Harrogate ZEBRA bid unrest after operator’s ‘excluded’ claim

Harrogate ZEBRA bid sparks controversy

The North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) bid to the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme has sparked controversy after one operator in Harrogate complained that it was “excluded” from the submission, which is among 17 to progress to the business case stage through ZEBRA’s standard mechanism.

Connexions Buses Managing Director Craig Temple says that it operates around 25% of services in Harrogate, but he claims that NYCC did not engage sufficiently around his business playing a part in the bid. It calls for over £8m from ZEBRA. If successful, 39 battery-electric buses will join The Harrogate Bus Company’s fleet, with parent Transdev Blazefield investing £11.5m in their purchase.

Operators and NYCC are currently working on a Bus Service Improvement Plan. Mr Temple adds that involvement of Connexions in the ZEBRA bid would have fed into those endeavours.

“We were questioned by consultants employed by NYCC approximately three months ago… and said that subject to being able to overcome [energy] supply and range issues, we would gladly be involved – yet we have been excluded,” he adds.

Mr Temple accepts that a difficulty exists with electricity supply at Connexions’ depot, but he believes that it could be overcome by ZEBRA’s infrastructure funding provision.

NYCC has refuted the claims. Assistant Director Travel and Environment Michael Leah says that in May, all operators, including Connexions, were asked to submit information needed for the ZEBRA bid for Harrogate.

“Beyond the interest from Transdev [Blazefield]… we received enquiries from a couple of operators. However, on further investigation, they were not in a position to pursue a bid at that time. We did not receive a response from Connexions.”

Mr Leah adds that as part of NYCC’s response to the National Bus Strategy for England, it has committed to engaging a consultant to support Connexions by investigating whether solar panels are a feasible solution to the electrical supply issue at its depot.