Go-Ahead to launch ‘most ambitious’ ride-sharing service yet

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The service will launch in Oxford next month, using a fleet of 17-seater minibuses. OXFORD BUS COMPANY

Passengers will be able to call for a minibus which will arrive ‘within minutes’

Go-Ahead Group is set to launch what it describes as ‘the UK’s most ambitious demand-responsive bus service’, which will pick passengers up on a ‘street corner of their choice’.

Beginning on Monday, June 25, a 12 square mile area of Oxford will be populated with ‘virtual bus stops’; passengers will be able to request a bus pick-up within minutes using a new mobile phone app.

Branded PickMeUp, the new service is being piloted by the Oxford Bus Company on Go-Ahead Group’s behalf – and aims to adapt to the city’s fluctuating transport needs throughout each day.

When passenger numbers rise and fall sharply, PickMeUp has been designed to adapt in a way scheduled services may struggle to.

A fleet of 17-seater minibuses will be transporting passengers during the pilot; each are equipped with free WiFi, USB charging points, wheelchair access and high-back seating.

The service will run between 0630 and 2230hrs on weekdays and from 0900 to 2000hrs at weekends.

US company Via – which specialises in ride-sharing technology – helped develop front-end and back-end tech for the service in partnership with Go-Ahead Group.

Employers based within Oxford’s Eastern Arc are to be offered ‘tailored’ subscription packages for the service, which will provide staff with discounted or free travel – offering an efficient, convenient and more environmentally-friendly alternative to commuting by car.

Go-Ahead Group Chief Executive, David Brown, said of the new service: “We’ve listened closely to what the local community has been asking for in Oxford. Passengers are keen for a quick, easy and flexible way to get to work or to college.

“PickMeUp is intended to be a partnership model with local businesses – we want to help them get their staff to work in a quick, simple, convenient and cost-effective way.

“On a broader level, we firmly believe that ride-sharing is part of the solution to congestion and pollution in our towns and cities. It’s essential that we provide services that will tempt people out of their cars and technology will be key to that challenge.”

Phil Southall, Managing Director of the Oxford Bus Company, added: “As an innovative company we are keen to devise new solutions to continue to meet the needs of our local communities. Connectivity has been a challenge for some to the east of Oxford and we believe our new service will help where traditional bus routes do not work commercially.

“The idea of PickMeUp is to provide a new way to get people around swiftly, efficiently and on demand. I hope this will further encourage people to leave their cars at home, help reduce pollution and improve accessibility in east Oxford.”