SPT criticised for low-value vehicle sales

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Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) has been criticised after selling off taxpayer-owned buses at a fraction of their original cost, the Scottish Herald has reported.

A number of Renault Master Lobus-conversion minibuses were bought by SPT for between £82-84,000 from Allied Vehicles. Three of the buses were sold for £450, while a further nine were sold for £1,250. All were sold to RS Used Cars.

The quango originally came under fire for the initial sale of three of the minibuses for £1,250 in September-October 2015 (CBW1219 Minibus).

SPT spent £7.5m between 2008 and January 2013 buying up more than 90 buses to form its own fleet. These were then used by operators on various taxpayer-funded contracts in exchange for a lower subsidy and on condition that the private bus companies shoulder the repair bill, an arrangement SPT stressed has ‘significantly reduced the contract costs.’

Minibuses and midibuses were supplied by Alexander Dennis, Trailertech (trading as Bluebird), Optare and Allied Vehicles and mainly used for Dial-a-Bus services for elderly and disabled passengers.

At the time of the initial order Mr Maclennan, then SPT’s Assistant Chief Executive, was also on the board of Allied Vehicles, a conflict he declared. It was the first time the family-run firm had manufactured low-floor, accessible minibuses.

After five years, SPT admitted that the vehicles were unreliable and needed to be replaced.

Since 2014, SPT has sold off 12 of its 16 Allied Vehicles’ buses as well as six Trailertech, one Optare, and five Alexander Dennis buses as part of a fleet replacement strategy projected to cost £8.6m over seven years.

The Scottish Herald claimed the total sale from these vehicles was £247,000, compared to the original spend of £2.14m.  The Bluebird vehicles also fared poorly when they were sold on, with five selling for £5,000 (original cost was around £74,000 when purchased new in the summer of 2009) and one selling for £500. By contrast, the Optare and ADL vehicles were sold for between 25% and 35% of their initial asset costs, which ranged from £121k to £101k.

One bus industry source told the Herard that the figures were absurd, and a commercial operator would expect to get at least £500 for the wheels alone, while a 12-year-old bus sold for scrap would typically recoup at least £1,000.

A spokesman for SPT said: “SPT is committed to delivering the best value for the public purse and our vehicle purchase policy is a cornerstone of that commitment.

“The cost of purchasing these buses has been recovered by way of reduced on-going contract costs and has enhanced the bus fleet in the SPT region. These low-emission and fully accessible vehicles provided vital public transport services for communities across the region.

“SPT’s purchase of vehicles helps to stimulate the marketplace, giving smaller SMEs the opportunity to compete against larger operators in tendering exercises for contracts requiring multiple vehicles. This helps to ensure competition and, subsequently, quality services for the travelling public, in a cost effective way.

“The vehicles in question were the first of their type to be developed and the manufacturer undoubtedly encountered a number of issues which affected reliability. However, subsequent vehicle purchases did not experience those issues and most have successfully completed more than 200,000 miles in service.”