New Bus Service from 16th May
Warwickshire County Council and Stagecoach have decided to discontinue the 16 service and replace it with an online demand based service. With this service you will be able to order a return journey to anywhere in Warwick and Kenilworth and the rural area to the west of Warwick. You can order the journey by phone or via an app.
The details, so far as we have them are set out in the County Council’s letter below. Users and potential users of the service will have questions no doubt. If you write them in the comments section we will try to get answers for you.
Warwickshire County Council (WCC) is set to launch a new Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) Minibus service in an area to the west of Warwick following a successful bid to a DFT fund.
The Rural Mobility Fund (RMF) was set up to fund pilot schemes across the country with three main stipulations, it had to be in a rural area of no more than 10,000 residents, it had to be of a DRT type and the primary method of journey booking must be via a mobile phone app. The area chosen by WCC (please see the attached map) is mainly the west Warwick hinterland and includes Hampton on the Hill, Hampton Magna, Hatton Park, Leek Wootton, Hill Wootton and the west part of Kenilworth. The Stagecoach 16 service currently operates within this area but historic and current passenger numbers have been low and aren’t sufficient to maintain it. It’s funded by the County Council from a combination of local bus service, Section 106 and Education Transport monies.
Following a successful bid to the RMF scheme and a subsequent award of £1.020Million bolstered with a further £750,000 over 4 years (with an option to extend to 5 years) from a redirection of the aforementioned monies, a demand-responsive minibus service will launch on Monday 16th May 2022 and the Stagecoach service 16 will end on the Saturday before. Any school children currently using service 16 to access Aylesford School will be transferred to a dedicated school service and details will be sent out directly to all relevant parents/guardians shortly by our School Transport team.
Following a full procurement exercise to European specification given the size of the overall award, an established specialist transport company called Liftango were awarded the contracts to provide a mobile application along with a Call Centre back-up for those not adept with technology. The company was formed in Australia and now have a presence in several countries around the world and work with some significant organisations including other LA’s in the UK. The vehicle operations aspect will be provided by Stagecoach from their Warwick depot on Poseidon Way, providing a quick response time, excellent maintenance facilities and drivers with good local knowledge.
The service will be called IndieGo PLUS to bring it in-line with the current WCC IndieGo DRT services operating in Coleshill, Atherstone and Rugby Borough. The existing services are currently only bookable via a Call Centre hence the addition of the ‘PLUS’ to the new west Warwick version to denote the high-specification app element. Subject to a successful bid to another DFT fund, we’re looking to extend the app element to the existing services and upgrade them accordingly.
The app will be branded as IndieGo PLUS and users will be required to set up a basic account and register a payment method. They’ll then be provided with an option to either enter an address or drop pins on the locations on a map that they wish to travel to and from along with a day and time. The booking will be confirmed and the vehicle can then be tracked in real-time and a notification provided when it’s a minute away from them. It’ll pick up and set down as close as possible to the required locations, but in the case of multiple bookings for a certain area, a meeting point will be advised to save the vehicle making extra small journeys. You’ll notice from the map that there are ‘destination only’ areas and these are places where a return journey can be booked to but no journeys can originate from. This is to assist anyone living within the main service area to travel to places such as employment, healthcare or shopping locations within Warwick, parts of Kenilworth and other employment sites just off the edge of the main service area such as JLR at Fen End. It’ll also cover all Railway Stations in the area. The Call Centre will be able to take and process bookings and provide updates wherever required.
Stagecoach will have online access to a full vehicle and driver platform to allow them to manage driver hours, breaks, maintenance schedules and track the vehicles in real-time. All drivers will wear IndieGo PLUS branded clothing whilst on duty and will be at liberty to assist passengers wherever necessary.
Fares will start at just £4 single for adults with discounts for children aged 5-15 and free travel for those under 5. Concessionary Passes will be accepted in line with the current WCC policy where they can be used from 9amonwards on any bus service originating in Warwickshire, and anyone adding £20 or £40 of credit to a wallet feature on the app will receive £22 and £44-worth of service credit respectively. An option to use the TFWM Swift Card is being worked on to allow seamless travel between modes.
There will be 4 vehicles in total on the service, 3 on active duty between 0600 and 1930 Monday to Saturday and one back-up to cover breakdowns or gaps for the servicing schedule. Each of them will be brand new 16 seat EVM Cityline models based on the Mercedes Sprinter platform and will be ramp-accessible for wheelchair users. They’re fitted with the latest Euro 6 emissions-compliant engines, and will feature free Wi-Fi and USB charging points. Each vehicle will have its own Driver’s tablet that bookings will be received on and will feature a full Sat-Nav capability via Google Maps to provide the best route and traffic optimisation. We considered both electric and hydrogen powered vehicles during the specification-building process but the running costs and associated infrastructure/maintenance requirements would make them too expensive to purchase and operate. Each of the 3 main vehicles will be vinyl wrapped to act as a moving billboard and will show where the app can be downloaded along with the Call Centre number. Liftango also have a Climate-Positive aspect where they calculate the CO2 output for the journeys made and partner with a specialist company to more than offset the emissions. This element will feature highly on both the vehicle wraps and any marketing and publicity.
County Council Officers will have access to a full online back-office system featuring a raft of reports and monitoring aspects and will have regular meetings with all providers to ensure the optimum operation of the service through set KPI’s.
Part of the marketing will be to carry out soft launches ahead of the start date in key locations such as Hampton Magna, Hatton Park and Kenilworth Town Centre, with a main launch in Market Square, Warwick. The overriding aspect of the service will be how passengers feel when they use it and that they have a positive experience each and every time. We fully realise and accept that it will be a change from the norm of just turning up for a bus and travelling, however this method is much more personal and will offer passengers greater control over when and where they travel. The existing Flexibus services will remain for the foreseeable future.