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Confidential's Freedom of Information Act request to Metrolink answered

Jonathan Schofield gets an answer - at last - about how much Stagecoach are paid by Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive

Written by . Published on March 23rd 2010.


Confidential's Freedom of Information Act request to Metrolink answered

Back in February this year we published our lovely and lush article about Metrolink (click here). This featured an interview with Metrolink boss, Philip Purdy, and the Managing Director for Stagecoach Light Rail, Andy Morris. Stagecoach operate the Metrolink system for Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Exec (GMPTE).

At one point there was this dainty little tossing to and fro of questions.

JS (Jonathan Schofield): Can we establish how much money Stagecoach is paid by GMPTE every year?

AM (Andy Morris): We have sufficient funding to do what we need to do in terms of delivery of the contract.

JS: Could you give me a figure?

AM: I can't do that. It's confidential between me and the client.

JS: That's just obstructive. This is public money. I could probably get the figure through the Freedom of Information Act.

AM: Then I suggest that's the route you choose.

That was the route we took, lodging a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on 17 February.

Andy Morris of Stagecoach is on the left and Philip Purdy of Metrolink is on the right

A calendar month to the day later we got this.

Dear Mr. Schofield,

Further to your FOIA request of 17 February, the amount paid to Stagecoach Metrolink during the financial year ended 31 March 2009 as a fee to operate and maintain the Metrolink system was £18.1 million. The contract with Stagecoach was awarded in July 2007 following a competitive tendering process to secure best value for money for GMPTE. The value of the contract reflects the significant costs of operating and maintaining the Metrolink network.

Yours,
Solicitor and Secretary
GMPTE

Odd that it took a month, but we presume there was a bit of debate about whether the various parties had to reveal the amount of public money being fired Stagecoach's way.

Of course the fact that it was public money meant they couldn't really say no.

To reiterate Stagecoach is the operator of the system. The company is contracted to provide the day-to-day running of Metrolink for GMPTE and look after issues such as the maintenance of the rolling stock and customer service. There was also this exchange in the interview.

PP (Philip Purdy): Ticket revenue is in excess of £20m with the revenue risk lying with us not Stagecoach.

JS: What is the total annual budget of Metrolink?

PP: That's a pretty hard question. I couldn't tell you that. We've got all the capital improvements so with that amount of money I couldn't tell you off the top of my head.

The big question over the FOIA request is: Why did we have to leap through such hoops to get the figure? £18.1m is at least less than the revenue coming in from tickets. Just.

Maybe it's just the secretive nature of business, but given this was public money there was no need for Stagecoach to be so cagey.

Maybe we should now ask how much profit they make from this £18.1m? Sadly that probably can be kept from us as part of the company's right to commercial confidence.

But are we getting value for money from Stagecoach?

This is almost impossible to tell, we're not an auditing authority. Presumably Stagecoach's performance is measured and monitored. The gut reaction of passengers over the last year or so would probably be a resounding no we don't get anywhere near value for money. Why for instance can't £18.1m deliver the simplest of operations such as an adequate passenger information system.

Perhaps that's why Andy Morris of Stagecoach wanted to truculently stand in the way of telling us how much of our money his company is taking out of the public purse?

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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousMarch 23rd 2010.

I am quite surprised that this has been released under freedom of information as it is commercially sensitive information (for which there is an exemption).

Hero
GordoMarch 23rd 2010.

You should by a couple of Stagecoach shares Jonathan, then ask your question at the Annual General Meeting of the company; you may get an answer.

Mark Garner, The PublisherMarch 23rd 2010.

So Jonathan, I am not to expect any advertising dollars off GMPTE/Stagecoach/ Metro link any time soon eh ;-)

CASMarch 23rd 2010.

I'm shocked you haven't used the freedom of information act to find out the council's breakdown of advertising spend. That would make interesting reading for you and your sales team.

AnonymousMarch 23rd 2010.

That's why that kind of info is usually commercially sensitive Cas!

CASMarch 23rd 2010.

Surely as they say in the article they have to publish where public money goes, this is just that. I think they'd give it out given they gave this out, it's no more commercially sensitive than the Stagecoach money.

AnonymousMarch 23rd 2010.

They would give the overall figure, but not break it down. It would make it very hard to negotiate good rates otherwise (that applies to many areas of public sector spending, not just advertising). Here's a link to the act itself: www.opsi.gov.uk/Acts/acts2000/ukpga_20000036_en_1… and a link to the bit covering commercial confidentiality which has details of all the exemptions. I think it makes an interesting read. But then, I am a sad bastard, hence my post is anonymous lol

CASMarch 23rd 2010.

I see what you mean, about the breakdown bit, not the sad bastard bit.

AnonymousMarch 24th 2010.

that may be quite interesting, how MCC spend their money - bearing in mind, they have four ads on this site......

The Tram Traveller's WifeMarch 24th 2010.

Odd how people have moved on here. Back to Metrolink. Perhaps the bigger problem is that Stagecoach probably have no competitor in the UK, as they are the one who seem to have experience running the other light rail systems in the UK. Thus no matter how there performance is monitored they will always get the money because there's no other alternative.

eh?March 24th 2010.

i'll do it

AgricolaMarch 24th 2010.

Shame that we can't get another operator. Stagecoach are a virtual monopoly at present in the Uk

BrewerMarch 28th 2010.

Bloody hell Mancon this was a bit of a coup. Could you do more of this please? More news based features or scoops would add a another string to your bow.

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