Buses not ready for service launch

A COUNCIL is coming under renewed pressure over its decision to contract out a key transport service to an out-of-town operator after it emerged that its buses are not ready for its launch next month.

Hull-based East Yorkshire Motor Services has operated the council's park and ride between Priory Park and the city centre since 2003.

But a subsidiary of London-based HCT Group was awarded the flagship contract last autumn -even though EYMS putting in the cheapest bid by some 30,000. The decision sparked anger from unions.

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Now it appears the company, CT Plus Yorkshire, will not have its own buses ready for the starting date of the contract – February 1. Hull Council is negotiating with EYMS to fill in for the meantime.

Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Hull West and Hessle Gary Shores described it as a "farcical" situation.

He said: "Anyone would think it was the April 1. Who else would tender a contract for a bus route, win the contract despite being more expensive than the current company – which has a proven record and submitted the lowest bid – then admit that two weeks before the contract starts that they can not do the most basic thing – a bus – yet EYMS can."

Mr Shores, who is an East Riding councillor, said there were other unanswered questions about the contract – including whether HCT had enough double-deckers to provide buses for special events like football matches.

He said: "Will heads roll? Will contracts be put up for retender? These are more questions the council should be answering."

Chairman of EYMS Peter Shipp said: "It is a bit galling when we knew we could provide new buses on whatever day one was."

CT Plus Yorkshire said the delivery of new buses being built in Turkey using parts from Europe had been disrupted by the extreme weather conditions across Europe.

A statement said: "CT Plus Yorkshire staff are working around the clock to make sure that we do start on time, but we are making alternative arrangements just in case.

"Having identified this possible delay, we felt that it was only responsible to make Hull Council aware of the risk even if everything turns out all right – as we sincerely hope it will.

"We have proposed to Hull Council that we subcontract the service to the most logical provider for a short period – in the event that our vehicles do not arrive on time.

"By putting a 'Plan B' in place now, we can eliminate the chance of disruption to the travelling public – and that is what we feel really matters.

"All of the other preparations we are making to get ready are on track and we remain genuinely excited about the opportunity to run public transport services in Hull."

Graham Hall, the council's Group Manager for Highways and Open Spaces, said: "Despite the problems that they have had in delivery of their brand new vehicles to provide this service, they have assured us that this popular and important service will continue to operate on time, and at no additional cost to the council."

Meanwhile the council has said that it will put up extra money to allow two threatened bus services to continue operating.

Routes 1C, from Kingswood Retail Park to Sibelius Road and route 41, from the city centre to Greatfield, will continue to be operated for the time being by EYMS, Hull Council said, as there was "clear passenger demand" for the services.

EYMS has said both services are losing money.