WECA Bus Service tendering: Results and analysis

This is a companion piece to the tale of how this procurement process was carried out. All references made here refer to contracts due to commence from September 2021. As the results have now been published, there are some interesting facts to report:

  • 100% of large operators were successful in securing work through this tendering round. In contrast, 20% of small (SME) operators were successful.
  • No small operator has gained additional work through this tendering round, although one existing small operator (CT Coaches) has retained work.

Services which have changed hands are as follows:
12/622 (Severn Beach – Cribbs Causeway – Thornbury, Sundays & Bank Holidays) First gain from Stagecoach
82 (Paulton – Radstock Tyning, Mon-Fri) First gain from FromeBus
634 (Tormarton – Kingswood, Mon-Fri) Eurotaxis gain from South Glos Council
663/664/665 (Keynsham Locals, Mon-Sat) Stagecoach gain from HCT
672 (Blagdon – Bristol, Mon-Sat) Eurotaxis gain from HCT
684 (Wick – Keynsham, Tue/Thur) Eurotaxis gain from South Glos Council

Services which were tendered to change format were as follows:
17 (Keynsham – Southmead Hospital, First) Tendered between Keynsham and Kingswood as route 16.
20A/20C (Bath City Circular, First) Split in to two separate sections: 20 University – Twerton and 23 Twerton – Bus Station via Weston
35 (Bristol – Marshfield, First) Curtailed to run Kingswood to Marshfield.
82 (Paulton – Radstock Tyning) Re-routed in Paulton to miss village centre and Ham Lane. Morning journey from Paulton to Somervale School now runs full route to Tyning.
672 (Blagdon – Bristol) Reduced to two journeys with flow in each direction (0653 and 0935 from Blagdon, 1405 and 1715 from Bristol). All other journeys withdrawn.

Other services covered by this tendering round which were predominantly unchanged and remained with their existing operator were:
2 Bath – Combe Down (Mon-Sat Evenings, First)
6A Bath – Larkhall (Mon-Sat Evenings, First)
8 Bath – Kingsway (Mon-Sat Evenings, First)
11 Bath – Bathampton (Mon-Sat, First)
12 Bath – Haycombe (Mon-Sat, First)
17 Kingswood – Southmead (Mon-Sat Evenings, First)
42 Odd Down P&R – RUH (Mon-Fri Evenings, First)
84/85 Yate – Wotton-under-Edge (Mon-Sat, Stagecoach)
86 Yate – Kingswood (Mon-Sat, Stagecoach)
172 Bath – Paulton (Daily Evenings, First)
179 Bath – Midsomer Norton (Mon-Sat, CT Coaches)
185 Hallatrow – Trowbridge (Thu, CT Coaches)
620 Old Sodbury – Bath (Mon-Sat, Stagecoach)
636 Whitchurch – Keynsham (Mon/Wed/Fri, CT Coaches)
640 Bishop Sutton – Keynsham (Fri, CT Coaches)
668 Peasedown – Bristol (Mon, CT Coaches)
683 Keynsham – Wells (Tue, CT Coaches)
700 Bath – Sion Hill (Mon-Sat, CT Coaches)
716 Bath – Newbridge (Mon-Sat, CT Coaches)
734 Bath – Bathwick (Mon-Sat, CT Coaches)
752 Hinton Blewett – Bath (Wed, B&NES Transport)
754 Hinton Blewett – Radstock (Mon/Tue/Thu/Fri, B&NES Transport)
757 Combe Hay – Old Mills (Wed, CT Coaches)
768 Bath – Old Mills (Mon-Fri, CT Coaches)
779 Bath – Larkhall (Mon-Sat, CT Coaches)

It should be noted that many of these services were awarded as pre-specified groups. There was no option for operators to group services.

Four and a half times around the block
I’d also like to look at one of the services which has changed operator in rather more detail:

First have gained service 82 around Paulton and Norton Radstock from Frome Bus. This service has operated on a “hail and ride” basis for some twenty years since First rejected it commercially and it passed to Somerbus in January 2000. Because of there being no place to specify this in the tendering documentation, this hail and ride detail has been omitted, so i hope WECA are ready to start putting up lots of bus stops around the estates. The route of this service in Paulton has been changed and will no longer connect Paulton’s estates to the village centre (“There are other services available” said Procurement Droid during tendering – there aren’t).

The revised service 82 is unlikely to reach Somervale School on time in the mornings (as it has now been routed around Tesco and two additional estates). The revised service is likely to be unnecessarily unreliable in the morning as it will now get caught in traffic caused by Norton Hill, Westfield and Fosseway schools, all before attempting to start at Radstock Tyning at 09:00. Sadly, the service is unlikely to arrive at any of these schools early enough to provide a usable facility. Very much the worst of all worlds. This will exacerbate the problems which are likely to be caused as Somerbus 83 (Farmborough – Paulton – Somervale & Norton Hill Schools) ceases at the end of the July 2021 term.

I’m sure WECA will deny any culpability over these changes, but noises coming from the organisation suggest that the staff employed with knowledge of the Somer Valley area were not engaged in the preparation of any material for the tendering round. Likewise, operators were not engaged. Obviously nobody at WECA is willing to divulge who was responsible for it because public sector staff don’t like being criticised, let alone accountable. Again, local knowledge is there for the wasting.

Jerry’s Final Thought
For an idea of how much capacity First have to take on additional work, why not have a look at their Twitter feed for the past three days at the time of writing…?

If you were waiting for one of these 49 journeys which were cancelled (and these are apparently only ones operated by Marlborough Street, Weston and Wells), i’m not convinced you would consider this operator as high quality. Perhaps Dan Norris disagrees.

One thought on “WECA Bus Service tendering: Results and analysis

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