Integrated customer-centric sustainable transport service for the elderly and disabled
City/Region : Gemeente Rotterdam , Netherlands

The aim of this tender is to establish a modified transport service for the elderly and physically disabled citizens of Rotterdam in a way that allows us to use a safe, reliable and pleasant transport service that supports the reason of the transport against a fair price for (SME) transport organisations.

Every year, there are 30.000 unique clients with a combined travel distance of €6 mln. kilometres. This tender is worth €31 million and revolves around the client. The sustainability of the transport service is improved through the use of electric transport. The project aslo seeks to tackle social isolation, as clients from various backgrounds can use the service.

EU Green Deal Policy Areas Addressed
Climate actionSustainable mobilityFrom Farm to Fork
Sustainable industry
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Implement sustainable procurement principles
  • Accelerate sustainability and innovation through public procurement
Annex 3

Every day, some 30,000 elderly and physically disabled (hereinafter ‘modified transport service’) people in Rotterdam, who are unable to travel autonomously, rely on a safe, reliable and pleasant public transport service.

In recent years, procurement of modified transport services in the Netherlands has been characterised by requirements that leave little space for innovation or initiatives from transport companies. The market has become highly competitive in terms of price and conditions. Contracts are rarely profitable for the contractor, with transport organisations getting into financial trouble. This results in clients suffering the consequences, with for example children not being able to get to school. The city concluded that the process no longer serves the clients' interests.

We established the following procurement objectives:
•Client transport revolving around the client
•Fitting within a flexible budgetary principle
•As sustainably as possible (electric transport)
•Combating loneliness among Rotterdam’s population
•Contributing to Social Return 
•Payment of a fair transport price

In Action
Annex 2

Our deviating, ambitious objectives demanded innovation, both in contract specifications and procurement process.

If the tendering process must revolve around the client, we must understand our clients and their specific mobility needs. A comprehensive Social Design was conceived by the User Centered Design Bureau Muzus. Muzus developed 4 personas on the basis of 150 client postcards, 18 client interviews, and 10 ‘expert interviews’ (following clients intensively for one week). The personas had a qualitative description and desired customer journey. The identified customer journey demonstrated that mobility means more to these clients than just travelling from A to B. 

The survey and its outcome was elected the ‘2017 winner for organisational impact in the public sector’ .

In addition to the specifications, we engaged in an innovative tendering procedure using the ‘Forward Commitment Procurement’ method: (

The tender’s ‘Unmet Needs’ consisted of obtaining a mobility solution for the defined personas as well as solutions for the other objectives. Naturally we used the competitive dialogue method. With an eye to the required (material and immaterial) investment on the vendor’s part, we offered a contract term of 7 years.

Due to the deviating tender specifications and form, we organised market meeting days before the tendering process. Using the Unmet Needs and Customer Journey in particular, we brought organisations from different industries together. We not only needed taxi suppliers but also communication, ICT, app and big data experts and healthcare professionals. The desired solution demanded a multidisciplinary approach.

We then opted for a competitive dialogue with 3 different groups/partnerships. The city of Rotterdam gave space by clarifying they didn’t know the tender’s outcome, but they believed it would be the best outcome transport organisations could offer for the modified transport service at that point. These vendors were selected after the tender publication based on customer journey-based core competencies.

In all, we had 13 dialogue meetings with three vendor combinations over a nine-month period. A unique aspect of these dialogues is that they allowed the vendor subcontractors and the clients of the city of Rotterdam to contribute. This embodied customer centricity in the procurement process. Both the council of adult clients and the council for student transport participated directly in the tendering process and dialogues.

The dialogue was successful and the tendering process concluded with the regular final offer phase.


What the city of Rotterdam found, is that the participating vendors were eager to enter into a dialogue and rediscover themselves.

The dialogue’s structure revolved around the customer process. In the first five rounds, we explored the clients’ needs and determined how the vendors could add value in this respect. The next five meetings were used to fine-tune their own concepts. The last three meetings focused on the legal and contractual aspects of the procurement. 

More than before, the final offers focused on the interests of the clients and the importance of mobility. Commonly used KPIs like ‘being late’ were replaced with KPIs for client satisfaction. Digital processes and ordering apps were tested during the course of the dialogue, allowing our clients to offer direct feedback.

An important concern in the procurement was that it might no longer be accessible to SME businesses. It is an extremely big tender worth €31 million per year which was previously contracted out in sub-contracts. The client in particular fell victim to the multitude of contracts within the municipality. Moreover, it contributes to a less efficient car pool and imposes extra stress on the accessibility of the city and the environment.

So we decided to offer a single integrated contract and stimulated collaboration and partnerships both in the tendering process.

The contract was awarded to a partnership consisting of 3 local transport companies in collaboration with some 10 partners who will implement the various contract components in harmony. The partners are highly diverse, from HR consultancies to experts in measuring customer satisfaction in mobility, and from app specialists to experts in the wellbeing and healthcare market (cf. annex 2). Virtually all parties involved are (local) SME businesses, which means we managed to make the contract accessible for smaller-sized companies.


Among other things:

• Mobility customisation with an eye to the clients’ personal preferences and characteristics, enabling variation from day to day, which depends on for example the weather conditions, the destination, proximity of public transport etc. You can think of nice vehicles for special occasions such as weddings or cremations.
• Personal attention and early detection for clients. The drivers are the city’s social eyes and ears and will play an important role in detecting problems. They are in direct contact with wellbeing organisations and will report for instance suspicions of neglect, domestic violence, child abuse or onset dementia.
• Personal support and coaching in learning to travel more independently for (particularly younger) clients where possible, to increase their autonomy.
• Personalised service and introduction of a personal mobility budget aiming to increase freedom of choice in mobility.
• Improved information provision to both clients and relevant institutions, organisations, schools, etc, including huizen van de wijk, which act as gathering places.
• Accelerated transition to nearly fully zero emission (electric) and more than €6 million traveling distance kilometres with fully zero emissions per year.
• Complete complaint handling with a high degree of transparency, in which the municipality has insight in the transport services achievements (via an online dashboard) and the correspondence of any complaints between the transport organisation and the customer. 
• An annual investment exceeding €2 million in social return on investment. This will create hundreds of jobs in the first few years. In the subsequent years the focus will be on creating social value in the performance of modified transport services (such as the distribution of food packages for poor families). We support permanent jobs for the modified transport service drivers as it can be important for children who especially prefer one driver.

Challenges and lessons learned

•We underestimated the scope and complexity. Many questions about the properties of the different clients were asked in the dialogues, which we couldn't always answer. Not all elements of the contract were explored in detail.

•One vendor withdrew because they could not agree to a contract condition. If we had started the dialogue on legal discussions earlier we might have been able to bridge this point.

•The dialogue proved long, intense and the investment costs for project consulting proved high.

•It proved complex and time-consuming to translate a winning offer to a contract because it was a fully customised process.

Annex 1
Annex 2
Annex 3


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