Travel on a whim - West Midlands Pioneers smartphone transport system

National Express West Midlands is helping to trial an exciting new integrated transport system where people can combine all their travel needs via a smartphone.

The West Midlands is the first UK testing ground for Whim, an app developed in Finland. Volunteers are now being sought to take part in the trial when it begins in spring 2017.

The concept behind Whim is called Mobility as a Service (MaaS), which aims to encourage people to use transport other than the private car by giving them a travel plan tailored to their needs.

Users pay for what transport they think they will require – ranging from car hire to taxis, bus, tram and train travel – over the course of a month, or on a pay-as-you-go basis. The Whim app will also establish the best journey routes and deal with tickets and payments.

The scheme is a collaboration between Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) - part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) - MaaS Global of Helsinki, and transport providers including National Express West Midlands.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, lead member for transport for the WMCA, said:

“This is a great idea to encourage people to consider how they get about other than with the private car.

“Mobility as a Service can transform how people get about this region and by doing so help free up our roads and tackle the scourge of congestion which costs this region billions of pounds a year.”

The West Midlands pilot will run for 12 months, involving up to 500 customers.

It will be delivered by Maas Global. Transport operators including National Express West Midlands, rail information company SilverRail and car hire firm Enterprise are all signed up.

MaaS Global launched Whim in Finland in autumn this year. Kaj Pyyhtiä, co-founder and chief executive of MaaS Global, said the West Midlands was an exciting place for the UK pilot:

“This region is a huge conurbation and will be a real test of how Whim can get people from A to B,” he said. "It is transforming how people get around in Helsinki, where we now have people on a waiting list to join.

"In TfWM and the providers who have already signed up, we could not have found better partners to try to do the same in Britain.”

Cllr Lawrence added:

“Congestion is a major problem in the West Midlands, yet car use on overcrowded roads continues to be the automatic setting for many people when it comes to getting about.

“If you only occasionally need to use a car, why go to the expense of owning one? Why not just hire one as and when you need it?

“With Whim we can get people who live in the urban environment to look at how they get out and about and give them a package addressing all their requirements, whether it’s on public transport or with a car.”

For more details on how to apply to take part in the Whim pilot, go to www.whimapp.com/uk

Published 16th December 2016

 
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