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Axe to fall on Go-Ahead’s loss-making DRT pilot in Oxford

15 May 2020

Go-Ahead subsidiary the Oxford Bus Company will withdraw its PickMeUp demand responsive bus service on 20 June. 

PickMeUp was launched in June 2018 as a two-year pilot to improve connectivity in east Oxford. Using an app, passengers could summon a minibus to pick them up on a street corner of their choice to go to a bespoke destination. 

It is the latest DRT service to attract a blaze of publicity only to then be scrapped after operators found it uneconomic. RATP withdrew Slide in Bristol, Ford scrapped its entire Chariot business, and FirstGroup ended its myFirstMile service in Bristol after a trial. 

Arriva continues to operate its Click operations in Leicestershire, Watford and Liverpool but has withdrawn from Sittingbourne (LTT 06 Dec 19). ViaVan operates in Milton Keynes.

More than 38,000 people downloaded the PickMeUp app and more than 300,000 journeys were made on the service. 

“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,” said the Oxford Bus Company. 

It said it had “exhausted all external funding avenues to make it viable”, adding that the service required support from councils and businesses. “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. 

“Whilst 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.” 

Phil Southall, the Oxford Bus Company’s managing director, thanked the Oxford Science Park for its “steadfast financial and promotional support”, and Horspath Parish Council, which also provided funding.

“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. 

“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. Greater public sector support will be required.” 

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