No more e-scooters in West Midlands as Voi contract comes to an end without replacement operator

  • ITV Central reporter Raheem Rashid speaks to the Mayor of the West Midlands

It will no longer be possible to hire an e-scooter in the West Midlands as the current contract with operator Voi has come to an end.

In an exclusive interview with ITV News Central the Mayor of the West Midlands says he and transport bosses in the region are still searching for a replacement operator for the region's e-scooters.

A tender for the new contract opened last summer, which Voi was free to enter, but the procurement process hasn't yet finished.

The mayor admits he doesn't yet have a date for when the new operator might be appointed - meaning e-scooters will be out of action indefinitely.

Transport bosses say they're aware the gap "will be hugely inconvenient for the many existing e-scooter rental customers."

The company emailed customers to inform them of the decision. Credit: Voi/email

Voi told ITV News Central that over the coming weeks they will be removing their scooters and parking racks from the streets and contracting riders directly about arrangements for any outstanding rides and passes.

Since the scheme's launch by the Mayor of the West Midlands and Birmingham City Council in 2020, there have been many recorded cases of rule breaking and misuse.

Riders have been captured using scooters without helmets, riding in pairs, driving on pavements, and those under 18 have been using them.

But as Voi’s contract ends, Andy Street insists the pause in e-scooter hire has nothing to do with health and safety.

He said: “The end of the contract is coming as planned, not because of any breach in the security procedures.

"That’s the purpose of the pilot, to come to an end, to assess it…and then we will bring forward a new operator because the critical point, is, of course, we want to learn the lessons of the pilot, so that we’ve got a safe scheme going forward.”

  • People living in the West Midlands hope that lessons will be learned from the trial - including the uncle of a young boy who died while riding one.

"Even if there are rules set out, the difficulty is that it’s being abused" says Ish Ali, the uncle of a young boy killed on an e-scooter.

Mustafa Nadeem 12, died while riding a Voi scooter on his way to school in December last year. His uncle says the rules preventing under 18s from riding e-scooters are too easy for young people to break. 

He said: “Even if there are rules set out, the difficulty is that it’s being abused.

"This is well known and we can see this on the Voi website, I know that the point’s being emphasised…but is it actually getting across?”

What lessons have been learnt from Voi's escooter scheme?

"On the two incidents, I can reassure you that we examined immediately to ensure that the safety procedures operated by Voi had not been breached.”

When asked if he was content with Voi’s performance during the pilots and trial scheme, the Mayor responded: “That is all a private matter between Transport for West Midlands and the contractor, but to be really clear, we have examined very closely how these scooters got into the hands of young people, and that is not a failing on Voi’s part.” 

Are e-scooters safe?

Since trials began across the country, e-scooter accidents have skyrocketed.

Figures in the year ending June 2022 show that there were nearly 1,437 casualties in collisions involving e-scooters, compared to 1,033 in the year before.

While the number of people who've died in e-scooter accidents has tripled:

Transport for West Midlands say, "The e-scooter operation has provided significant transport and environmental benefits to the region with a minimum of 25% of the 2.2 million trips taken estimated to have used a scooter instead of a car – easing traffic congestion and reducing pollution."

What do Voi say?

A Voi spokesperson said: 

“Our contract to run the e-scooter trial for West Midlands Combined Authority is due to expire next week. Over the coming weeks we will be removing our scooters and parking racks from the city. We are contacting our riders directly about arrangements for any outstanding rides and passes.

“Since September 2020 we have seen 141,000 riders take 2.4 million rides in Birmingham, covering 3.14 million miles. Each week we have 10,000 regular riders making 30,000 journeys - 40% of which are commuting to work or higher education.

“We are very sad to be discontinuing our operations in Birmingham. 

“We remain optimistic about the future of micro-mobility in the region and hope to be back to serve riders soon.”