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Gloucestershire Business News

Contract for new Arle Court transport hub estimated to be worth £6.5m

A bus contract worth up to £6.5m for the new Arle Court Transport Hub may soon be up for grabs.

Gloucestershire County Council's Cabinet is due to green light the search for businesses to run the bus services and a café concession.

A report going to a meeting on Wednesday (March 27) said a company will be sought to run a

high frequency service between the £33m hub and Cheltenham town centre for an initial period of seven years, with the option to extend for three more years.

The estimated value of the seven year contract is £4.55m rising to £6.50m if extended to 10 years.

The report also reveals there is an estimated £1.736m shortfall in council funding for the bus service.

A 20-minute service costs £433,000 a year and can be paid from existing budgets for the full 10 years- £258,000 from the current park and ride bus service budget, £75,000 from bus service revenue and £100,000 from expected parking income.

However, it is proposed to run a 15-minute bus service from the hub which is estimated to cost £650,000 per annum- a £217,000 difference.

The council said the extra funding has been secured for the first two years of the contract only.

The report said the council will have to review passenger demand and the service frequency in year three and determine if extra funding needs to be found.

The report said: "To increase footfall at the new Arle Court Transport Hub it is identified that a higher intensity park and ride bus service is operated more frequently and for longer hours.

"This will run at an initial frequency of every 15 minutes using larger vehicles with an aspiration to increase to every 10 or 12 minutes.

"The increased frequency will boost usage and help support modal shift from private car to more environmentally sustainable bus services."

The council also wants to find a business to invest an estimated £100,000 to fit out and operate the onsite café as a "panini type coffee shop".

The initial contract will run for 10 years with the option to extend for a further five-years and it said it is too early to estimate the income generated.

The report said: "Attracting a suitable supplier and an income stream may be challenging and extensive market testing and engagement will be crucial.

"It is acknowledged that it will take time to build up a customer base at the café. Therefore, the operation is not expected to make an operating profit for a period of time.

"In view of this, we are exploring the commercial structure of a concessionaire to incentivise suppliers to bid for the proposed contract."

The council's current contract with Stagecoach for a 20 minute service between the existing park and ride and Cheltenham is due to expire in November.

It is anticipated that the new bus service contract will be awarded in July 2024 and begin on November 24, 2024.

The café contract will be awarded in June 2024 and start in August 2024.

Kier Construction and Knights Brown are working on site to build the hub and a topping out ceremony  was held in January.

The 860-space multi storey car park due to be completed this summer and the rest of the site due to be completed by November 2024.

Cllr David Gray (C, Winchcombe and Woodmancote), cabinet member for environment and planning, said: "The redeveloped Arle Court Transport Hub will be a big boost to sustainable transport choices for both local residents and visitors to Cheltenham, helping to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality in the town.

"The delivery of this upgraded hub is a key element of the current Gloucestershire Local Transport Plan 2020-2041.

"The improved hub is a major step forward in realising that plan, offering nearly double the amount of parking on site, an increased amount of bus stands and fast electric vehicle charging, whilst increasing the convenience and comfort for customers using the well-connected services."

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