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Second choice bidder to save Edinburgh guided bus scheme

EDINBURGH CITY Council will next month try to rescue its £50M flagship guided bus scheme following the collapse of negotiations with the preferred bidder.

It hopes to open talks with second choice bidding consortium Go Via.

The £50M Central Edinburgh Rapid Transit (CERT) scheme collapsed two weeks ago when the ConCERT consortium faxed the council to say it was pulling out.

The consortium, led by First Group, had agreed to build, finance and operate a guided busway from the airport into the city centre to link with a new rail station and park and ride project in partnership with the council.

ConCERT, which also includes Edison Capital, Abbey National Treasury Services with subcontractors Balfour Beatty and Central Parking Systems, pulled out after the council refused to contribute more money to the scheme.

A council report seen by NCE proposes that negotiations be opened up with the reserve bidder Go Via, made up of bus operator Go Ahead, Mowlem, VIA, GTI Systems and Volvo Bus. The report is due to go to before councillors today.

A Go Via spokesman said this week that it had asked for more information but said negotiations are expected to start next month.

First Group said this week that it had insisted on more public money because competing bus services had been added along a similar route to the proposed guided busway.

It claimed that bus services introduced by the city councilowned Lothian Buses would reduce fare revenue and increase risk for the operator.

'The circumstances have changed and that should be reflected in the level of public support that comes in the early years, ' a First Group spokesman said.

ConCERT's revised bid stated that it would only abide with the original agreement if the scope of the scheme was reduced.

This would include ditching one of the park and ride sites.

ConCERT also wanted Edinburgh to reduce Lothian's bus service to the airport and exclude footpaths and cycleways from the project.

ConCERT claimed the changes were not substantial enough to affect European procurement law, but Edinburgh this week disagreed.

The report also criticises ConCERT for not keeping to its obligations before pulling out of the scheme. 'ConCERT did not advance their design development and organisation in the early stages of the project to the extent that the council were led to believe. The council has not received any developed design, or operation and maintenance proposals from ConCERT.'

Edinburgh claims that ConCERT put its resources into modifications, redesigns and new services which 'were not asked for' by the council.

A spokesman for First Group said this week: 'We've given our reasons for pulling out and we reject the criticisms in the report. It's very sad that things haven't worked out but there's nothing more we want to add.'

The council is optimistic that agreement can be reached with Go VIA. The original Go VIA submission is 'more technically progressed' according to the report.

But the bid was higher than ConCERT's.

The original Go VIA bid was also praised for a proposal to develop an integrated ticketing scheme with the Lothian Buses services running close to the CERT route. 'A number of elements of the Go VIA bid were very positive, ' said a spokesman.

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