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Bike share scheme almost ready to roll out across West Midlands

The West Midlands’ nextbike scheme is set to be rolled out across the region after bosses revealed a major sponsor has been secured to kickstart it.

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The nextbike scheme, which piloted in Wolverhampton earlier this year, is set for a full roll out

The region-wide launch of the scheme, which has been in Wolverhampton since February, was delayed after the firm failed to find a sponsor to cover the cost of running it – thought to be around £2.6 million.

It hit another snag due to a global shortage of an element of the smart technology used in the bikes.

Now nextbike says it is ready to roll, with bosses saying a main sponsor for part of the scheme is due to be announced in the coming days and that the technology issue has been “resolved”.

It is the biggest scheme of its kind outside London and will eventually see 5,000 cycles for hire from bike stations across the region, including 900 in Wolverhampton and 300 in each of Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall. Birmingham will get 2,000 bikes.

Cycles are expected to be ready for hire in some areas by the end of the year.

'Bigger challenge than expected'

Outlining some of the issues with delivering the project, nextbike managing director Krysia Solheim said: “We originally planned to have the scheme in full operation by the end of 2019.

“Finding one title corporate sponsor proved a bigger challenge than originally expected, so we decided to change our strategy to focus on regional and shared sponsorship. We are delighted that we now have a sponsor in place to kick-off the scheme.

“Nextbike has also experienced an unfortunate difficulty in our global supply chain concerning a key element of the smart technology we use in our bikes.

"This issue has now been resolved and we now plan for bikes to be in use in the West Midlands later this year.”

Twenty-five cycles, which are similar to London’s ‘Boris Bikes’, were launched in Wolverhampton earlier this year, with bikes for rent from five stations around the city.

Bosses say that after an initial slow take up usage has picked up, with new figures showing more than 1,100 individual rides taken since the launch, at an average of around seven rides per day.

It still means that 18 of the 25 bikes are left idle each day, although bosses are confident that will change when a membership scheme is launched alongside the current pay-as-you-go option.

Sebastian Schlebusch, nextbike’s international development director, says his team are planning to meet council chiefs and MPs in the coming weeks to finalise the locations of docking stations.

More sponsors are being sought, with regional packages available from around £50,000.