On-demand Ting bus service to continue for a year in Cambridgeshire despite Combined Authority row
The on-demand Ting bus service will continue to run for another year, despite concern that a new £425,000 contract was agreed by Combined Authority officers without democratic input.
The Uber-style service allows people to book a trip on a bus across 46 villages in west Huntingdonshire, specifying where and when they would like to be picked up.
Operator Vectare has taken over from Stagecoach in running the service, for which child tickets are £1, or £2 for returns, and adult tickets are £2, or £4 for returns.
Operating from 6am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday - an increase of 14 hours on the previous service - the services comes with a promise to passengers that if their bus does not turn up or is full, and the next bus is more than 30 minutes away, Vectare will pay for a taxi.
The service is fully funded for the next 12 months using Bus Service Trials money approved in 2020-21.
Cllr Anna Bailey, the Conservative leader of the Combined Authority, called in the decision
Taken retrospectively by the transport and infrastructure committee last month to agree to the new contract with Vectare.
She said the contract was agreed by officers “without democratic authority” as members were not informed.
Tim Bellamy, the authority’s interim head of transport, said the breach had been taken “extremely seriously” and was being investigated.
Cllr Bailey said the board should consider whether to continue to fund the service, saying: “It is really a luxury, year long, low fare service for West Huntingdonshire, that we cannot afford.”
She offered an amendment to the recommendation to ask for officers to renegotiate the contract to include a break clause in March, so that the Ting service could be considered alongside the other services being funded by the Combined Authority.
The board went into a private session to receive legal advice. On their return, an officer said the proposed amendment would not be in line with the advice they gave in the private session.
Cllr Anna Smith, the Labour leader of Cambridge City Council who is standing in for Dr Nik Johnson as Combined Authority mayor, said the county had an “appalling public transport system”. She said she had been critical in the past of the cost of demand responsive transport, but it was part of the authority’s plan to move people out of cars and into sustainable transport.
Cllr Bailey’s amendment failed to get a majority of votes in favour. While a vote to confirm the decision made by the committee did not receive enough support to pass, it stood by default.