Friday, 1 March 2024
Friday, 1 March 2024

Call for proportionate procurement processes for e-scooter trial extensions

LOCAL authorities with e-scooter trials have been warned not to seek large financial contributions from operators to avoid threatening the viability of schemes.

Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK), the national shared transport charity, has written to councils across the UK to urge them to consider putting in place profit-sharing models rather than taking a cut of overall revenues.

Many e-scooter trial schemes have been extended until May 2024 and several bike share schemes are going through or will be going through procurement.

The UK Government is currently working on plans to create a new light vehicle class to legalise the use of e-scooters on public roads, with the trials expected to provide important data to help shape future legislation and regulations.

CoMoUK stressed the need for good practice to ensure the procurement processes are high quality, fair and sustainable.

In a letter to local authorities, chief executive Richard Dilks told how operators are facing tougher financial conditions as soaring inflation pushes up running costs, while the current economic situation has made capital-raising ‘significantly harder’.

He pointed out that unlike other forms of sustainable transport, e-scooter trials have not received any public subsidy.

The charity said that where local authorities do want to seek financial contributions, they should work with operators to consider profit-sharing options rather than seeking onerous levels of contributions as part of any tender process.

It noted that the future of e-scooters and micro-mobility more broadly as sustainable, successful modes of transport that are quick to deploy could be put at risk without reasonable procurement processes.

CoMoUK said e-scooter trials have been a success because of the sustained and high numbers of riders alongside low incident rates.

It considers that legalising e-scooters will ensure they are subject to high safety standards while also helping to lower emissions from transport, cut congestion and repurpose streets away from cars.

Bike share use is at an all-time high with a total of 2.8 million members and 1.8 million members who have used a scheme in the last year, based on figures from March 2022. All these options help to decongest and decarbonise UK streets, according to the charity.

The charity is planning to publish its own report on the UK e-scooter trials which will be based on extensive data-sharing by operators and interviews with both local authorities and operators.

In the letter, Richard Dilks, chief executive of CoMoUK, wrote:

‘We urge authorities to exercise caution in seeking financial contributions from operators, both as a matter of good public procurement practice and to avoid threatening the viability of schemes and operators.

‘Revenue-sharing arrangements are an example of approaches which are likely to be overly onerous financially.

‘Instead, we would favour examining profit-sharing options, in the context of the tough financial and economic conditions described above.

‘Additional financial contributions are also sometimes being sought from operators.

‘These are highly unlikely to be sustainable. They also raise troubling questions about procurement practice.

‘Any criteria against which tender bids are judged should be objective and clearly communicated.

‘We share with authorities their ambition to see any re-procurements done on a fair basis that will be sustainable through to May 2024 and beyond as part of growth and stability in what is still a nascent sector in the UK.

‘This should be done by focussing on the socio-economic benefits that this subsidy-free mode brings in terms of social value, decarbonisation, sustainability, productivity and growth.’

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