The ACT government's electric bus trial has had a temporary setback, with Transport Canberra forced to find a new manufacturer after the contract fell through.
While three electric buses were scheduled to be delivered by February 28 for the 12-month trial, transport minister Meegan Fitzharris said it became apparent that the contractor, Avass Bus Manufacturing, would not meet the delivery deadline.
"As a result, we decided that the best approach would be to terminate the current contract and announce a new Request for Proposal (RFP)," Ms Fitzharris said.
"As part of this new RFP, Transport Canberra has been able to broaden the scope and we are now seeking tenders for alternative fuel buses, with a particular focus on electric buses."
The government now expects the bus trial to start in the later half of this year.
But Avass chief executive Allen Saylav said their buses would have been ready by now had the government had granted them the three-month extension they requested.
"They would have by now had the buses if they'd given us this extension but obviously because they cancelled the contract we haven't emphasised that project, so they're not ready now, but they would have been," Mr Saylav said.
While he would not disclose how much the contract was worth, he said no money had exchanged hands. It would have been the company's first fleet order.
"We were actually producing world class products for them as a flagship so they could demonstrate a bus that had never been seen on Australian roads, with all of the features and performance and everything we'd put into it to make it something that was going to stand out so they could showcase and do whatever they were going to do with it but they chose that path, which is fine," Mr Saylav said.
Avass general counsel Matthew Sandman said the company had needed extra time for testing.
"We're dealing with cutting-edge technology here and we wanted a bit more time to customise these buses and to get them to the standard we wanted to give to Canberra," Mr Sandman said.
The company did not rule out putting their hand up for the new tender, which has just opened.
The electric bus trial was announce last June in line with the ACT's move to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the government's original announcement, three electric buses were due to be delivered by last December, with the buses to hit the road in January. Avass were contracted in August to build the buses.
The government is also set to buy 80 new buses over the next four years as it expands the ACT bus network.
"This trial is just another way the ACT government is working to improve our public transport system so it has a more modern fleet which is convenient, efficient, affordable, comfortable and reliable – a genuine alternative to driving," Ms Fitzharris said.
"We also are one of the most forward thinking jurisdictions in terms of working to protect the environment and lower greenhouse emissions."
Tender documents indicate the government would prefer to trial electric or electric-hybrid buses but is open to other ideas.
The outcome of the trial would be judged on the battery capacity and charging time of the buses, their drivability and comfort, as well as their cost.
The new tender closes on April 13.
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