The Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport to:
(a) grant permission to procure contracts required to implement the electrification of Fastrack Bus Services in Kent, including the roll-out of environmentally friendly infrastructure across the Fastrack bus networks; and
(b) grant permission for contract award decisions (including the award of any future contract extension(s)) relating to these contracts to be taken by the Corporate Director of Growth, Environment & Transport under the Officer Scheme of Delegations following prior consultation with the Cabinet Member:
1. Electric Fastrack Bus Services to operate the future electric Fastrack bus networks:
(a) Fastrack Kent Thameside network effective from 2024.
(b) Dover Fastrack network (pending completion of infrastructure works already in progress).
2. Electric Bus Charging Solutions to power the new zero emission electric bus fleet(s) including:
(a) Electric Vehicle Charging Systems (including design, supply, installation, repair, and maintenance services)
(b) Electricity Supply.
3. Environmentally focused Bus Shelter Services for the repair and maintenance of bus shelters including the phased replacement of existing bus shelters with pollinator-friendly living roof bus shelters.
4. Real Time Information (RTI) Display Services providing real time passenger information and media advertising at bus shelters.
None of the above require contribution from KCC and would be entirely funded by the service farebox, grants and third-party contributions such as housing developers.
Reason for decision:
Gross expenditure or Savings of more than £1m.
Fastrack is Kent County Council’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The service provides fast, reliable, and affordable transport across Kent Thameside. The service model will be emulated in Dover from 2023. The success of Fastrack is premised on faster point to point journey times through enhanced bus priority measures. There is a direct correlation between journey time and uptake. Fastrack is believed to be the first high frequency bus service in the UK to return to (and surpass) to pre-Covid usage levels.
Launched in 2006, Kent Thameside comprises of several new and existing housing developments and business units around Dartford, Ebbsfleet and Gravesend. The Fastrack network in Kent Thameside connects communities to Bluewater shopping centre, a hospital, local town centres and national and international rail stations. Fastrack runs at least every 12 minutes at peak times and is Kent’s only 24/7 bus service. Fastrack was implemented by KCC as a tool to enable local ‘Growth Without Gridlock.’
Contractually, Fastrack is unique. Outside of London, financially viable services are normally operated directly by commercial operators without direct subsidy from local authorities. Whilst Fastrack is commercially viable, due to its strategic importance to the Kent road network, and heavy reliance on enhanced highway infrastructure, it is controlled and contracted by KCC. Fastrack generates an income to KCC and these monies are directly reinvested in maintaining and enhancing the network infrastructure.
Next year, a new Fastrack network will launch in Dover and the service will connect the town centre, with its High Speed 1 rail link, the Port of Dover (via interchange), and new housing developments around the suburb of Whitfield. The network will connect local communities with their amenities, places of work and commuter rail, but also key tourist markets with the historic Dover Castle and White Cliffs attractions and international travellers heading to France.
In 2021, Kent County Council submitted a successful bid to Department for Transport (DfT) funding towards electrifying our Fastrack networks. Comprising of 33 buses and the supporting infrastructure, ZEBRA (Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas) cover 75% of the cost difference between an electric bus and the equivalent diesel bus. The fund also covers 75% of the capital infrastructure costs.
As part of the next generation of Electric Fastrack and zero emission operation, KCC’s ambition is to also procure a preferred supplier for future bus shelters. Seeking a ‘living roof design and next generation Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI).
Options (other options considered but discarded):
1. Continued use of diesel buses with existing operator for Kent Thameside Fastrack. Considered operationally more expensive and contradicts KCC strategic plan. This would be anti-competitive and not test best value.
2. Excluding Dover Fastrack from DfT ZEBRA. Without ZEBRA this new service would move forward with diesel buses and not meet the ambitions for Fastrack to become a net zero operation.
3. Let the bus operators resolve the charging infrastructure. Due to the implementation costs and timescales involved. As contracted services, it is vital that the transference of charging equipment is possible in the future. The infrastructure also represents future revenue opportunities for KCC.
