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By Alan Millar
ONLY SIX of the 12 London Buses routes put out to tender by London Regional Transport have been awarded to other operators. Four have gone to National Bus Company subsidiaries and two to independents.
LRT sought tenders to run the 12 routes and another run by NBC's London Country, which tendered to operate all 12 of the London Buses routes which were scattered throughout Greater London.
The London Country route, in the Orpington area of North Kent is now being looked at again as part of a review of the local bus network in the area, some of which is run by an independent, Metrobus which tendered for the route and suggested how it could be run more efficiently.
A decision on the whole network will probably be taken towards the end of the year in the next batch of tendered routes.
By then, LRT plans to put a larger number of routes out to tender, most of them in the suburbs, but possibly including some of the London Country Green Line routes operated largely within the Greater London Council area.
Of the 17 operators which tendered for the routes in this first round, 12 were independents and one was London Buses. LRT planning director David Bayliss said last week that he expected independents would put on a "stronger show" in the next tendering round.
In spite of its bid to take on the entire package, London Country has only been awarcied two of the tenders. One is at the northern edge of the LRT system, from Potters Bar to Chingford, the other between Brixton and Lewisham in South-East London, which will be operated from National Travel London's Catford garage.
Another NBC company, Eastern National, is to take over a route between Romford and Hornchurch, and another between Enfield and Muswell Hill in North London.
The successful independents are Len Wright Travel, the West London luxury coaching specialist, which is to take over a route along the A4 between Slough and Hounslow, and Crystals of Orpington, which is to use 33-seat Leyland Cub midibuses on a route in Bromley, Kent.
Mr Bayliss pointed out that all of the contracted operators will be required to fix LRT roundels to the fronts, backs and sides of their vehicles, display LRT-standard destination information, and accept LRT Travelcards and other tickets. The independents will be issued with electronic ticket machines, but the larger operators will be able to go on using their existing equipment.
He added that the independents which had tendered to use coaches on the service proved uncompetitive.
The exercise will cut LRT's support for the 12 services from £4m to E3m, but it is spending an additional £250,000 on administration and monitoring of the tendered routes. A team of plain clothes and uniformed London Buses inspectors will be used to audit the operation of the services.
Should operators fail consistently to maintain quality standards or defraud LRT, a procedure of two written warnings will apply before the operator is likely to lose the route.
All of the tenders run for three years, and all revenue collected on the services will be retained by LRT, rather than any of the operators, even London Buses.
For London Buses, the decision has been taken as a vindication of its attempts to control its costs.
The new operators are expected to take over the services in July, subject to agreement of the London Regional Passengers' Committee and local authorities.