Serco blames Edinburgh City Council for ‘Just Eat’ bike failures

Government contractor giants Serco have hit back at council bosses over the scrapping of Edinburgh’s ‘Just Eat’ bike scheme – saying it was the local authority which walked away from the deal.

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Serco bosses also said that despite making a loss from the scheme, they were keen to work with Edinburgh City Council leaders to look at alternative funding models, and to ‘continue to make a success of the scheme for the city’s people and visitors’.

The comments came after council bosses revealed this week that the bike hire scheme would be scrapped, before blaming Hampshire-based Serco for ‘opting out’ of a contract extension.

The Just Eat bikes will no longer be a familiar sight on Edinburgh's streets.The Just Eat bikes will no longer be a familiar sight on Edinburgh's streets.
The Just Eat bikes will no longer be a familiar sight on Edinburgh's streets.

The scheme, which launched in 2018 to much fanfare, was supposed to be self-financing, with revenue generated from bike rentals and sponsorship from Just Eat – but the scheme has been plagued by vandalism and theft which has pushed up costs.

Council leader Adam McVey said: “We are very disappointed that Serco have opted to walk away from the popular shared bike hire scheme in Edinburgh.

“When the bike hire scheme was first introduced the commitment was to operate it with no public funding and it is highly regrettable that Serco will not continue the scheme on that basis.

“The council recognises that the bike hire scheme has helped more people get access to bikes, enjoying the benefits of fast, reliable, healthier journeys around town.

“The withdrawal of Serco will come as a frustrating shock to many regular users of the bike hire scheme.

“It sends absolutely the wrong message at a time when so many of us are deeply concerned about the climate emergency and what we can each do to combat the effects of human activity.”

However, Serco has hit back at the council leader, saying it was in fact the council that is to blame for the scrapping of the scheme.

Sam Jones, micromobility director at Serco, said: “We’re disappointed that we have been unable to find a way to continue the Edinburgh bike scheme.

“We have explored every route possible to find extension options beyond our original three-year contract which expires on 17 September 2021.

“Those efforts continued through to last week when the council advised us that they were not able to extend the current contract.

“Serco has been running the scheme since September 2018 under a three-year concession.

“Despite the scheme making a loss over that time we have not walked away and we have stood by our commitments and continued to make a success of the scheme for the city’s people and visitors.

“As was reported in May 2021, funding options were being explored which would have enabled the scheme to carry on, however we were informed two weeks ago that City of Edinburgh Council has been unable to confirm those plans.

“We will continue to operate the service until midnight on 17 September 2021, at which point the service will stop.

“We will ensure that our customers are offered full refunds for existing tickets and passes and that there is a smooth demobilisation of the service.

“We know how disappointing this announcement must be for the many regular users of the scheme in the city, but unfortunately due to factors outside of our control, we are not in a position to continue the scheme.

“Serco operates successful bike schemes on behalf of authorities in several other localities and values their importance in providing citizens with environmentally responsible travel options.

“We hope the council will return such an offering to Edinburgh and we will review the council’s requirements in any future procurement exercise.”

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