Transport for London (TfL) has denied it is considering introducing peak time fares for the capital's bike hire scheme, saying a mention of the idea was a small part of a document about the future of Santander Cycles.
In 2017 Serco's contract to manage the scheme expires and a new contractor will be needed. A document, titled Cycle Hire Re-let, which was circulated at a July TfL board meeting, explores future possibilities for the scheme, including integrating the bikes with the Oyster and contactless payment systems, and GPS tracking for bikes.
A TfL spokesperson has denied claims made in an Evening Standard article that TfL is investigating the introduction of peak fares that would see bike use at commuter hotspots charged at higher rates.
The Standard article refers to a sentence in the board paper that states: "GPS and 4G communications are being considered and early technical investigations have been positive in relation to varying trip pricing based upon the time of day or geographical location."
However, TfL's Thomas Canning told road.cc the mention of peak fares was one line in the document, and it is still early days, without a new contractor yet chosen. He said "surge charging", where prices increase due to higher demand, was not on the cards.
Canning said: "We don't do surge charging. We are a public authority, we aren't out to make a profit."
"The paper that was taken to the board was simply saying when the contract with Serco expires in 2017 we are going to need a new contractor. These are the types of things we would expect a new contractor to look at, it didn't go into fares or costs of anything."
"We have looked at the system we currently have and anyone taking it on after 2017 could look at doing something in future, but it's early days. Any decision wouldn't just be considered by TfL it would need to be decided as part of the wider fares package with the mayor, it would be under the next mayoralty".
Integrating bike hire with the Oyster and contactless card payment systems was part of Boris Johnson's 2013 Vision for Cycling, with a potential benefit being once integrated, someone who had already reached the fare cap across other parts of the network would be charged less for cycle hire.
Peter Blake, Director of Service Operations (Surface Transport) at TfL, said: “London’s Cycle Hire scheme has been a huge success with more than 43 million journeys made in five years. The current service contract expires in July 2017, and we are already exploring ways to make Santander Cycles even better. This may include improvements to the bikes as they are replaced over time, and that is why we are looking for a contractor who shares our ambitions for the scheme.”
The bike hire management contract will be for at least five and a half years. Contracts will be awarded in November 2016, to commence in August 2017, and management of the bikes could be carried out by a different company to the one developing the next generation of bikes.