City Car Club has signed a new agreement with Liverpool City Council three years after its last attempt at establishing a pay-by-the-hour car hire scheme in the city ended.
City Car Club traded in Liverpool before after acquiring rival WhizzGo but that contract ended in December 2009 when a number of issues, says James Finlayson, managing director of City Car Club, led to the city becoming unviable for the scheme.
Finlayson said last time the council's parking services were not on board with the operation and this led to issues with customers parking illegally in unauthorised spaces. There were also instances of vandalism which affected the running costs. Finlayson added that he hoped the council would this time adopt the scheme itself as a major employer and encourage staff to use the cars, which would create critical mass to enable the fleet to grow.
Following a competitive tender, the council has now awarded a three-year contract to City Car Club. Liverpool will become the 15th city or town where City Car Club operates.
City Car Club has 29,000 members and 700 vehicles across the UK. There are 40 cars in its Manchester fleet. The business turns over £5m from 200,000 bookings a year and produced its first profit in 10 years of trading in 2012.
It is expected the new scheme will be up-and-running by October. City Car Club will launch in Liverpool with an initial fleet of eight vehicles – seven cars and one van – at the following locations:
- Preston Street, three cars
- Moorfields, two cars, one van
- Old Hall Street, one car
- Brook Street, one car
Motorists will be charged an annual membership fee of £60, with the charge for businesses set at £30.
Finlayson said he hoped the Liverpool fleet would rise to 20 vehicles within two years.
The hourly rate for car hire will range from £4.95 for a small car, to £7.95 for a seven-seater. The hourly rate for van hire will be £8.95. Members can book vehicles online, by phone or by email. Bookings can be made minutes, days or months in advance. Memberships are approved following the completion of a driving records check. All members are given a special pack with smartcard, online guide to the booking process and PIN. The smartcard enables members access to any vehicle in the fleet, in any city, without the need for keys.
Car ownership in Liverpool stands at 52% of households compared to the England and Wales average of 73%. The city centre resident population currently stands at around 35,000 and has seen dramatic increases in growth since the 1990s.