London Bus Tenders

Published2nd April 2020 AuthorJohn Hudson

London bus tenders: An insight

London bus tenders are unique. This is because London’s entire bus network is regulated by Transport for London (TfL), unlike the rest of the country’s.

What does this mean? Well, it simply means that transport providers in London answer to a higher authority. This results in:

  1. More accountability for transport providers.
  2. Fares and routes being specified by TfL.
  3. Tighter restrictions on dos and don’ts for transport providers.
  4. Greater sustainability of the transport service.
  5. Strict performance monitoring to ensure good quality.
  6. A structured tendering process.

But who is TfL?

TfL and London Buses are managed by the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority (GLA). The GLA is comprised of 25 elected London Assembly Members and support staff. The Mayor is responsible for creating policies and targets for London transport.

Sounds a little complicated, right?

Actually, it’s not so bad.

Delivering London bus services only requires you to answer to London Buses. The services you deliver will be shaped by the Mayor and the GLA’s policies. But in reality, the important name here is London Buses.

At Hudson Discover, we have a dedicated portal to help you find bus tenders – Transport Tenders. Our Opportunity Trackers meticulously scour all portals and collate them in one convenient location. Unsurprisingly, London bus tenders are the most commonly found.

London has a complex, integrated and structured transport network. Each year, approximately one fifth of the network is retendered – creating valuable chances for business development.

London’s transport network: An overview

London Buses delivers bus services on behalf of the Mayor of London. London Buses:

  • Plans routes
  • Specifies service levels
  • Is responsible for bus stations, bus stops and other support services.

The scope of the services provided by London Buses is vast. Approximately 120 routes alone operate on a 24/7 basis.

Times are changing. The climate emergency and health crisis have rocked London’s transport system. As such, London’s low emission bus fleet is an integrated mix of:

  • Hybrid buses. Electric propulsion systems meet Diesel-electric powertrains.
  • Electric buses. Purely powered by electricity, obtained from an external source.
  • Hydrogen buses. Hydrogen fuel cells powering electrically driven wheels.

As the fleet of London buses evolves, so must all related processes. The future of London Buses’ procurement will be increasingly driven by the search for environmentally friendly options.

Tendering for London bus tenders: Let’s look at the tendering and contracts system…

The key features of London bus tenders are:

  • Routes are tendered individually. However, they’re often tendered at the same time as other routes to facilitate service changes.
  • Contracts are designed to provide incentives to operators to improve quality of service.
  • Typically, contracts last for 5 years, with a potential 2-year extension.
  • Continuous releasing of Invitation to Tenders every 2-4 weeks. Between 15% and 20% of the network is tendered each year.
  • Tender evaluation is based on the most economically advantageous tender (MEAT). Here, the buyer takes into account quality and safety.
  • Contract payments are related to mileage operated and overall reliability of the service.
  • Requests for an example schedule. London Buses want to see how you as a supplier will service the route(s).

The standard process includes:

  1. Expressing interest on London Buses’ portal
  2. Receiving a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire
  3. If approved, you will be added to approved supplier’s list
  4. Framework agreement and Invitation to Tender issued
  5. Tendering opportunities released on a route-by-route basis.
  6. Responding to tenders for desired routes.

London bus tenders will contain a specification of requirements. These will usually include:

  • Service number route
  • Terminal arrangements
  • Frequencies
  • Type and capacity of vehicles
  • Minimum performance standards.

Operators will be asked to provide a schedule to deliver the services specified. As well as this, they’ll be asked for the total cost plus profit margin for providing the services.

Rail replacement buses

Another aspect of London bus tenders is rail replacement buses. These buses are procured by London Buses on behalf of London Overground, London Underground, the DLR and Crossrail.

Services provided here could comprise of two options. Planned works could see one or two vehicles operating in the early morning. Alternatively, weekend closures could require up to 50 vehicles.

The process for rail replacement London bus tenders is:

  1. Area identified by rail operator
  2. Specification created by London Buses
  3. Pre-qualified suppliers invited to tender.

Responding to London bus tenders

Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs):

London bus tenders begin with a standard PQQ. PQQs are used as the initial stage of the tendering process. Buyers ask suppliers to submit PQQs to ensure that only those eligible for the contract are able to bid. Essentially, it’s a way for the buyer to filter through potential suppliers.

Now, it’s common for PQQs to be known as SQs. This stands for selection questionnaire. This is an updated version of the PQQ, introduced by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).

Generally, PPQs cover the status of your business, such as relevant policies and procedures, finances and quality control measures.

More specific questions asked may include:

  • Demonstration of passenger safety procedures
  • Demonstration of Health and Safety compliance
  • Company licences or certifications
  • Financial status.

Invitations to Tender (ITT):

For the next stage of the tendering process, the buyer will issue an ITT document. Generally, the buyer will only select businesses that have progressed from the PQQ stage of process. If you don’t pass this stage of the process, the buyer has decided that you aren’t eligible for the contract.

What’s included in the ITT document will depend on the contract itself. However, there are certain things that you can expect to see in an ITT, such as:

  • A cover letter. The buyer will issue a cover letter to all suppliers that have passed the PQQ stage. Basically, this is to inform suppliers that they have been shortlisted and can now bid for the contract.
  • A scope of procurement. This tells the supplier information about the tender, such as dates, length and approximate value. 
  • Submission terms. This explains how to actually submit the tender, including the submission date. It’s also common for buyers to include a timeline with every step of the tender process.
  • A buyer profile. Simply put, this is information about the buyer. This could include things such as their missions and objectives, as well as their background and need for specific services.
  • The award criteria. This will tell suppliers how the buyer is going to assess and evaluate the tender responses. This should tell you how the MEAT is assessed through quality and cost ratios. For example, the buyer could mark quality at 60% and the price at 40% of the overall marks.
  • Specification. Arguably, this is one of the most important aspects of the tender. This is where the buyer outlines the contract, the services being procured, and the questions they want you to answer. No matter how long this document is, it’s important that you read every word. Missing details, no matter how small, could impact your tender response. 
  • Separate appendices. This details any information that wasn’t included in the rest of the documents. This could include pricing schedules, a quality response template, terms and conditions, and other supplementary information.

What should you include in your response?

Now you know what to expect from an ITT document. But what should you include in your tender response?

Typically, a response to a London bus tender will include:

A pricing document

Here, you may be asked to include the cost of the service, plus a profit margin. Remember, buyers are looking to source the MEAT.

You might be thinking, what is the MEAT and why is it important in tendering? Well, as we’ve already established, MEAT stands for most economically advantageous tender. Basically, it means that buyers are looking for the best services for the lowest price.

When buyers are evaluating the MEAT, they consider other aspects of the service to be delivered, not just the cost. This could include things such as:

  • Quality
  • Technical ability
  • The proposed design
  • Accessibility
  • Social characteristics
  • Environmental benefits
  • Innovation
  • Customer service or ongoing support
  • Ability to deliver on time.

A written quality response

Buyers will expect you to include a written quality response. This should outline how you will deliver each aspect of the London bus tender. Topics covered in questions may include:

  • Ensuring quality
  • Ensuring safety
  • Ensuring timeliness
  • Describing your service delivery
  • Details about your staff and how you will develop them
  • Details of your vehicles and how you will maintain them
  • Details about your premises
  • How you sustain competition
  • Relevant appendices.

Undoubtedly, London Buses will want to see evidence that you are a safe, capable supplier. Certain policies/procedures may be required as part of the tender response.

The evaluation process for London bus tenders

So, now you know what to include in your tender response. How will your tender submission be evaluated?

Let’s look at the evaluation process for London bus tenders!

As we’ve already established, buyers are looking for the MEAT. This is to ensure that the tender process is fair and transparent throughout. For example, this evaluation method prevents buyers from selecting suppliers on price alone. Similarly, it stops companies from awarding contracts to suppliers based on other factors, such as favours and existing relationships.

However, more than that, London bus tenders are evaluated against specific criteria, such as:

  • Pricing
  • Ability to deliver quality services
  • Staffing – ability to recruit, train and retain suitable staff members
  • Premises – status of the supplier’s depot. Similarly, the ability to obtain a suitable depot.
  • Vehicles – the type of vehicles that will be used to deliver the contract. This includes additional features and the condition of the vehicles throughout the duration of the contract.
  • Financial status
  • Schedules
  • Health and Safety Policy records
  • Sustaining competition for tendered routes.

With London bus tenders, submissions are evaluated by a small team of skilled technical and commercial staff. All contract awards are approved by the Tender Evaluation Committee, which includes the directors of London Bus Services Ltd.

If necessary, suppliers may be contacted to clarify any areas of their tender submission that require further explanation.

Tips for winning London bus tenders for your business

Our tips for tendering for London bus services are:

Keep up to date with current tenders

The sooner you find out about a tender, the better. It gives you more time to prepare. After all, producing a winning tender response takes time. It can take weeks, or even months, to get it right.

Scheduling workloads, allocating responsibilities and agreeing deadlines is best done in advance. There will be forms to complete and documents to prepare and collate. Give yourself a head start on preparing a successful response.

Only bid on London bus tenders that you can deliver

It’s important that you only bid on London bus tenders that you can deliver.

Complete all tasks

As part of the PQQ and ITT stages, make sure all documents requested have been completed and uploaded. These may range from policies to certifications, from financial accounts to a draft schedule. As key supporting elements, due diligence is required from start to finish.

Align your resources with the specification

With London bus tenders, there will undoubtedly be specific requirements about your resources. For staff, this may be qualifications or certain training. If you can evidence this – great. Demonstrate that you fulfil requirements. The same is true for your vehicles. London Buses may specify seat numbers, efficiency, or length. It will be key to show that you have taken these into account.

If you cannot currently commit to requirements stated, explain how you will.

Consider alternative arrangements

Innovation is impressive and sustains the current network. Review all requirements of the specification and identify areas for added value or benefits. Is there a way you could improve the service if you delivered it? How might you create added value for your passengers? Is there a more suitable vehicle to propose?

Break down the question

To improve your chances of securing London bus tenders, you should break down the question. This will make it much easier to produce your tender response and address the buyer’s questions.

What do we mean by this? Well, the simplest way to break down the question is to literally pick out the different elements. Buyers often ask multiple questions in one – this can be confusing to say the least!

Evidence, evidence, evidence!

Whether it’s the PQQ or the ITT stage, evidence is essential.

For the PQQ stage, you may be asked to provide 2 – 3 contract examples. Ideally, this evidence will be from the past 3 – 5 years. London Buses wants to see where you have delivered similar work before. If possible, it is important to include:

  • 1 or more contracts of a similar scale and scope
  • 1 or more contracts for a similar client to London Buses or TfL.

Any combination of the above is key to demonstrating your competency during the PQQ stage.

Remember, it’s just as important to include evidence in your tender response. When responding to quality questions, back up points with evidence. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Where have we done this before?
  • Why was it successful?
  • How could we replicate it?

Here are some tips for building case studies for your tender submission:

  • Get in touch with your current clients and ask for testimonials. As long as the contract is relevant to the buyer’s project, you’ll benefit from recent case studies.

 

  • Don’t just pick a random client and submit a testimonial from them. If they aren’t relevant to the buyer’s contract, they aren’t useful to you. This also applies to using generic material from previous tender submissions. You should always work to adapt your content to align with the buyer’s specifications.

 

  • Use the STAR format when developing your case studies. For example, outline the situation, task, action and This will help you break down the case study to ensure that you understand the buyer’s requirements.

Proofread your response

To be in with a chance of winning a London bus tender, it’s absolutely crucial that you proofread your response.

Sometimes, your tender response will be the buyer’s first impression of your business. Now, imagine if your tender response is full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. What kind of impression do you think that will give the buyer? That’s why it’s vital that you thoroughly and carefully proofread your response before submission.

You might find it difficult to proofread your own response. It’s easy to miss mistakes in our own work, especially when we’re working with lengthy documents.

To combat this, however, you could ask someone else to proofread your response for you. A fresh pair of eyes can be great for picking up minor errors that you might have missed. That way, you can be confident that you’re submitting your response completely error-free.

Why bid for London bus tenders?

Simply put, these are the crème de la crème of UK bus tenders. You will need to have experience under your belt to do so, but the benefits are undeniable:

  • Once you service one bus route, it will become easier to tender for others.
  • A 5-year contract (stable income) would be indispensable for any business.
  • Being part of a transport system driving environmental innovations.

How could Transport Tenders help me?

A subscription to Transport Tenders could see your bus tendering efforts streamlined. As part of your regular fee, you are entitled to:

  • Unlimited access to the Transport Tenders portal. Be the first to view new London bus tenders and increase your chances of success.
  • A dedicated Account Manager. On hand to help you with any and all bus tendering queries.
  • A daily email bulletin. A list of bus tenders published each day, helping you to stay ahead of the curve.
  • A free 20-minute phone consultation. Chat to our Hudson Succeed team about a London bus tender you’ve found. Our experts can provide advice, guidance and insight to support your tendering efforts.

Worried about tracking opportunities for London bus tenders? No need! Transport Tenders from Hudson Discover will do the work on your behalf. Our Opportunity Trackers scour portals every day, looking for the latest bus contract notices.

You could receive a daily bulletin straight to your inbox containing all the bus tenders published that day.

Sound good? Thought so. Contact Hudson Discover today for your free demo or free trial to take the hassle out of tender tracking.

Remember to subscribe to our Weekly Transport Business leads newsletter to receive all the latest transport contract opportunities from around the UK including:

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Found a bus tender and need additional support? Our expert team at Hudson Succeed would love to help. Get in touch to learn more about our bespoke bid writing services.

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