SAVE OUR BUSES: £122k bill for new Corby bus footed by rural neighbours

Corby railway station will be served by the RF1 from September NNL-180814-215953005
Corby railway station will be served by the RF1 from September NNL-180814-215953005

Corby railway station is to get a new bus service - but it’ll be paid for by taxpayers in neighbouring Rutland.

The Rutland Flyer (RF1) that runs between Corby, Uppingham, Oakham and Melton Mowbray had been under threat after operator Centrebus pulled out of providing the service.

The bus company said that it could not afford to run the service, then subsidised to the tune of £50,000 by Rutland County Council, because it had lost money when Northamptonshire County Council had removed all its bus subsidies amid its ongoing financial crisis.

The service carried 120,000 passengers per year and, if scrapped, it would have meant that there was no longer any regular bus service between Rutland and Corby.

Then Stagecoach waded into the row - saying they’d provide a service if Rutland council paid them a whopping £270,000 per year to do so.

After Rutland Council astonishingly agreed to stump up the cash, Centrebus had a mysterious change of heart and resubmitted another bid during a further procurement process that ended last month.

Now their bid has been successful and Rutland County Council will fork out £122,000 for Centrebus to provide the service.

And it’s good news for Corby as the new route will include an additional stop at the town’s railway station.

The new stop was requested in response to comments from service users and councillors. A revised timetable for the service detailing this change will be introduced from September 2018.

Councillor Lucy Stephenson, Portfolio Holder for Transport at Rutland County Council, said: “The Council has worked hard to protect RF1 for the passengers who rely on this service. We’ve held a thorough procurement process which set out to ensure the continued operation of RF1 while also delivering best possible value for public money.

“I hope residents and, in particular, RF1 users will be pleased that we have been able to do both. We have increased funding for RF1 to keep the service running and improve the route – something that has only been possible because of prudent financial management and making best use of our limited resources.”

The Northants Telegraph has been running a Save Our Buses campaign since Northamptonshire County Council said it could no longer afford to subsidised a single bus across the county, leaving many rural communities isolated, students unable to get to school and workers unable to get to their places of employment.

The Rutland Flyer saga explained:

22 March 2018: Centrebus advises Rutland County Council of its intention to terminate its existing agreement to operate RF1. Three-month notice period means current service commitments would end on 23 June 2018.

28 March 2018: Rutland County Council begin a tender process to identify a new operator for RF1. Tender process is advertised to all commercial operators, including Centrebus.

27 April 2018: Tender period inviting commercial operators to bid to run the RF1 Service closes. The tender process resulted in only one response from Stagecoach, whose bid of £270,840 per annum was an increase of £220,448 per year on the existing Centrebus contract.

21 May 2018: Centrebus advise that they may wish to withdraw their Notice.

22 May 2018: At their meeting, the cabinet approved potential expenditure of up to £220,000 required to continue operating RF1 but also challenged officers to explore further options for delivering the service in the most cost-effective way, before the final contract for RF1 is awarded.

6 June 2018: Rutland County Council and Centrebus consent to a mutually agreed period of continuation under their existing contract agreement, ensuring continued operation of RF1 in advance of further procurement work.

7 June 2018: Start date for extended RF1 procurement process.

6 July 2018: End date for extended RF1 procurement process with two bids received.

3 August 2018: Five-year contract to operate RF1 awarded to Centrebus Ltd with a value of £122,000 per annum. Contract commences 24 September 2018 and includes the addition of a new stop at Corby railway station