First Bus £1 contract renewed


The University renews their contract with First Bus for a nominal sum of £1 until July 2023

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Image by Chris Sampson

By Gracie Daw

In August 2022, the University renewed a pre-existing contract they held with First Bus for the value of £1.The value of £1 is a notional sum. The renewed contract will be held with First Bus until July 2023 for “provision of bus services to and from the University campus”.

It was decided that the University would renew the contract with First Bus without a “prior call for competition” because only First Bus could fulfil the service required as there was an “absence of competition for technical reasons.”

The contract was extended because new student residences were planned to be finished in July 2022. These are thought to impact passenger numbers given that there will be an increase in the number of students living on campus. These works will now be completed a year later “due to Covid and other site issues”.

The passenger numbers are also thought to be affected by “a new remote working policy” that the University is operating, however it is “too soon to assess that impact over the longer term.”

Furthermore, in the original contract with First Bus, time was allowed for improvements and refurbishments to buses. The timescale of these improvements has been affected by Covid, therefore extending the contract allows for these to take place.

Finally, “the University wishes to conduct some market engagement”, which will allow them to assess the change in the market post-Covid, specifically with regards to “capacity, sustainable transport options, garage facilities and driver recruitment and retention”. They wish to do this before re-tendering the contract which they hope to do in early 2023.

Previously, the University held a 60 month contract with First Bus which was agreed in July 2015. Two companies bid for the contract, and it was awarded to First York Limited, or First Bus.

The July 2015 contract was agreed after the University sent out a contract notice for “provision of bus services” for routes which could include a “service running from York Sport Village to the Railway Station”, “Free shuttle service around University of York campus”, “Late Service running on University of York club nights from city centre to the University”, a “Study Shuttle – Late Service running from University of York library to Heslington East Campus and Tang Hall” and an “Early Service running from University of York to York Hospital.”

Currently, the First Bus services on campus are the 66 and 67 services from the York Sport Village to the York Railway Station, which are free for students between campuses. There is also the 6 service which runs from Campus East past the hospital to Clifton Moor. Passing through Campus West on its route from York to Bridlington, the East Yorkshire 45 service is also often taken by students.

Buses have long been a point of controversy on the University campus, having been mentioned in multiple campaigns by YUSU Sabbatical Officers. Most recently, current YUSU President, Pierrick Roger, promised to assess the contract between the University and First Bus and has stated that he would be willing to campaign to the University to cancel it. Speaking to Nouse before he entered office, he insisted that he would pursue “dialogue before more drastic action” but has stated that “First Bus has become worse and worse in my four years at York. It’s not acceptable.”

A University spokesperson said: “We know access to a frequent, affordable and reliable bus service is really important to our students and the University transport team, along with representatives from YUSU and GSA, meet regularly with First Bus to raise any issues and concerns. In terms of value, we’ve been working closely with First Bus York, and although some fares are rising in the City, we’re pleased to say the free zone around campus and the 20 tickets for £20 offer will remain.”

In response to this article, Ian Humphreys, Managing Director of First York, said: “We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with the University of York and will soon be introducing new buses to serve the routes. In readiness for the new academic year and to welcome students coming to study in York for the first time, we have free trial tickets for Freshers and new arrivals to discover the services we provide and get to understand the bus network.

“We are also retaining a £1 student fare for single journeys when bought in multiples of 10 or 20. Three free services will continue to operate between the Sports Village to The Retreat, Halifax College and Green Dykes Lane. These measures are designed to help students travel in comfort, with onboard features to provide connectivity on the move and good value fares to support them with reliable trips around the campus and into the city.”