Councils in the West of England devolution partnership have a ‘range of back up plans’ to support the £200m Bristol Metrobus scheme should there be difficulties securing operators for the network.
The rapid transit bus scheme is due to be up and running in the region by 2017, however recent reports suggested the scheme may struggle to find operators to run services.
A spokeswoman for the partnership, which is currently preparing the ground for a mayoral combined authority deal, told Transport Network that negotiations were ongoing and back up plans were in place.
‘The three councils (Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset) are actively negotiating with bus operators regarding running the MetroBus services, therefore it is not possible, as these negotiations are confidential and commercial, to say more,’ she said.
‘We have always been clear, the aim is that the MetroBus services are run entirely on a commercial basis via a Quality Partnership Scheme that sets minimum standards for frequencies, quality of vehicles and maximum fares, supported by a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with one or more operator.
‘Of course should negotiations not be successful we have a range of back up plans which could include formal contacts to run all or some services on a contracted basis which might require the use of public money following a competitive procurement process, but this would depend on the situation when negotiations conclude – which all parties agree should be in about 3-4 weeks' time.’
In Wales, three major bus companies, including its biggest independent operator, have closed down in the last few months in a sign of how challenging the market is in some areas due to subsidy cuts.