Express & Star

West Midlands 'Boris bike' scheme hanging in balance as nextbike ditched

The firm behind the West Midlands 'Boris bikes' scheme has been ditched, leaving the future of the £2.6 million project hanging in the balance.

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Andy Street (centre) has championed the Boris bike scheme

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) has terminated the contract of German company nextbike, accusing the firm of breaking "countless promises" and "persistently" breaching its contract.

The scheme, which was championed by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, was supposed to see 2,000 cycles across Wolverhampton, Coventry and Birmingham by Friday, with 5,000 bikes eventually rolling in areas also including Sandwell, Walsall and Dudley.

Currently there are only 25 bikes and docking stations, all in Wolverhampton, with nextbike blaming technology issues and problems in finding a main sponsor.

Last week nextbike managing director Krysia Solheim said the issues had been resolved and the scheme was ready to go.

But TfWM has lost patience with the firm, and cancelled its contract this afternoon.

A source close to the scheme told the E&S that TfWM remains "committed" to a bike share project, and would be pressing ahead with its contingency plan, which hinges on sourcing a new provider.

The source said: “Nextbike’s handling of the bike share scheme has been a disaster and fallen well below the standards expected by Transport for West Midlands.

“Both TfWM and the public had been promised 2,000 bikes on our streets by today. There are currently 25. By whichever measuring metric you want to use, this is an unmitigated failure on nextbike’s part.

“The persistent broken promises and breaching of contractual obligations left TfWM with no choice but to terminate their contract.”

Nextbike needed to raise £2.6m in sponsorship to fund the scheme, but had drawn a blank until the recent announcement.

It is understood that TfWM were promised 2,000 bikes across the region's three cities by tomorrow, a figure that was later revised to 500 bikes in Wolverhampton.

TfWM were also said to be furious over nextbike proposals to increase rental fares, as well as the failure to bring in hiring through the Swift card system, which was supposed to launch last December.

The scheme has seen a slow take up in Wolverhampton, with around 1,100 individual rides taken since February, at an average of around seven rides per day.

It means that 18 of the 25 bikes are left idle each day.

A spokesman for nextbike said: "Nextbike operates in more than 200 territories and is proud to be the most extensive bike share scheme in the world.

"Our track record is second to none and only yesterday we were praised in Parliament for the inclusivity and community-minded nature of our ground-breaking projects.

"We are understandably disappointed by TfWM's decision to terminate the contract and we have had extensive discussions with the team in Birmingham about how to make this work.

"While we have already outlined the reason behind some of the delays – none of which were in our powers to change – we remained truly committed to delivering a bike share scheme that the West Midlands would be proud of."