Stagecoach and ViaVan launch Nottinghamshire nursemobile19 May 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ViaVan and Stagecoach have launched the UK’s first demand-responsive public bus service exclusively for essential NHS workers, powered by a mobile app.

Stagecoach Connect is free for NHS staff, and was launched at Sherwood Forest Hospital NHS Trust in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire on May 18, in partnership with Nottinghamshire County Council. The service has the potential to grow and support other NHS trusts across the UK, including in Humberside.

The service was developed in just two weeks as a way to use technology to expand access to safe, flexible and efficient transport to-and-from hospital shifts in the morning and late evening hours. Previously, hospital staff either drove a personal vehicle or took a bus.

Now, Stagecoach Connect, powered by ViaVan’s, will enable healthcare workers to pre-book a seat in a dynamically routed bus during extended hours. The service is designed as a complement to existing fixed line services provided by Stagecoach and bus operators around the country.

Through the use of a mobile app, healthcare workers will be able to pre-book a seat up to one week in advance to match upcoming shift schedules, track the location of their bus, and change or cancel a booking. Riders will select a desired pick-up and drop-off location, and will be matched with a seat in a high-capacity bus that is complies with public health guidelines for social distancing.

Chris Snyder, CEO of ViaVan, says: “With the future of public transport in the United Kingdom at a crossroads in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, cities today have an unprecedented opportunity to employ technology to make public transit work safely and efficiently while ensuring affordable and equitable access for all.”

Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach CEO, says: "Along with other transport operators, we have worked hard to continue to provide key links to essential services, and have adapted our schedules to meet the needs of key workers. But we know from our discussions with the NHS that a more tailored solution would deliver better employee transport. In just two weeks, we worked with our partners, including ViaVan, to develop a dedicated service to ensure essential hospital workers have fast and easy access to public transport around the clock."

“We firmly believe that demand-responsive transport, backed up by technology, has huge potential for the NHS and other major organisations seeking a better and more sustainable solution to crowded car parks and unnecessary ‘single use’ polluting car trips,” said Griffiths.

Earlier this year, Stagecoach launched a new ‘Tees Flex’ on demand service in Tees Valley as the result of a successful partnership with the Mayor of Tees Valley, Ben Houchen. ViaVan also provides the technology to power the Tees Flex service.

In the UK, ViaVan transformed and accelerated the launch of a demand-responsive bus service with Go Coach in Kent to temporarily replace all fixed-route bus lines 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 in April. The three-month trial period took place because of falling passenger numbers and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

William Dalrymple

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