4. Retain the existing bus shelter. The shelters are the ‘shop window’ of Fastrack and must be a continuation of the premium brand. The existing infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life and furthermore, a preferred supplier needs to be identified for new shelters as the network expands, particularly in new developments where KCC commonly receives the funding directly to implement new shelters.
How the proposed decision meets the challenges in Framing Kent’s Future:
The decision supports:
Infrastructure for Communities – ensuring people have access to safe and efficient travel options
Environment Step Change – developing approaches to public transport and electric vehicle infrastructure for more sustainable and low carbon travel modes.
· Financial – The proposed service structure is forecast to create a greater income for KCC.
· Economic – The electrication of Fastrack and replacement of bus shelters will attract new green infrastructure investment to Kent, along with it, new skills, and jobs.
· Demand – The contractual structures will be nimble and able to move with service demand in either direction.
· Partnership – The longevity of the contracts will create new long-term partnerships and encourage investment in Kent.
· Environmental – tackling the climate emergency and protecting the natural environment continues to be an urgent priority for Kent, as well as investing in the built environment and creating communities to be proud of. Fastrack is already a community asset and these contracts will create a new generation of a ‘zero emission’ Fastrack.
Fastrack is self-funding and is requesting no additional funding from KCC but to underwrite certain elements of risk.
1. Electric Fastrack Bus Services:
(a) Kent Thameside – For the Kent Thameside service, the operator is proposed to be paid a (performance measured) fixed annual fee with the fare and advertising revenue returning to KCC. This is forecast to yield KCC a healthy return. However, there is a risk to KCC that costs could outstrip revenue throughout the duration of the contract leaving KCC liable for the difference. Careful monitoring and contractual clauses are planned to enable the service to continuously be ‘right-sized’ to mitigate this risk. It should be noted that KCC will be required to regularly review and adjust fares to sustain affordability. Once the proposed tender concludes, KCC would review price submissions against the latest forecast revenue before making an award. The contract will be multi-million-pound contract annually.
2. Dover – None. Fastrack Dover is anticipated to be a ‘zero value’ contract, yielding KCC and departure fee income from the operator. Electric Bus Charging Solutions: The cost of the infrastructure is forecast to be entirely within grant monies and service funding already secured. The cost of the energy and ongoing maintenance is factored within the service costs and anticipated revenues.
3. Bus Shelter Services: New shelters and maintenance would be funded entirely from the service budget, grants, and development contributions as is the current arrangement.
4. Real Time Information (RTI) Display Services: New RTI displays and maintenance would be funded entirely from the service budget, grants, and development contributions as is the current arrangement.
Decision type: Key
Reason Key: Expenditure or savings of more than £1m;
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Notice of proposed decision first published: 30/08/2022
Decision due: Not before 28th Sep 2022 by Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Lead member: Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Lead director: Philip Lightowler
Department: Growth, Environment & Transport
Public consultation been undertaken or planned:
Fastrack Kent Thameside users are bi-annually surveyed on their views and these were considered carefully when designing the next iteration of Fastrack.
Public Consultation has been conducted on the wider Fastrack Dover scheme which included specific information about proposed electrification.
Consultation is planned with local disability groups and service users for input on the proposed design of the new bus shelters, as it was for the proposed design of the new buses.
Cabinet Committee consultation planned:
The proposed decision was considered and endorsed by Members of the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee at their meeting on 8th September 2022.
Financial implications: As above
Legal implications: KCC will utilise legal support to ensure all necessary consents relating to new bus infrastructure (including, but not limited to, planning permissions, and DNO connections) are in obtained as appropriate, and the required service contracts are procured in compliance with public and utilities contracts regulations as appropriate. The Dover Fastrack contract is proposed to be incorporated into the East Kent Enhanced Partnership and delivered by participants. KCC would instruct legal representation to ensure compliance with relevant legislation and assist with forming the service contract.
Equalities implications: Equalities implications: An EQIA accompanied KCC’s ZEBRA bid and remains a live document. The schemes proposed are shown to have either a positive or no impact on the protected characteristics. Data Protection implications: N/A