We believe that we had one of the, if not the, most advantageous contract in the country as we were fortunate in hitting the very high spot of the market.


Indeed, we tried to extend this contract, to give the market time to recover. But this was just not possible. To be clear, a nationwide lack of drivers, spiralling fuel costs, post pandemic patronage levels, the need for investment in new buses, is creating the perfect storm for all bus service providers.


I need to thank Cllr Richard Samuel and his team for helping us to continue a park and ride provision at all given the tender responses we received as right now, we are at the assumed bottom of the market.


We had lots of aspirations for enhancements to the service...different hours of operation, differential pricing, new routes, and I don't want to limit our ambition. The only way to do this is by doing as we are asking you to agree in this paper, i.e. having a gross cost contract. Basically, we take the risk, but we gain both flexibility and control. We fund the service but keep the fares.


To begin with, we will keep the service as is, with the exception of bringing weekend rates in line with weekdays whilst we anticipate, as does the market, that patronage will continue to get back to pre-pandemic levels even without us doing further promotion.


As performance improves, we can invest in further enhancements.


Traditionally the major usage of our park and rides is leisure rather than commuting so as a starter for 10, here's a largely untapped market.


As large employers move towards more hybrid ways of working for some staff, rather than funding workplace parking assuming as in the past all employees come in daily...


We can work with them to provide a flexible park and ride solution instead.


We can work with Bath rugby to stop the gridlock home matches cause by having a joint match/park and ride ticket.


We can work with the festivals likewise, indeed any large event can be encouraged to keep cars from unnecessarily coming to the centre.


We can trial different pricing. Price per car rather than per person, £1 flat fee at certain times, as examples.


We can alter hours of operation to make park and rides better for those attending theatre or evening hospitality.


We can look at how buggies and wheelchairs are catered for, how bikes may be transported, the possibilities are endless.


Ultimately what we want is a service which people choose as it's convenient, runs the hours they want, to the places they need to get to AND is the economically best choice rather than driving into the city centre.


But we need to be prudent as well, hence us getting the flexibility built in to introduce these factors only when the economics allow us to.


All predictions are that bus patronage will get to previous levels, and were that to be the case, we could end up with an income stream for the council. As car parking in the centre reduces, as more areas get residents parking zones, as we negotiate with large employers to provide this service direct to their sites, as we live model the price elasticity for leisure use, we are confident we can over perform against average expectations as park and ride becomes the most viable choice for individuals.


There's also plans for how the sites are used separate from this paper, dependent on the outcome of the local plan partial update, including how security is reviewed, what other transport hubs provision could happen onsite e.g. park and scoot, solar panels for charging points, the possibilities are endless.


But to deliver these, we first need to get the figures right, to promote use of park and rides, and reinvest the money we raise to create the service we aspire towards.


So, I urge you to support this paper for the provision of the service on a gross cost basis, and the further recommendations in section 2.”


Cllr Richard Samuel seconded the motion and stated that this has been a difficult time to renew the contract and cost pressures were expected due to high inflation.  The proposal represents a good achievement and an acceptable outcome in the current circumstances.  He also thanked WECA staff for the work they have undertaken on this contract renewal.


Cllr Sarah Warren stated that she was delighted to retain the Park & Ride Service in B&NES.


RESOLVED (unanimously):


(1)To note the assessment of the tender returns as set out within Exempt Appendix 1 of the report.

(2)To consider fully the charging options as part of the contract award process and give delegation to the Director of Place Management to agree with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to;

Award the contract to the preferred bidder on a gross cost basis with the following contract specification but with a clear understanding of sustained service improvements as patronage increases:

a)  At commencement of the contract fares to be set at £3.60 per return adult fare on all days (rather than £3.60 Monday-Friday and £3.00 weekends as set currently);

b)  All group ticket options currently available to be maintained and;

c)  At commencement of the contract that the hours of operation to match the current service provision.


(3)To agree that the service financial model will be reviewed at six monthly intervals to compare the actual income against the model and, subject to income levels reaching necessary gateway levels;

a)Invest the additional income in increased service provision such as extended hours of operation and/or;

b)  Reduce the fares charged for the Park & Ride service and/or;

c)  Invest in improvements on the Park & Ride sites to improve the customer experience.

(4)To note the additional costs for the service against the agreed Council budget for the service and the mitigation plan as set out within paragraph 5.10 of the report and approve the establishment of a P&R smoothing reserve to manage the income risk whilst patronage returns to pre-Covid levels.

(5)To delegate the authority to the Director of Place Management in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Transport to implement a parking charge on the Park & Ride site for any users as agreed to offset the increased costs of the operation of the sites and the bus service and ensure that the service remains viable in the long term.

Supporting documents: