I’ve been looking out for this, and it came out yesterday:

2009/S 30-044219

UK-London: buses and coaches

Transport for London (TfL) announced the winners of a public competition for design of a new bus for London in December 2008 in support of the Mayor of London’s intention to introduce a new bus design into regular service. London Bus Services Limited (LBSL) is responsible for taking this project forward. Further details of the competition and winners can be found on the TfL website at www.tfl.gov.uk.

LBSL wishes to establish a list of qualified suppliers to support the design, development, manufacture and trialling of prototype(s) and then series production and in service support of a new bus for London. The new design will consider the ideas put forward in the public competition, LBSL’s requirements for vehicles in service in London, and appropriate innovations proposed by supplier(s). Suppliers must be capable of providing design services, manufacture of both prototype and series production, and in service support, of advanced double deck vehicles for public service in London.
It is LBSL’s current intention to award an initial contract(s) in late 2009 with trials commencing in 2011 and introduction of new buses to service following on from successful completion of the trials in 2012.
LBSL will establish a register of Service Providers from which potential candidates will be selected for requirements arising from the development and introduction of the New Bus for London. It will be used for services and supply contracts as defined in the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2006. The negotiated procedure will be used for contracts to be awarded to qualified candidates.
LBSL reserves the right, in addition, to operate any of the award procedures available under the Directive and therefore the qualification may not be its sole means of awarding contracts. Entry onto LBSL list of registered contractors will be regarded as Stage 1 of the qualification process. Stage 2 will comprise the matching of the capability of each applicant on the register to the needs of each individual contract on the basis of objective criteria.

This does shed a bit of light on a couple of things.  First off, the competition results don’t merit anything more than ‘consideration’, no matter what Boris says in his press releases.  Secondly, we’re talking contract late 2009, trials 2011, service 2012, which in effect means the next Mayoral election campaign.  This therefore means that no bus routes will go from bendy buses to neo-Routemasters before the next Mayoral election campaign, as we’d expected.

I have to say that the second section is as clear as mud – do LBSL want to draw up a list from which they’ll select a single supplier, or a list of potential suppliers all of whom may find themselves employed?  What, in this instance, is a supplier?  Is it a bus manufacturer?  Is this just a standard bit of tender boilerplate?  Not being aware of any other similar schemes anywhere it’s hard to draw a comparison.

What is certain is that neither of the winning entries comes from a company that’s likely to qualify for all of the design, prototype, series production and in-service support requirements.  In reality, that means the bus majors, of which we have three in the UK.  Two of these already produce double-deck vehicles for London and the third (Optare) are presumably anxious to join them, having recently gone to the trouble of developing a new double decker bus.  In point of fact, all three companies are busy selling recently developed double deck bus designs, and given the current recession and the risks involved (the tender makes it clear that TfL/LBSL reserve the right not to award a contract at all), it’s quite possible that they won’t all enter, although I’d be amazed if none of them did – my money’s on Alexander Dennis.

A final note – given the hullabaloo about the ‘Super Express’ train order going to Hitachi in Japan, I’m sure Boris is anxious to avoid a foreign builder getting involved, but unfortunately the EU is quite keen on international trade.  Actually, so’s Boris, if I remember correctly.  Fortunately for Boris, I’m not sure the continent’s bus builders will want to get involved, not least because the contract is in sterling…

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