Re: Re: The Velibs are coming?
JCDecaux to gain €63m from bike scheme
French advertiser to earn €9m more than Dublin city council from “bikes-for-billboards” project
Colin Coyle and Ruadhan MacEoin
It was christened the “free bike scheme” but JCDecaux, the French advertiser chosen to run a “bikes-for-billboards” project in Dublin, actually stands to earn €9m more than the city council from the project.
The contract signed by the council and the advertising company, which has been released to The Sunday Times after a ruling by the Information Commissioner, reveals that JCDecaux is due to make €63.38m in advertising revenue over 15 years from the 72 advertising billboards it has been allowed to erect.
By contrast, the council will receive benefits estimated to be worth €54.36m over 15 years, including 450 bicycles, 40 bicycle “stations”, €23.4m worth of advertising on the billboards, and a “wayfinding” system of 100 “fingerpost” signs directing tourists to attractions in the city.
The council has said JCDecaux was chosen to operate the scheme because its proposal was “costneutral”. Originally due to start two years ago, the scheme will now begin in mid-September. Bikes will be free to hire for the first 30 minutes, and are then paid for.
The city council had refused to release details of the contract, citing a confidentiality agreement with JCDecaux. Emily O’Reilly, the Information Commissioner, ruled, however, that “the public had not been given sufficient information on which to assess the council’s handling of the matter and to understand what the city might stand to gain or lose”.
O’Reilly also criticised the council for not releasing all the records relating to the deal to her office until a late stage in her investigation. The council apologised, saying it had “inadvertently omitted” some documents due to an oversight. She said that “the very existence of secrecy [with the process] carries with it the scope for abuse”.
Based on JCDecaux’s advertising rate card for the billboards, the company could have made in excess of €170m had every one of its “metropole” units and smaller “metropanel” advertising stands been rented continuously over 15 years.
But a spokesman for the council defended the deal, saying that the projected net revenue of €63.38m had been agreed almost three years ago, before an advertising downturn took hold.
“My understanding is that, based on the current market, the company is not achieving the projected rates agreed in 2006. The deal has worked out well for the city, and our advertising campaigns, particularly the anti-litter campaign and a drive to get people to visit their local library, have been a huge success,” he said.
In an internal council report conducted on 32 of the advertising units, it was found that only eight were free from “road-user infringements”, with some blocking drivers’ sightlines and causing “blind spots”.
JCDecaux agreed to remove 50 of its existing advertising hoardings to reduce “visual clutter” in the city. Details of the negotiations reveal that the council originally planned to give JCDecaux permission for 170 advertising units, in exchange for 500 bicycles and a number of public lavatories. Under that agreement, Decaux would have made €125m in advertising revenue over 15 years, while the council would have recouped €101m in benefits. This deal was later renegotiated to give JCDecaux permission to erect 120 advertising hoardings, but only 72 were granted planning permission following appeals to An Bord Pleanala from locals and An Taisce.
Ian Lumley of An Taisce said: “Dubliners appear to have got a poor deal. There should have been an environmental impact assessment, and new units built close to historic buildings should have been referred to us.”