In January, Essential Fleet Services announced its intention to withdraw from the passenger transport market through a managed process, having previously operated over £3.5m worth of Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) contracts covering a range of Special Educational Needs, Adult Care, and CallConnect services.
Despite work aimed at developing the specialist transport market, re-tendering exercises failed to provide solutions for all of the 50 services, although where appropriate, contracts have been awarded to other providers. The county council has continued to work with Essential to find a way forward for the remaining contracts (approximately 20), to ensure a continued and uninterrupted service for passengers.
LCC has now decided to develop its own transport operations company owned and controlled by the Council. The company will operate the displaced Essential Fleet Services contracts while also providing the capacity to take on others where the commercial market fails to deliver cost effective or affordable options and the company can demonstrate value for money.
The new company, TransportConnect Ltd, will initially concentrate its focus on providing services in the south of the county where the need is most acute.
It is intended that the relevant Essential Fleet Services staff will transfer across to the new company under TUPE regulations and all parties will continue to work together to ensure a smooth transition and no disruption for service users.
Coun Richard Davies, Executive Member for Highways and Transport, said: “We realise these services are vital to those who use them, so it is important to find affordable solutions which will help us to maintain them.”
“This new approach will provide additional capacity into what was already a very limited market prior to the withdrawal of Essential. The Council have found it increasingly difficult to get contractors to cover contracts particularly those requiring wheelchair accessible vehicles and transport crews trained to convey passengers with additional needs.”
It is anticipated that TransportConnect Limited will begin running the displaced services later this year, with Essential continuing to provide them in the interim.