New Bus Service Contracts Cut Costs

by Alastair Hamilton -

From August 2014, bus users in Shetland will enjoy a service that serves most routes at least as well as at present, and in many cases better, while also requiring a lower level of subsidy.

Although car ownership in Shetland is high, many people rely on bus services for commuting to work. A network of principal services connects Lerwick with all the larger communities; minibus feeder services connect with these, ensuring that most people, even in small and remote communities, are within reach of a bus route. School bus services are also an essential part of the provision.

ZetTrans (the islands" transport authority) and the Shetland Islands Council have approved a network which reduces costs through packaging services together and integrating school transport where possible. The new arrangements are designed to make the best use of available vehicles and staff while ensuring that everyone gets the services they need. In some cases, it's been possible to remove duplication of services, allowing others to be improved. The new contracts with bus operators will run for five years.

ZetTrans sees the tendering process as a significant success. Compared to tender prices in March 2013, the cost for a similar network is down from £4.486 million to £3.384 million. This is a reduction of £1.2m - 25% - and brings spending on the service down to 2009/10 levels. Over the five year period of the contracts, the saving to the Council will amount to more than £5.5 million.

Councillor Allan Wishart, who is Chairman of ZetTrans, welcomed the new deal:

“This was always going to be a difficult process, given the pressure on budgets and the scale of work which had to be done to tender all our services at once – never mind how we managed relationships with our providers during that process. I must pay tribute to the amount of work our staff have put into getting us to this position, and also to our local bus companies, who have recognised the pressures on our budgets, and done so much to get us to this position.”

A comparison between the existing and tendered services can be found here.

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