Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bubi's testing phase testing patience

Everyone's curious about the Bubi bikes.
On its homepage this week, the Budapest Transport Center (BKK) acknowledged serious problems with the testing phase of the MOL Bubi bike-sharing system, now in two months delay past its April 7 launch date.

Bugs in the check-out technology have prevented testers from removing and reconnecting bicycles at the system docking stations, and BKK isn't satisfied with efforts to fix the problems. The company says it may be forced to cancel its contract with the system providers if they don't get Bubi rolling soon.

The telecom company T Systems leads the implementing consortium, with other partners being the Csepel bike maker and the Germany-based Nextbike bike-share firm.

According to reports on and the kerekagy blog, the MOL Bubi system is challenged because it brings together a number of advanced technological solutions (e.g. touch-screen dock terminals, on-board computers on the bicycles, a novel on-bike locking mechanism) that have never been combined together in any bike-sharing scheme.

In response, BKK said that it had done a thorough market investigation of system providers and that the T-System consortium's offer was selected from among several competing bids. One reason the offer was chosen was that it was the least expensive, partly due to tax advantages connected to the inclusion of Hungary-based Csepel. BKK said it understood that there were "risks" with the offer due to the need to develop new software solutions from scratch. And because of this, BKK had insisted that its service contract include a rigorous set of deadlines and financial penalties.

BKK said it was clear from February that there would be difficulties with the telecommunications aspect of Bubi, and therefore the planned launch date of April 7 couldn't be set in stone. However, now that the testing phase is going into its third month, BKK is invoking its contractual protections.

It noted that consortium leader T-Systems has already issued a public call for patience as it works with its partners to get Bubi rolling.

According to the BKK communication, the consortium is liable for an HUF 1.798 million penalty for each day of delay past April 7. As of June 4, the accumulated penalty was already HUF 104 million.

According to the contract, the penalty ceiling is HUF 179.8 million and this will be reached on July 16 if Bubi doesn't launch before then. BKK says at that point, it could demand payment of the penalty and terminate the contract. However, BKK says it has 100 staff working on testing and is committed to have the project succeed if at all possible.

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