This is the response I received to my complaint about the failure to publicise the timetable for the installation of the new digital information bus shelters.
‘Thank you for your letter concerning the bus shelter installation programme.
Our concessionaire partner, Valo, is currently finalising details of the installation programme. As you can expect, this is a complex infrastructure project with many moving parts. The logistics of deploying smart bus shelters with Digital Advertising panels at 185 sites across the entire borough include working with Planning to gain digital advertising consents, managing third parties for the fabrication and install of bus shelters, advertising displays, wayfinding screens, environmental sensors, full fibre connectivity, free public Wi-Fi, power, and other technology.
The project has been progressing well despite supply chain issues due to the pandemic, worsened by the war in Ukraine which have impacted the programme timings. Manufacturing of the equipment is underway, civil engineering and installation works are being planned with contractors. Detailed discussions with and applications to UKPN to secure power connection to sites are underway. Most importantly above all, Valo is diligently working through the Planning process to gain Digital Advertising consent through the Croydon Planning Authority. This is a lengthy process. Each site requires an individual application which goes through a consultation with multiple external parties prior to review by planning officers to determine a decision. Valo has submitted a number of applications and awaiting consents whilst preparing applications for remaining sites. Consents are required before any installation can commence. We are working closely with Valo to finalise the installation programme and will be able to publish details in coming weeks. Thank you for your patience whilst the work is being carried out.’
Opama Khan, Head of Digital Services, Access & Reach
‘Thank you for this detailed explanation.
The handling of this contract has been a disgrace. The previous provider took the shelters away to the inconvenience of the elderly and those with limited mobility, as well as others when it was raining. The public was promised that the programme of installation of the new shelters would be last September/October. The excuse of the Ukraine War is unbelievable without an explanation of how it has effected the contractor.
It is now clear that the Council should have extended the contract with the previous provider until the new contractor was ready to install. It failure to do so feels like another skeleton in the cupboard.
Why is planning permission needed given the new shelters replace existing ones? Have the planning applications been submitted and if so on what date. If not when will they be submitted? I have not seen any for Norbury’s replacements?
I hope that any attempt by the contractor to seek additional funding from the Council will be rejected. When they submitted their bid they would have known all the complexities involved in the installation and the risks involved.
As the new shelters will be using energy does the contract contain clauses about how any increases in energy costs will be met?’
Councillor Leila Ben-Hassel’s Comments
I copied this to my Councillor Leila Ben-Hassel who has commented back.
‘They allocated the staff who was working on this project onto emergency tasks throughout the peak period of the covid pandemic.
When they resumed the project the chief digital officer had left. The rest of the team resumed work on the project.
When they put the project on hold they did liaise with JC Decaux and asked them for an extension. JC Decaux didn’t want to play ball because they knew they had lost the contract.
Thé issue in my own opinion is that the new company they working have little experience for such scale of design and build projects.
I did enquire before the elections and I was advised that the shelters should be put back in June – I didn’t tell June to residents because I don’t believe this will be the case as it hasn’t been to planning yet. Been saying before September.
It did come to planning for an outline application – they grouped all locations and it’s not just shelters. Includes digital advertising boards too.’