Dorset withdraws First contract at short notice

Dorset County Council withdrew First Hampshire & Dorset’s seven-year contract to operate a key interurban corridor in the county just three days before it was due to start, citing a ‘technical inconsistency’ in its assessment of bids.

New route 12 (Blandford-Bere Regis- Dorchester), extended to Weymouth in the peaks, was one of seven supported services — down from 35 — to survive Dorset’s £1million bus cuts (Buses last month).

The council says: ‘Prior to the new public services starting on Monday 24 July, a technical inconsistency was highlighted in the way the council had assessed the tenders for this contract. As a result, the council contacted First and other companies to say it was withdrawing the contract and will re-run the tender process over the coming weeks.’

As Buses closed for press, Dorset confirmed that a new tender competition was imminent, with a view to the contract starting in late October. In the meantime, Go South Coast’s Damory division agreed to continue its existing supported services X12 and 187, which First’s 12 would have combined and replaced.

Damory had only intended to run a limited commercial X12 (Blandford-Dorchester-Weymouth) with one journey linked to its new 20 (Salisbury- Blandford) gained from the council’s own fleet.

First had described its expansion into Blandford for the first time as a ‘very exciting new venture’. Timetables were released and marketing continued into the week before its intended introduction.