Trial of E-scooter hire planned for Basildon, Brentwood and Chelmsford

E-scooters could soon be a common sight on roads all over Essex as the county council seeks to improve economic growth and connectivity by tapping into the rapidly growing mode of transport.

Essex County Council (ECC) is looking to start e-scooter trials in Basildon, Brentwood, Chelmsford and Colchester after the government legalised e-scooter hire services last month.

ECC says that introducing 500 scooters across the county could remove 1,000 car journeys and their associated pollution (and congestion) from Essex roads per day. E- scooters will be promoted as an alternative to short car journeys.

Full details of how the scheme will work have not been released but in Milton Keynes which has already started an e-scooter trial, users pay £1 via a smartphone app to unlock the machines and 20p for each minute thereafter.

It means hiring a scooter for 30 minutes would cost £7.

Department for Transport rules mean e-scooters must not be able to travel faster than 15.5mph. Riders will need to be over the age of 18 and hold at least a provisional driving licence.

If the bid for a trial is successfully accepted by the government the trial e-scooter scheme is estimated to run for one year. Private companies will be chosen by ECC to operate the hire schemes.

ECC says the proposal submitted to the DfT would help those in deprived areas access employment by giving them an alternate mode of transport and help secure sustainable transport.

There are two initiatives proposed for Basildon; one focusing on Pitsea where scooters would help link key employment sites in the town centre and the Basildon Enterprise Corridor. The second would focus on the first and last mile for commuters using local rail stations.

Future expansion plans of the e-scooter scheme could see schemes launched in the garden communities which are being planned for Dunton Hills, the border of Colchester and Tendring and Chelmsford over the next few years.

Birmingham, Cambridge, Coventry, Kettering, Liverpool, Northampton, Oxford, Peterborough and Southampton authorities are also looking to launch schemes.

A statement as part of a decision notice said the scheme “would help to reduce congestion and provide additional methods of travel which is required as a result of limited capacity on public transport as a result of the pandemic”.

It adds: “There are added benefits of increased walking for those participating in the scheme who walk to collect the e-scooters.

“Although all risk should be passed to the operator under the trial scheme there is always a reputational risk should the trial not be considered to be successful. There is also the risk that DfT do not consent to the trial after the procurement has commenced. Operators may also have limited experience in delivering the service and may not have the capacity to do so but this risk will be mitigated by procuring via lots.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter