Green light for a new £44m passenger transport scheme

Transport to and from schools, which could include these Coldingham pupils waiting to catch the bus, will be one of four new lots put out to tender.
Transport to and from schools, which could include these Coldingham pupils waiting to catch the bus, will be one of four new lots put out to tender.

The main public bodies in the Borders are combining to provide an improved and seamless system of passenger transport next year.

And this week, under the aegis of the Scottish Borders Community Planning Partnership (CPP), they revealed details of a “single framework agreement” worth an estimated £44million to bus operators and taxi/private hire firms over the next four years.

The new regime will replace the disparate passenger services currently offered by CPP members Scottish Borders Council, NHS Borders, Borders College and the four main housing associations.

Companies and individuals interested in bidding for a slice of the action have until December 19 to do so and the contracts will be awarded in January.

According to the procurement notice published on Monday, the CPP accepts the need for a cross-sector approach “to coordinate services more effectively and efficiently”. Thus, bidders will be expected to plug gaps in provision for schoolchildren, students, shoppers, the disabled, hospital attendees and visitors.

Also targeted will be people living in remote areas with limited access to existing passenger transport.

Such shortcomings have been highlighted in successive household surveys and are regularly aired at meetings of SBC’s five area forums.

Two information events in Duns for potential Berwickshire bidders, including new and existing operators, have already been held. For tendering purposes, the new framework is split into four lots:

○short-notice and urgent transport

○mainstream education transport to and from schools and colleges

○health, social care and non-emergency patient transport

○supported local bus services

The short-notice service will involve one-off or short-term regular services for adults and children with health and social care needs.

Passenger assistants will be required and bidders – taxi and private hire operators – must meet stringent welfare and safety requirements and offer 24/7 access.

The new education service will provide transport for pupils and students between designated pick-up/drop-off points to schools and Borders College campuses. This service may also be commissioned to take the youngsters to sports meetings.

Of the health and social care non-emergency service, the CPP states: “The main purpose is to transport pupils with additional needs between home and school/college, and adult passengers to day care or respite facilities, to healthcare sites, including the Borders General Hospital, and to community facilities where social activities are carried out.”

Finally, in terms of supporting local bus services, the CCP wants to procure “networks of mainline and feeder public services, including dial-a-ride, demand responsive travel, shopper and BGH-serving services across the region”.

The maximum number of operators involved in the framework agreement has been set at 100, but the CCP stresses it is not bound to accept the lowest tenders.