Thursday 29 February 2024
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Nottingham

£100,000 bus hire to keep hospital services running

Nottingham City Council will need to spend up to £100,000 hiring emergency buses for services to hospital because deliveries of specialist parts for its electric vehicle fleet have been delayed.

The Labour-run council owns the electric bus fleet for the Medilink and Locallink services, with some buses have been in operation for up to nine years and in need of repair.

Medilink services typically operate to and from Nottingham City Hospital and the Queen’s Medical Centre, providing transport for patients, visitors and staff.

Buses which are currently off the road and in the process of being repaired will be out of service for longer, the council says, due to the delayed delivery of specialist parts.

The authority has therefore approved a spend of up to £100,000, outside of a council meeting, to hire emergency buses to fill the gaps in regular service.

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Council documents say: “The council owns the electric vehicles which operate on the Medilink and Locallink services and major vehicle components, including batteries, power-trains and on-board chargers that are out of warranty.

“The vehicles require regular inspections, and the repair and replacement of components over their lifetime to keep the fleet in working order.

“These requirements take them out of service. As the vehicles get older, increased maintenance and replacement of parts is required, and in particular issues with battery performance have increased.

“Global supply chains or other factors are increasingly delaying the delivery of specialist parts for the vehicles, resulting in vehicles being out of service for longer than previously envisaged.

“As a consequence, emergency bus hire may quickly be required to support the Medilink and Locallink bus fleets if sufficient vehicles are not available to provide a reliable service for citizens.”

It is not the first time Medilink services have been beset with issues, with past problems resulting largely due to the national bus driver shortages.

NHS staff using the services had been reporting lengthy queues and missing buses.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the city’s two main hospitals, said towards the end of last year, two minibuses had been put in place as an interim measure to help remedy the issues.

The council documents also reveal a review of the ageing bus fleet will be conducted, with a report due out in the near future.

The city council adds: “The fleet operating the Locallink network are first generation electric buses and now over nine years old, and they are increasingly unreliable.

“This is increasing the cost of maintenance and affecting the quality reliability of services being available to citizens.

“A review of Locallink bus provision is therefore currently underway, and proposals for the future provision of the services will be brought forward in due course.

“Emergency vehicle hire that is required will be funded from by the existing public transport repairs and maintenance budget.”

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