The operators of WESTlink, the region’s new on-demand minibus service, have been announced.
WESTlink will be run by a partnership of Via and WeDRT.
Via is a global public transport, logistics and tech company that operates in more than 20 countries globally. WeDRT is a UK-based company with experience of working with Transport for West Midlands.
WESTlink will see a fleet of green minibuses rolled out from the Spring as part of a £3 million-plus investment per year from the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority and North Somerset Council.
WESTlink buses will not be constrained by a traditional timetable but will use clever algorithms to connect people and places. Passengers will be able get on or off at over 1,800 existing bus stops as well as a number of virtual bus stops.
They are designed to link people to key routes where they can pick up another bus or train.
Residents will book their ride through an app, visiting a website or phoning up.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “I’m pleased that after a rigorous commercial procurement process, Via and WeDRT are on board. This is an important step as we begin rolling out WESTlink for residents later this year. The status quo on buses isn’t working, and residents deserve better, so it is time to try something different. I am proud to have secured the largest amount of funding for buses in the country, which means I can make this investment in WESTlink. Of course, change is disruptive, takes time, and we will have to learn lessons as we work hard to get things right – but I’m determined we get on with trying something new. I am hopeful that WESTlink will be a key part in getting people from A to B in the West of England, and linking residents to the wider local bus network”.
Jonathan Hampson, Head of UK Partnerships at Via, said “Via is delighted to partner with Metro Mayor Dan Norris and the West of England Combined Authority to introduce WESTLink demand-responsive minibuses this spring. We look forward to seeing how our innovative software expands access to flexible, sustainable mobility in the region – filling access gaps in remote areas and making it easier for locals to travel without a private car. We’re confident other regions will look to the West of England as a leader for 21st century transport solutions.”
Charlie Crawford, weDRT Chief Operating Officer, said:“weDRT is thrilled to announce we will be launching and operating the brand new WESTlink service on behalf of the West of England Combined Authority, and in partnership with Via Technologies. Working with Mayor Norris, this service will be the largest of its kind in the UK and is set to transform and modernise the way residents move around the West of England region. Our experience in launching other ‘on-demand’ transport services across the UK gives us confidence in delivering the highest quality to the residents in the West of England”.
Steve Bridger, Leader of North Somerset Council, said: “WESTlink is the result of a shared programme of funding from the Government to improve bus services in the West. The new fleet of minibuses will offer a new local service to communities, allowing us to offer public transport to everyone who needs it. WESTlink is part of the £48 million Bus Service Improvement Plan, awarded by the Department for Transport, which will look to improve bus services in the West over the next two years. The ambition is to improve the quality and provision of bus services and today’s announcement is the first step towards that.”