School Bus Tender

Information and updates relating to the upcoming open tender for daily bus and technology bus services.

Ministry of Education is the second largest provider of passenger services in New Zealand. This includes:

  • managing approximately 7,000 vehicle journeys each school day
  • carrying 40 million passenger journeys each year
  • assisting over 100,000 students safely to and from school every day
  • managing contracts for 78 transport providers for bus services, specialised transport, and ferry services.

Scope of the tender

The current daily bus and technology bus contracts expire on 31 December 2020. Under the Government procurement rules, the Ministry must go to open tender.

This tender only includes Daily Bus and Technology routes, covering approximately 1,500 Daily Bus routes and 700 Technology routes.

Specialised School Transport Assistance (SESTA) for students with complex mobility needs, and Direct Resourcing (DR) are not part of this tender.

Pre-tender engagement

The Ministry consulted with transport operators and supply chain representatives in 2018 on the high level vehicle specifications. In August 2019, a pre-tender market roadshow provided further information on the tender requirements and timeframes in advance of the open tender.

Updated Timeline

The tender is expected to be open between October and December 2019 for eight weeks. Tender bid evaluations are expected to be concluded and contracts awarded in April 2020. The Ministry requires a seamless continuity of service for schools and students when current contracts end in December 2020, and when new services commence at the start of Term 1, 2021.

A provisional timeline is shown below. All timeframes are indicative and we reserve the right to amend this timeline where necessary.

Indicative school bus tender timeline

Download the latest bus tender timeline [PDF, 92 KB]

Tender requirements

The tender will set new service requirements to contribute to the Government’s broader economic and environmental benefits. We will require the use of newer vehicles with improved emissions, and offer grouped routes to achieve economies of scale and to simplify contractual arrangements. We are required by Government to use this tender process to deliver “public value” through a combination of broader benefits, quality attributes and price. The tender will therefore not be evaluated on the lowest price conforming tenders. Respondents will need to show how they will meet broader outcomes and quality objectives at a fair price rather than focusing solely on lowest cost.

Route Groups

Routes will not be offered individually. The Ministry will group routes using the following principles.

  • Principle 1: Routes will be grouped to encourage economies of scale and simplify engagement between the school, transport operator and Ministry.
  • Principle 2: The alignment of groups will be consistent with the natural formation of a group of schools within a defined geographical region and, as far as possible, aligned with Regional Council boundaries.
  • Principle 3: The size of the group of routes will include all daily bus services required of a group of schools and may include technology services, and support a sustainable business model with enough size and scope for competitive tensions to exist. When the volume of technology routes significantly outweighs the number of daily buses, the groups will be split into two offerings. 
  • Principle 4: The Ministry retains the ability to determine which group any given bus route will belong to.

Operator Arrangements

In order to enable all operators regardless of size to participate, the Ministry will welcome tender bids from various types of organisational structures, including sub-contracting arrangements, and/or joint-ventures. This is intended to ensure that high quality but smaller sized operators can participate. More information will be included in the tender release.

Further information

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