A special shuttle bus service has been used more than 2,500 times to carry NHS and social care workers to hospital and health facilities since the start of April, says Transport for West Midlands (TfWM). The West Midlands Ring and Ride minibuses were redeployed at the start of April to help health workers get to work during the coronavirus outbreak by offering a free shuttle bus service, targeted at areas with gaps in public transport provision. TfWM says it has proved popular with staff working at Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital and Walsall’s Manor Hospital.
The minibuses were able to be made available as demand for the region’s Ring and Ride service, operated by National Express Accessible Transport (NEAT) under contract from TfWM, fell as the majority of its users are on lockdown or shielding during the outbreak.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “Our NHS staff are on the front line in the battle against coronavirus, and I am pleased we have been able to support their incredible work by making their journeys to and from work a little easier with the introduction of the shuttle service.
“It has been an incredibly challenging time, but thanks to the hard work and dedication of our hospital and healthcare staff we are now beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.”
Cllr Ian Ward, West Midlands Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Transport, and Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “We must do all we can to help our NHS and care staff during this outbreak, and for our part, TfWM has been working with our bus, train and tram companies to ensure that our hospitals are well served during the coronavirus outbreak. This includes making good use of the ring and ride fleet to fill gaps in the service and I am delighted to see so many staff have found the additional service useful.”
Vinay Parmar, Managing Director of National Express Accessible Transport, said: “The NHS staff using the shuttles have been telling our drivers that these minibus services are a lifeline for them. So I’m really proud of our Ring and Ride staff for this superb contribution to supporting our NHS in fighting this terrible virus and helping to save lives.”
TfWM said that regular bus and Metro services in the region are free to NHS staff, who have been urged to use these wherever possible, with the shuttle buses targeted at locations to supplement to regular public transport or to make up the final part of a journey such as between Sutton Coldfield railway station and Good Hope Hospital. In some cases the minibuses need to be pre-booked by staff, and each is able to carry a maximum of two passengers to ensure social distancing is maintained.
E-scooters to be trialled in Birmingham and Coventry as post-lockdown travel solutions explored
Also in the West Midlands, TfWM has announced that e-scooters are set to be trialled to help get the region moving once lockdown restrictions start to be lifted. The Government has chosen the West Midlands for the trial which if successful could revolutionise the way people travel whilst bolstering the fight against climate change. The e-scooter trail will take place in Birmingham and Coventry and focus on how they can be safely used in public places
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Birmingham City Council and Coventry City Council will work together to test the technology and better understand the benefits this new form of transport could bring, and a priority for the trial will be to see how e-scooters can be safely used in public places. Until now, e-scooters can only be legally used on private property.
The Department for Transport, as part of its efforts to help ease the pressure on local public transport services during the recovery phase of Covid-19, wants to explore how e-scooters can complement existing transport options especially for short trips.
TfWM said in a statement that the trial will look closely at how e-scooters are able to support connectivity between key public transport interchanges and local centres. It will also look to the use of e-scooters in other countries: they are already available to hire in large cities such as Barcelona and Vienna.