PickMeUp DRT to be withdrawn

Oxford Bus Company is to withdraw the PickMeUp demand-responsive service after exhausting all external funding avenues to make it viable. Its last day of operation will be 20 June.

However, Oxford Bus Company’s parent company, Go-Ahead Group, is to consider rolling the service out in other parts of the country.

The decision comes after a two-year pilot scheme of the ride sharing service. PickMeUp was launched in June 2018 as the largest service of its kind in the UK. It was designed to improve connectivity in the eastern arc of Oxford by complementing traditional bus routes. It enabled passengers in eastern Oxford to summon buses to pick them up on a street corner of their choice, to go to a bespoke destination. More than 38,000 people downloaded the app and more than 300,000 journeys were made on the service. However, the service did not reach the commercial milestones required to make it sustainable beyond the two-year pilot, even though not all demand could be met.

Oxford Bus Company required third party support from local authorities and the business community to make PickMeUp viable as a three-way partnership. Unfortunately, local authority support was not made available and passenger numbers could not reach required targets as congestion slowed buses down to 9mph just at the time demand was at its greatest. While some businesses have been very supportive of the service, others decided not to support it as they did not see it as their responsibility to do so for the greater good of Oxford. Oxford Bus Company announced a review of the service and a customer survey six months ago and further explored all funding options but could not find a solution.

Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company Managing Director, said: “We are aware that we have many loyal customers who will be inconvenienced, and we are sorry it has not been possible to maintain the service. PickMeUp was a great innovation by Oxford Bus Company, but unfortunately, we were left with no choice but to withdraw the service due to unsustainable losses and not enough support coming forward. We feel that we have played our part in trying to provide an innovative solution for the city and launched PickMeUp in response to requests from local authorities and the business community to improve connectivity in eastern Oxford. However, regretfully the service did not receive the backing required to make it work long-term.

“We have taken a lot of learnings from PickMeUp and our parent company Go-Ahead Group are looking to introduce the service in other areas of the country where it could prove to be more viable. We believe with the right support a ride sharing service can be part of the solution to reducing congestion, but at this stage it has not been successful in Oxford. This may change in the future if congestion management measures are introduced and a Workplace Parking Levy could top up the funding required to make it work and reduce congestion so that more demand can be satisfied. Greater public sector support will be required if this is to come about.”

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