Paris authorities step in to rescue Vélib' scheme

Grey velib' bike share cycles at a stand in Paris

Just 300 stations operational two months after Smovengo took over bike-share service

Paris has stepped in to rescue its lauded bike share service Vélib', two months after new operators Smovengo took over the scheme from JCDecaux.

The switch to a new operator has not gone well. At the end of February, two months after Smovengo took over the service, just 300 stations were operational, when 600 were promised by January 1 and 1,400 forecast by the end of March.

Meanwhile, the number of bicycles on the street is far below the 20,000 promised - of which 20% were to be electric.

Authorities said that city engineers and technicians will offer 'concrete support' to help Smovengo reduce the backlog of services.

"The city of Paris is used to working with the various service providers in charge of road works or connections,"we have the teams, technicians and engineers who know how to carry out this type of operation," Christophe Najdovski, the official in charge of transport systems in the capital told France Bleu Paris.

The priority would be connecting existing stations to the electricity grid, he said, so that electric cycles could be recharged. Currently, many stations are relying on batteries to charge cycles, but the systems are plagued by malfunctions.

Smovengo faces penalties of €1million for every month the service is delayed, while subscribers will be able to demand refunds for January, February and March if the problem is not resolved.

The news comes days after a rival, Gobee, decided to cut its losses and get out of France altogether.

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